Halifax’s popular Tattoo keeps on marching 35 years later after some early missteps

Metro Halifax thebuzz@tc.tc
Published on May 29, 2014

By Desiree Finhert


The polished pipe and drum performance audiences see today, masterfully stepping in sync, is a far cry from the first Tattoo performance 35 years ago.

As the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo pulls up its socks for its milestone 35 anniversary some of the original orchestrators are reminiscing about that first day on stage.

“Chaos,” said Col. Ian Fraser who produced and directed the 1979 show. “We never did rehearse that first show. We ran out of rehearsal time, so we just went and did it for her majesty.”

At one point, Fraser said there were 150 pipers on the floor piping with about 75 playing a different song.

“Nobody in the audience ever noticed,” chuckled Fraser during the launch of this year’s show at the Halifax Metro Centre on Wednesday. “It says something about pipes and drums and the musical quality of it.”

That show went so well it was held it over a second day.

Sen. John Buchanan remembers those early years, also.

“I must have enjoyed the Tattoo myself,” he said at the press conference. “This year will mark probably the 81 time that I viewed the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo because for my 13 years as premier I attended everyone of the nights.”

Now the grandchildren of the original performers have continued their grandparents legacy by piping, drumming and dancing in the Nova Scotian institution. This year’s show will have Olympic athletes, acrobatic cyclists, Flying Grandpas, police and civilian performers.

This year is also the start of another potential legacy. The Tattoo has established the North American Brass Band Summer School inviting world-class musicians to teach students the ways of pipe and drum in the days leading up to the show.

About 50 students from around the world will practice with the masters and perform during the Tattoo eight performances in July.

The Tattoo runs from July 1 to 8 at the Halifax Metro Centre. Tickets are being sold through Ticket Atlantic.