For every Scot, the sight of Edinburgh castle up on its hill is one which always brings home a beating thud of patriotism. Two events in our home city amplify this feeling and both take place under the grandeur of that beloved Castle – Hogmanay and The Royal Military Tattoo. The evening encompasses everything it is to be Scottish: a love of country, music and, of course, a cold summer. This year’s event was named ‘Kaleidoscope’ after the optical illusion device created by Scottish physicist Sir David Brewster in 1817. This theme was encompassed by the swirls of colour within the outfits and lighting, and complemented by swirls of dances accompanied by reels of music.
The opening act was, of course, the home side, with the Massed Pipes and Drums rousing the audience with the traditional Scottish sounds of the Bagpipes and readying them for the night and marvel ahead. However, this year’s show also included visitors from, Germany, France, New Zealand, and as far as Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria and China. Each performer brought their own colour and traditional musical flare with them, taking the audience on a journey of their own countries and traditions whilst echoing the inspiration of the kaleidoscope.
Germany took us on a hunt with their army band, Heeresmusikkorps Kassel, bringing a more playful element to the show. The performance celebrated the colour green alongside German culture, with dancers wearing traditional dress and, of course, sporting steins of beer.
Trinidad and Tobago entered next, keeping up the tempo and mood brought by the Germans with their Defence Steel Orchestra playing the traditional steel drums. The act included folklore, masquerades, stilts, and even fire limbo. The colours in their outfits stood out the most of all the performers as they were joined by the Nigerian Cultural Ensemble for their dances. The dancers wore grand wings and suits of every colour, reminding the audience of the importance of bold colours in this year’s show.
Following on from tradition the audience were transported to present day by the French La Musique de l’Artillerie, with their own rendition of Bruno Mars’ much-loved ‘Uptown Funk’. Their colour was blue, of course, and the castle was showcased with spiralling images of French days gone by alongside paying tribute to Loch Lomond.
The mood continued to lift as the Lochiel Marching Drill team showcased exactly how precise Brewster’s invention is with their seamless transitional drills, in honour of their late coach Colleen Pobar. Their set took place under a flourishing of snow the formation of snowflakes projected on the castle emphasised the notion of precision.
Bright costumes came back as The Beijing Marching Wind Band took us on a journey retelling the folktale Dragons Playing with A Ball. The tale tells of the ancient dragons chasing the essence of the wind and sun, and the costumes had representations of the winds and sun woven into them. The story was both emotional and thrilling.
The Shetland Isles joined the show with their indigo outfits, matching their story of the Vikings crossing the seas. The Hjaltibonhoga company seamlessly moved aside allowing the Tattoo Dancers to join them and perform a merry Highland Fling.
The audience was then transported back to the Maori heartland with the New Zealand Army band performing a traditional Haka, along with a few favourites such as ‘The Circle of Life’ and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. The New Zealanders have been part of the Festival team for the past six years, however, the Haka was a new and exciting addition and roused the crowds to maintain the high spirit throughout the night.
Finally, the Massed Pipes and Drums were joined by the rest of the evening’s performers in a spectacular finale. The company performed the famed Queen hit ‘The Show Must Go On’ as well as ‘The Greatest Showman’. The show was perfectly wrapped up by the two numbers highlighting the importance of music as a connection to each other, our countries and our homelands. The finale was paired with perfectly synchronising drills by the Massed Military Bands and the Tattoo Dancers, once more reminding us of the theme of the kaleidoscope.
The whole night was drawn to an emotional end with the lone piper and the return to barracks.
Overall, the night was an emotional and riveting start to the Festival season with music and colour taking the forefront while reminding us about everything it means to be Scottish and proud.
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Runs until 24th August
Image: The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo