Edinburgh Military Tattoo
The Pipes - They are a Callin'
A hush falls and darkness deepens as the great oak gates of Edinburgh Castle swing open and the swell of the pipes and drums pierces the night. As the massed bands march out across the drawbridge, flanked by effigies of William Wallace and Robert The Bruce, emotions run high, for this is the start of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, an annual musical event that symbolizes the Scotland that everyone holds dear.
Since 1950, more than 12 million people have attended the Tattoo, with its annual audience of over 200,000, to listen to bands and performers from over 40 countries. And in all that time not a single performance of the Tattoo has ever been cancelled.
The word 'tattoo' comes from the closing-time cry, "Doe den tap toe" or "Turn off the taps," in the inns in the Low Countries during the 17th and 18th centuries. Created to raise money for charities, this special Scottish Tattoo has gifted some £5 million to service and civilian organizations since its inception.
The massed pipes and drums, massed military bands, display teams and dancers, all fill the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade. The prestigious Band of The Irish Guards, the Band of The Royal Logistic Corps and their Corps of Drums, along with The Band and Bugles of The Rifles, are just three of the bands that perform a range of complex music and marching routines.
The Massed Pipes & Drums, an extraordinary collection of talented and disciplined musicians showcasing the Great Highland Bagpipe, includes the Classical Brit Award-winning Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and The Royal Regiment of Scotland.
During the day, Edinburgh Castle stands quietly, but come nightfall, footlights transform it into a dazzling stage set for the world's most spectacular show. Down Castlehill, along the Lawnmarket, around the cathedral church of St Giles, through the closes of the Royal Mile, people gather for three weeks in the dusk of August evenings. They come here not just to be entertained, but to renew old acquaintances and make new ones.
As dusk fades to night, the crowd turns towards Castle Rock, where ancient clans first settled the area and where now stands Edinburgh's mighty fortress, then walking together, eagerly holding hands, they climb the hill to their seats to await the thrill of the Tattoo.
Then the booming voice of the commentator, the Voice of the Castle, announces the beginning of the night's performances. The tunes are echoes of Scotland's glorious and often tragic past, of freedom and of suffering and loss. The rousing quick marches, "All the Blue Bonnets are Over the Border" and "Dumbarton's Drums" bring the audience to its feet, then they settle back to listen to "The Skye Boat Song" and "The Garb of Old Gaul."
Every Edinburgh Tattoo begins with this intensely emotional display, for these are Scotland's finest fighting men who are soldiers first and pipers and drummers second. The stirring tunes that over centuries have given courage and inspiration on battlefields now bring a emotional note to every heart present.
Every evening of the Tattoo brings forth colorful kaleidoscope of music, dance, and patriotic display. The exotic music of the Orient often holds a place with the re-enactment of battles and the whirling and swirling of Scottish Highland dancers on the evening's program.
The show is always fresh, exciting and alive, even for the many faithful fans who come back year after year. Above all else there's the awesome presence of Edingurgh Castle, with great flaring torches lighting its venerable walls, creating mysterious shadows on the honey colored stone.
The finale of this annual spectacle features all 1,000 or so performers massing on the Esplanade — column after column of marchers, dancers, and bandsmen. The audience joins in the great chorus of singing and cheering, and applause before a hush falls for the singing of the Evening Hymn, the sounding of the Last Post and the lowering of the flags. A single spotlight falls on the Lone Piper standing on the ramparts, and as the high notes echo across the still night sky and across the dark city, the flames of the Castle torchlights and the piper's warming brazier flicker and slowly die.
If that isn't enough to get the blood flowing, fireworks burst out against the black sky, and emotion lingers as the crowd joins in singing "Auld Lang Syne"' and everyone shakes their neighbors' hands.
There's plenty to do in Edinburgh by day too. Check out the range of fabulous Edinburgh offers from Deal Zippy for when your oot and aboot in the Scottish capital.
More Edinburgh Military Tattoo
- Edinburgh Military Tattoo Article
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- Edinburgh Military Tattoo Video
- Vist Edinburgh Military Tattoo Website
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