A tattoo is a military performance of music or display of armed forces in general. The term comes from the early 17th century Dutch phrase doe den tap toe ("turn off the tap"), a signal sounded by drummers or trumpeters to instruct innkeepers near military garrisons to stop serving beer and for soldiers to return to their barracks, and is unrelated to the Tahitian origins of an ink tattoo.
The tattoo was originally a form of military music, but the practice has evolved into more elaborate shows involving theatrics and musical performances. It is also used to designate military exhibitions such as the Royal International Air Tattoo.
The term dates from around 1600 during the Thirty Years' War in the Low Countries (Belgium and the Netherlands). The Dutch fortresses were garrisoned with mercenary troops that were under federal command since 1594. The Dutch States Army had become a federal army, consisting mostly of Scottish, English, German and Swiss mercenaries, but commanded by a Dutch officer corps. Drummers from the garrison were sent out into the towns at 21:30 hrs (9:30 pm) each evening to inform the soldiers that it was time to return to barracks. The process was known as doe den tap toe (Dutch for "turn off the tap"), an instruction to innkeepers to stop serving beer and send the soldiers home for the night. The drummers continued to play until the curfew at 22:00 hrs (10:00 pm). Tattoo, earlier tap-too and taptoo, are alterations of the Dutch words tap toe which have the same meaning. Taptoo was the earlier used alteration of the phrase and was used in George Washington's papers in which he said:"In future the Reveille will beat at day-break; the troop at 8 in the morning; the retreat at sunset and taptoo at nine o'clock in the evening."
Over the years, the process became more of a show and often included the playing of the first post at 21:30 hrs and the last post at 22:00. Bands and displays were included and shows were often conducted by floodlight or searchlight. Tattoos were commonplace in the late 19th century with most military and garrison towns putting on some kind of show or entertainment during the summer months. Between the First World War and the Second World War elaborate tattoos were held in many towns, with the largest in Aldershot, England.
One of the best-known tattoos is held on the Esplanade in front of Edinburgh Castle each August as part of the annual Edinburgh Festival. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo was first staged in 1950; it combines the traditional sounds of the bagpipes and drums with the modern aspects of the armed forces. In 2008, the Windsor Castle Royal Tattoo was launched and held in the private grounds of Windsor Castle by permission of HM The Queen. The event's proceeds went to the Royal British Legion to help support recently returned troops from battle.
Another well-known tattoo was the Royal Tournament which was held annually in London from 1880 to 1999. The last producer of the Royal Tournament was Major Sir Michael Parker. The British Military Tournament, its successor, was established in 2010 at the former venue of the Royal Tournament, Earl's Court, lasting till 2013. Another UK tattoo is the Birmingham Tattoo held annually at the National Indoor Arena in November, which has been attracting audiences to Birmingham since 1989.
The Royal International Air Tattoo is the world's largest military airshow, held annually at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire in aid of the RAF Charitable Trust.
The Basel Tattoo (Switzerland) was started in 2006 by the local Top Secret Drum Corps. It has grown to be the world's second-largest military tattoo in terms of performers and budget after the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
The Norwegian Military Tattoo is internationally famous for its quality and streamlined production. It has been held every two years since 1994 in the capital of Norway, Oslo. Since 1996 the shows have been presented indoors - in the Oslo Spektrum which is "tailor-made" for this kind of event.
Russia has recently started the annual "Spasskaya Bashnya" (Russian for Spasskaya Tower) international military tattoo in Moscow (with Valery Khalilov as its founding executive producer until 2016). Its Russian name came from the name of the location where it is performed (at the Red Square's "Saviour Tower"). Although it is commonly referred to as "Spasskaya Bashnya Military Tattoo", its actual English name is "International Military Music Festival", and has been held since 2006. Its latest edition will be held in late August of 2018, and the tattoo forms part of Moscow's city birthday celebrations.
Germany sports a huge number of such events with Bremen, Hamburg, Dresden and Berlin holding annual tattoos involving the Bundeswehr, civil bands and international bands invited.
The National Military Tattoo in the Ahoy Rotterdam indoor stadium, held since 1948, is the official military tattoo of the Armed forces of the Netherlands. It was formerly held in Delft and Breda before moving to Rotterdam in 2006.
Canada's Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo is the largest annual indoor tattoo, each year featuring over 2000 performers from around the world. The tattoo has been produced since 1979 by Colonel Ian Fraser, who also produced the Canadian Armed Forces Tattoo 1967, the world's largest travelling show. Through the course of his career Fraser has produced and / or directed more than 1000 international tattoo productions across the globe. This tattoo is unique in that it is a full theatrical production, comprising costume designers, props designers, full wardrobe staff, and is presented as 'theatre in the round'. The show is intensely rehearsed over a two-week period and is a wholly combined military and civilian production. The Nova Scotia Tattoo was the first tattoo to receive royal designation on the occasion of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's 80th Birthday in 2006
The largest tattoo in the United States, and the only annual tattoo of the country, is the Virginia International Tattoo, held every year in Norfolk, Virginia. Over 850 performers play traditional music and many international acts join every branch of the United States Armed Forces.
The United States Air Force holds tattoos for many different events and celebrations, like base openings and closers, and special events like the 21st Annual Langley Tattoo. The Air Force's largest tattoo is held the last Friday of June each year at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. The 2010 tattoo there drew an estimated 75,000 people and featured the rock group .38 Special. The 2011 event featured aircraft flyovers and music by country group Lonestar.
The Canadian Armed Forces Tattoo 1967 was the largest mobile tattoo in history performing 155 performances in 47 cities from coast to coast from the end of March to the middle of October 1967. Tattoo '67 was a completely a military production involving over 1700 personnel from the Canadian Army, Navy and Air Force. The first leg of the tour involved transporting two shows across Canada by rail. The second phase saw "the show" performed in stadiums in major cities including a week-long run in Montreal, Quebec during EXPO 67. The third phase was a tour of East Coast cities and Quebec performing in arenas. The show received rave reviews and standing ovations and was called upon by the press to become an annual event and to have it tour not only throughout the United States but Europe as well but with the last performance on October 11, 1967 at Shawinigan, Quebec, the Tattoo was mothballed. Eventually, all the costumes and uniforms were sold off to museums or private collectors and the show that was hailed as "the greatest single presentation during Centennial year" has never been produced since. The producer of Tattoo 1967, Colonel Ian Fraser also produced the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo noted above.
The annual Fort Henry Tattoo is held each July at Fort Henry in Kingston, Ontario. The event combines military drill, with an assortment of musical acts from across Canada, and is capped off with a fireworks display at the end of the evening. It is one of the largest annual events held at the National Historic Site.
The now-defunct Quebec City International Festival of Military Bands, and its Quebec City Military Tattoo, took place in August between 1998 and 2013.
Since 1963 the Japan Self-Defense Forces Marching Festival has been the country's military tattoo, featuring guest bands from the Asia-Pacific and the bands of the service branches of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, plus traditional drum teams from the JSDF. Held in the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo every November since its first edition, it is also Asia's oldest.
The International Military Heritage Festival, organized by the Republic of Korea Armed Forces, is the national military tattoo of South Korea. Held every April in Seoul, it consists of performances from the military bands and drill teams of the ROKAF.
Hong Kong held international military tattoo events both in 2012 and 2017, on the occasion of the 15th and the 20th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to The People's Republic of China. The Military Band of the People's Liberation Army of China and Band of the Hong Kong Police Force had essential roles to play. The performances also included military bands from Mongolia, The Netherlands, Russia, The United Kingdom (Scotland), and The United States.
Military tattoo-style events have been held in Indonesia in the context of major city and municipal district anniversaries in the form of the visits by the corps of drums and drum and bugle corps of the Indonesian National Armed Forces and the Indonesian National Police, which are invited to march past and perform on local anniversaries and holidays. Often times the ones frequently present in these tattoo-style events are the corps of drums of the military and police academies and the drum and bugle corps from the two military high schools in Magelang and Bandung, their appearances being a hit among the crowds attending these civic-military parades. A recent addition to these is the presence of the Corps of Drums of the Indonesian Army Officer Candidate School, also from Bandung. These events are also held within the academies' respective campuses during change of command, recognition and graduation parades as well as during their open house days, as well as during open days in military installations and anniversaries of the armed forces and police.
In 2018, the South African Tattoo was revived. The performance included members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) performing military drills and a mock battle, as well as the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra, a collection of both local and international dancing groups and a combined performance of many of the South African Highlander Bagpipe groups.
Alasdair Henry Hutton OBE, TD (born 19 May 1940, London) is a writer and narrator for public events and concerts, including the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Alasdair is a Scot who was educated at Dollar Academy and went to Australia at 14. He continued briefly at Brisbane State High School and got his first job in commercial radio station 4BH in Brisbane at 15. He worked as a journalist on The Age newspaper in Melbourne before he returned to Scotland to become a reporter for The Aberdeen Press and Journal and Evening Express and then a broadcaster with the BBC in Scotland, London and Northern Ireland. He also trained as a film director and was a Producer with BBC Radio Shetland.
He served for ten years as a Scottish Conservative Party Member of the European Parliament for the South of Scotland European Parliament constituency between 1979 and 1989 and later served as a local Councillor on Scottish Borders Council representing Kelso from 2002 to 2012. He was Convener (Mayor) for nine years from 2003 to 2012 . He is divorced from Deirdre Hutton by whom he has two sons.
He became the Storyteller and writer of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 1992 which neatly brought together his experience in broadcasting with his weekend "hobby" as a TA Paratrooper with 15 Para – the Scottish Volunteer Battalion of The Parachute Regiment with which he served from 1964 to 1986. He also served with CVHQ attached to UK 1 Div for the next ten years and as Honorary Colonel of the Lothian and Borders Battalion of the Army Cadet Force from 2006 to 2009. He has been a Member of the Queen's Bodyguard for Scotland – The Royal Company of Archers since 1988.
Since then he has gone on to become the most experienced presenter of tattoos and big shows in the English-speaking world adding concerts, DVDs, seminars and conferences to his experience as a speech writer and maker.
In 1997 he published an anecdotal history of his TA Para Battalion "15 Para 1947 - 1993". He published a children's book "The Tattoo Fox" about the adventures of a Border fox who goes to live on Edinburgh Castle Rock and loves the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 2013 and published a sequel "The Tattoo Fox Makes New Friends" in 2014. In 2016 he celebrated 25 years as storyteller and writer of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and wrote an account of the Edinburgh Tattoo and the others he has narrated around the world in a book called "The Greatest Show on Earth". He also published a Treasury of Scottish Nursery Rhymes just before Christmas 2016.
He is a founder member of the Robert Burns World Federation Guild of Speakers. He is also
Patron, Borders Talking Newspaper;
Patron, Borders Independent Advocacy Service;
Trustee, Victor Murphy Trust;
Life Member and immediate past Chairman, Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club;
Former Chairman and Vice President, John Buchan Society;
Chairman, South East Scotland Committee, Order of St John;
President, Edinburgh, Lothians and Border Area, Royal British Legion Scotland;
President, Kelso Branch, Royal British Legion Scotland;
President, Scotland and Northern Ireland Region, Parachute Regimental Association.
Elder, Kelso North Church of Scotland;
He was appointed to the Order of the British Empire as a Member in 1986 and raised to Officer in 1989. He was awarded the Territorial Decoration in 1977 and was invested as a Serving Brother of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in 2014.Aldershot
Aldershot () is a town in the Rushmoor district of Hampshire, England. It lies on heathland in the extreme northeast corner of the county, about 31.8 mi (51.2 km) southwest of London. The area is administered by Rushmoor Borough Council. The town has a population of 36,321, while the Aldershot Urban Area, a loose conurbation (which also includes other towns such as Camberley, Farnborough, and Farnham) has a population of 243,344, making it the thirtieth-largest urban area in the UK.Aldershot is known as the "Home of the British Army", a connection which led to its rapid growth from a small village to a Victorian town. Aldershot is twinned with Sulechów in Poland, Meudon in France and Oberursel in Germany.Basel Tattoo
Basel Tattoo is an annual military tattoo show performed by International military bands, display teams, popular musicians, and tattoo formations in Basel, Switzerland.
Since 2006, Basel Tattoo has had annual stage-arena performances within the Basel Kaserne (old barracks) (now also known as Basel Tattoo Arena) and hosts two parades in July. The Basel Tattoo parade, with an estimated 125,000 visitors, is considered the largest event.Birmingham Tattoo
The Birmingham Tattoo is held annually at the Barclaycard Arena previously known as the National Indoor Arena in the centre of Birmingham, England. The military tattoo features massed military bands, and displays. The event takes place for two performances in November each year. The event has been held since 1989 and has attracted performers from the United States, Europe and Russia as well as British bands from the Royal Marines, Coldstream Guards, King's Division and Gurkhas. The Birmingham Tattoo features traditional military music, field gun racing, dancers, dog display teams and one of the largest gatherings of standard bearers with around 120 standards on parade at each performance. Each year the event raises money at each performance for the Royal Star and Garter Homes who provide care homes for disabled ex-Service men and women. Over £93,000 has been donated to the charity since 2008.Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle (Scottish Gaelic: Caisteal Dhùn Éideann) is a historic fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, from its position on the Castle Rock. Archaeologists have established human occupation of the rock since at least the Iron Age (2nd century AD), although the nature of the early settlement is unclear. There has been a royal castle on the rock since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, and the site continued to be a royal residence until 1633. From the 15th century the castle's residential role declined, and by the 17th century it was principally used as military barracks with a large garrison. Its importance as a part of Scotland's national heritage was recognised increasingly from the early 19th century onwards, and various restoration programmes have been carried out over the past century and a half. As one of the most important strongholds in the Kingdom of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle was involved in many historical conflicts from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century to the Jacobite rising of 1745. Research undertaken in 2014 identified 26 sieges in its 1100-year-old history, giving it a claim to having been "the most besieged place in Great Britain and one of the most attacked in the world".Few of the present buildings pre-date the Lang Siege of the 16th century, when the medieval defences were largely destroyed by artillery bombardment. The most notable exceptions are St Margaret's Chapel from the early 12th century, which is regarded as the oldest building in Edinburgh, the Royal Palace and the early-16th-century Great Hall, although the interiors have been much altered from the mid-Victorian period onwards. The castle also houses the Scottish regalia, known as the Honours of Scotland and is the site of the Scottish National War Memorial and the National War Museum of Scotland. The British Army is still responsible for some parts of the castle, although its presence is now largely ceremonial and administrative. Some of the castle buildings house regimental museums which contribute to its presentation as a tourist attraction.
The castle, in the care of Historic Environment Scotland, is Scotland's most-visited paid tourist attraction, with over 2 million visitors in 2017 and over 70 percent of leisure visitors to Edinburgh visiting the castle. As the backdrop to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo during the annual Edinburgh Festival the castle has become a recognisable symbol of Edinburgh and of Scotland.Gurkha Contingent Pipes and Drums Platoon
The Singapore Police Force Gurkha Contingent Pipes and Drums Platoon is a 35 strong platoon currently led by Inspector Buddhi Gurung. The Honorary Band President is Superintendent Tony Bergin, who is the Deputy Commander of the Gurkha Contingent. Formed in 1955 out of the Contingent's Gurkha officers, it includes officers trained as Pipers, Drummers and Buglers.
The platoon performs regularly in partnership with the Singapore Police Force Band and the Women Police Pipes and Drums in combined performances locally as well as abroad. It has participated in the 1991 Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the 2001 Adelaide International Police Tattoo, the 2002 Malaysian combined Police and Military Tattoo in Kuala Lumpur and the 2005 Musikschau der Nationen in Bremen, Germany, in recent years either on its own or along with the other bands from the Singapore Police Force.Megan Beveridge
Megan Beveridge (age 23–24) is a Scottish soldier who became the first regular army, female "lone piper" at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The Lance Bombardier from Burntisland, in Fife was also the first female to pass the army's pipe major course. Aged 21, she is also the youngest person to date to have passed.Nils Olav
Brigadier Sir Nils Olav is a king penguin who resides in Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland. He is the mascot and Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian King's Guard. The name 'Nils Olav' and associated ranks have been passed down through three king penguins since 1972 – the current holder is Nils Olav III.Norwegian Military Tattoo
The Norwegian Military Tattoo (Norsk Militær Tattoo) is a military festival held biannually in the Norwegian capital of Oslo. The first tattoo was held in 1994 in Hamar, which is north of Oslo. The tattoo has been held in the Oslo Spektrum since 1996. It features military bands and drill teams of the Norwegian Armed Forces (such as the band and honour guard of Hans Majestet Kongens Garde) as well as the bands and drill teams of foreign countries.
With over 800 participants on stage, the Norwegian Military Tattoo is Norway's largest indoor show. The tattoo's official TV partner is NRK1.Peter Vince
Peter Vince (born Peter Robert Vince) was an English sound engineer, producer and operations manager at Abbey Road Studios.Quebec City International Festival of Military Bands
The Quebec City International Festival of Military Bands (FIMMQ) was one of the major cultural events of Quebec City, inspired by military tattoos given by Canadian and foreign military bands and display teams. It has taken place annually in August in Quebec City from 1998 to 2013.
Created in 1998, the FIMMQ were hosted by the local Military Bands, i.e. Les Voltigeurs de Québec and the Royal 22e Régiment. It welcomed, throughout the years, military and some civilian bands from Germany, Australia, Belgium, Chile, South Korea, United States, France, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom, Russia, Singapore, Italy, Switzerland and Austria. Outdoor performances were held for the general public at various locations in and around the city and an indoor show, the Quebec City Military Tattoo, was held inside the Colisée Pepsi.Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an annual series of military tattoos performed by British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and international military bands, and artistic performance teams on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle in the capital of Scotland. The event is held each August as part of the Edinburgh Festival.Royal Tournament
The Royal Tournament was the world's largest military tattoo and pageant, held by the British Armed Forces annually between 1880 and 1999. The venue was originally the Royal Agricultural Hall and latterly the Earls Court Exhibition Centre. In its later years it also acted as a fundraising event for leading forces charities, such as The Royal British Legion.Shanghai Cooperation Organization Military Tattoo
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization Military Tattoo (Chinese: 上海合作組織軍事紋身; Russian: Шанхайская организация сотрудничества Военная татуировка) also known as the SCO Military Tattoo is an annual military music event and military tattoo organized by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. The musical groups that usually participate in the festival annually are the bands of SCO member states as well as SCO observer states. During the festival, musicians will usually perform for close to 8-10 minutes.Singapore Armed Forces Band
The Singapore Armed Forces Band (commonly known as the SAF Band) form the musical arm of the Singapore Armed Forces. Playing a vital role in ceremonial parades and ceremonies, the SAF Band provides musical support for parades such as the National Day Parade, SAF Day Parade, Passing Out Parades, Change of Command Parades and other military duties. Other than discharging ceremonial duties, the SAF Band also presents public concerts that aim to bring a wide range of music to the populace. They also seek to build up the band's music repertoire into an extensive array of styles and variety.
Through the years, the SAF Band have worked with several distinguished conductors and soloists including Frank Renton, Steven Mead, John Sharpley, Evelyn Glennie, Jan Van der Roost, Toshio Akiyama, Yasuhide Ito, Eric Whitacre and Hardy Mertens. More recently, the band was conducted by Philip Sparke, Frank Ticheli, James Barnes, Roger Swift, Douglas Bostock, Prof Allen McMurray and Prof. James F Keene of the University of Illinois.
The SAF Band has recently represented Singapore at international music festivals.
2000 - the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers street parade in Australia;
2001 - the Festival International de Musiques Militaires in Saumur, France;
2002 - the Kuala Lumpur International Tattoo in Malaysia;
2006 - the Brunei International Tattoo in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam; the Wonju Tattoo in South Korea;
2007 - the India Tattoo in New Delhi; the Kuala Lumpur International Tattoo in Malaysia;
2008 - the Quebec International Tattoo in Canada;
2009 - the Nanchang Tattoo in China;
2010 - the Japan Self-Defense Force Tattoo in Tokyo, Japan;
2011 - the Bremen International Tattoo in Germany; the Brunei International Tattoo in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam;
2012 - the Spasskaya International Tattoo in Moscow, Russia;
2013 - the Malmö Tattoo in Sweden;
2014 - the Basel Tattoo in Switzerland; the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Scotland
2016 - the Amur Waves International Military Tattoo in Khabarovsk, Russia
2017 - the Virginia International Tattoo in Virginia, United States of AmericaTattoo (bugle call)
Tattoo is a bugle call played in the evening in the British Army and the United States Army.
The original concept of this call was played on the snare drum and was known as "tap-too," with the same rule applying. Later on, the name was applied to more elaborate military performances, known as military tattoos. The etymology of the military tattoo is from Dutch "tap toe", unrelated to the Tahitian origin of an ink tattoo.The Regimental Band and Pipes
The Regimental Band and Pipes was founded on The Citadel campus in Charleston, South Carolina in 1909 with late marine general, Harry K. Pickett, in command. The marching band makes up one of the twenty-one companies of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets. In 1991, the band participated in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Edinburgh, Scotland becoming the first military college selected for the honor. They returned in 2010 as the only unit from the United States to appear at the Silver Jubilee of the Tattoo and appeared again in 2015.Top Secret Drum Corps
Top Secret Drum Corps is a drum corps based in Basel, Switzerland. With 25 drummers and color guard section, the corps became famous for its demanding six-minute routine performed at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 2003. With its invitation to Edinburgh, Top Secret became one of the first non-military, non-British Commonwealth acts to perform on the Esplanade at Edinburgh Castle.
Since its success in 2003, Top Secret was invited to return to Edinburgh in 2006 with a new routine. They were invited a third time in 2009 and again in 2012, 2015, and 2018. Under the leadership of Erik Julliard, the band is also responsible for the founding of the Basel Tattoo, a military tattoo show similar to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, now held annually in Basel.Windsor Castle Royal Tattoo
The Windsor Castle Royal Tattoo is a military tattoo held in the private grounds of Windsor Castle by permission of Queen Elizabeth II. The tattoo was launched in 2008 with great success and so was held for the second time in 2009. The event's proceeds go to the Royal British Legion to help support recently returned troops from battle.
The Tattoo website describes it as: a celebration of the capabilities of today’s forces through music and action. It is a tri-service event and has a packed programme of international and British military acts, massed bands, pipes and drums, modern military re-enactments and a fantastic finale.....The Tattoo tells the story of modern life in each of the services (the Army, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy) and large screens show footage from each of the services in action in war zones, taking the audience to the current operational environment.
The Windsor Tattoo is similar to the Royal Tournament, the world's largest military tattoo which was axed by the British Government in 1999. In 2009 the Tattoo saw the return of the Royal Navy Field Gun Race 10 years after it was laid to rest along with the Royal Tournament.