August 1, 2008

Thrills, Surprises and a Lot of Fun

By Sue Gyford

RAMPAGING Vikings on skis bearing flaming torches, a giant dancing lion, and a lone Spanish guitarist - it's just another year at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Crowds braved the rain last night to enjoy the preview of this year's spectacular, with a programme that blended the traditional military celebration of all things Scottish with eclectic performances from around the world.

The opening fanfare of this, the 59th Tattoo, was a specially- commissioned piece, entitled Op Corporate, composed by Royal Marine Major Mick Dowrick.

The celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Territorial Army was a marked theme from the start, with the Massed Pipes and Drums marching into a formation which spelled "TA 100".

In a show of Stateside panache, the Golden Eagles Marching Band of Missouri State University gave an impressive demonstration of flag-twirling and cheerleading. At one point the entire band downed their instruments to dance, in what appeared to be a mass air guitar performance.

The cross-Atlantic theme continued as the Highland Spring Dancers stepped out to perform alongside the Canadiana Celtic Dancers of Nova Scotia, in celebration of the area's historic links with Scotland.

Despite their provenance, the Singapore Police Force Band, Singapore Women's Police Pipes and Drums, and the Gurkha Pipes and Drums and Cultural Group gave a surprisingly traditional performance - until the arrival of

two acrobats hidden beneath a luxurious yellow lion costume.

The astonishing precision and intricate steps of the Lochiel Marching Drill team from New Zealand took the crowd's breath away - there was even a spontaneous "Ooh" from the audience when two ranks crossed while marching backwards - and not a single collision to be seen.

Another flash of colour came from the Indian Army Chief's Military Band, before the arrival of the Viking hoards raised eyebrows and laughter. As images of pillaging warriors in boats were projected onto the Castle walls, a band of Vikings swept forth across the Esplanade on skis (with perhaps just a little help from some concealed wheels), bearing down on the crowds with flaming torches.

The fun opening did nothing to diminish the crowd's appreciation of the serious talent of His Majesty the King's Guards Band and Drill Team of Norway, which gave a breathtaking drill with bayonet- spiked rifles weighing five kilos apiece.

It was a hard act to follow, but the pupils of Queen Victoria School in Dunblane took to the challenge. The non-fee paying boarding school for children of Scottish Armed Service personnel presented a polished performance giving family members in the audience something to be rightly proud of.

Perennial favourites, the Bands of her Majesty's Royal Marines, struck out on a traditional tack before an unusual segue into a little Iberian intrigue. On a lone chair placed at the front of the parade ground appeared an acoustic guitarist performing a lilting Spanish solo.

And so to the stunning finale, with the entire 1000-strong cast returning to the parade ground. The grandeur of the spectacle only served to increase the poignancy of the performance by the Lone Piper, who played the Centenary Toast in honour of the Territorial Army. With a rattle of fireworks and a stirring rendition of Scotland The Brave, the show was over - and by then, even the rain had stopped.

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