Edinburgh Tattoo starts with a bang

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There were Zulu warriors, Shetland fiddlers, a Maori haka, and a surprise musical number that kept everyone Happy as this year’s Edinburgh Tattoo kicked off.

The first of 220,000 guests that will enjoy a military musical extravaganza over the next month thronged Castle Esplanade to see a show built around the theme of the journey.

The Royal Marines Band drum up the atmosphere at the opening night of the Tattoo. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach

The Royal Marines Band drum up the atmosphere at the opening night of the Tattoo. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach

Spectators were treated to the sights and sounds of many of the places that Scots have gone to make their fortune down the centuries.

A specially-composed fanfare called Ready to Go! got the evening under way, with the 260-strong massed pipes drawing on reinforcements from the Royal Army of Oman, the Australian Federal Police, the Tasmanian Police, Canada’s Paris Port Dover band, and the Manchester Scots Guards Association.

For the first time, the Tattoo has opened its doors to the wider community by forming its own pipe band, the Piper’s Trail, who also joined the troupe.

The musical journey took spectators on a musical whistle-stop tour of several Commonwealth countries currently competing in Glasgow.

The first destination was the Mediterranean island fortress of Malta, whose Band of the Armed Forces of Malta got off to a gentle start. South Africa’s iNgobamakhosi Zulu Dancers picked up the pace with an energetic display of battle songs and dances from the days of King Cetshawyo and the Battle of Isandlwana.

There was no lack of traditional Scottish dancing, with the Shetland Fiddlers providing the tunes, then it was back overseas to north-east India and the more exotic routines of the Nagaland Folkloric Group.

Two performances that got the crowd clapping along came from the Singapore Armed Forces Central Band and the Trinidad & Tobago Defence Force Steel Orchestra. Both acts brought a touch of humour to proceedings, as well as some impressive baton-twirling.

Building to a crescendo, the Massed Pipes and Drums were joined by the Massed Military Bands and international performers for a huge musical homecoming party. A total of 1150 musicians took to the parade ground, including the Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools Choir, as the sky exploded in a blaze of colour.

After a night of folk songs and traditional tunes, there was a modern twist to the repertoire, with everything from ragtime to rock and roll to Pharrell Williams. A reflective note followed, with a lone piper playing the lament After the Battle, the traditional call to the end of the day for a Scottish soldier, as flags were lowered.

The energy soon picked up for the finale, however, with the crowd rising to its feet for the anthems Auld Lang Syne and Scotland the Brave, before heading out into the night.