The Scottish tradition of marching pipe bands joined with the grace of dance, the drama of theater and the global unity of an international event at the 2012 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Visitors from countries around the world including Taiwan, Australia, South Africa and Canada filed in to the amphitheater built around the Edinburgh Castle for nightly performances of the Tattoo held throughout the month of August.

“The forecast tonight will be…dry!” the commentator announced over the speakers on Wednesday, Aug. 8. A round of cheers from the crowd welcomed his forecast, following by a burst of laughter from his next comment: “Just like it always is in the summer in Scotland.”

As the commentator shouted out the names of various countries asking spectators to show their nationalism by cheering, it seemed as though the event was attended entirely by tourists instead of native Scotsmen.

The first official Tattoo took place in 1950 and has since been a vital aspect of the annual Edinburgh Festival in the city, bringing in an estimated 70,000 visitors from outside the United Kingdom. The Tattoo has sold out in advance for the past 10 years. This year’s Tattoo was dedicated to celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen.

Peter Brew, of the Isle of Man (a small independent island in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland), attended the Tattoo for the first time this year. Brew and his wife, Rene, were doing a tour of Scotland and had always heard about the event. They brought with them their son, Neil, and their friends, Audrey Bell and Gerard Trehy. Though it was the first time any of the group had attended the event, they said they have watched it on television for years.

“The Tattoo represents tradition,” Brew said. “It’s very unique, as far as I know.”

Military bands from both the United Kingdom and around the world compose Tattoo performances. Performances at the Tattoo this year included a tribute to the Disney/Pixar film “Brave,” which is based in Scotland, a summary of history’s most famous comic book superheroes, dazzling light shows and even electric guitar solos. Performances featured both theatrical props and projected images.

The Top Secret Drum Corps, a band based out of Switzerland, performed at the Tattoo for the fourth year, after making its debut at the 2003 Tattoo. The Top Secret Drum Corps is made up of musicians who only drum as a hobby, and the band is one of the first non-military acts to perform at the event. The band created a memorable performance, with flashing lights on the body of the drums.

Light shows such as the one created by the Top Secret Drum Corps were even more impressive because of the setting of the Tattoo. The event was held each night at dusk. As the sun set behind the Edinburgh Castle, the sky went alight with shades of pink, orange and purple. When the bands were finished with their performances, fireworks ignited the sky behind the castle.

“It’s done at dusk to make it more spectacular,” Brew said. “The whole place will be lit up.”

The word “Tattoo” is derived from the Dutch word for “last orders.” Originally, tattoo was a signal in taverns, played by a regiment’s drum corps to instruct the bar to close their ale taps. This would cause soldiers to return to their beds at a decent hour.  A large bronze ale keg was also rolled around the amphitheater at this year’s Tattoo, signifying the rich history the event has in Great Britain.

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