Canadian International Military Tattoo

Canadian International Military Tattoo Re-Visited


by Festival Nomad "Scoop" Correspondent, Judi McWilliams

YUM YUM, WHAT A TREAT ... Have you ever been to a luncheon that was actually fantastic! This years Canadian International Military Tattoo was a real treat. Why you ask, we were invited by our good acquaintance Richard Seager, Manager to attend the Tattoo Luncheon on the Sunday afternoon performance. After the luncheon everyone who attended, was invited to march back to the Copps Coliseum for the Tattoo.

We had arrived at Copps Coliseum early, as we wanted to meet the events Chair Person, Joy Shikaze. That's when the challenges began. First we had to find a door that was open so that we could get in to the Coliseum. After walking around the entire Coliseum twice (if you have even been to Copps Coliseum you will know how much walking that it). After checking all the doors we decided that we would venture down the "steep" underground parking lot that entered into the bowels of the Coliseum. After discovering that there was no entry down below we decided to trudge buck up the "steep" garage entrance. We had remembered someone enter one of the doors (about 1/2 hour ago, before our walk about) and decided to give it a try. To our surprise it actually opened. It was a "steep" stairwell that led to the bowels of the "earth". On the way down we heard a voice. After following the sound, we finally came to a security desk and its occupant. After explaining who we were, he told us where we could find the Canadian International Military Tattoo show office. We followed his instructions, which included going up another set of "steep" stairs, back to the earth top. We went to the door that he told us to go through ... Oops ... It was locked. What to do? We were about re-enter "the bowels of the earth" when we heard voices and footsteps. Much to our relief, they were headed to the door where we wanted to get through. When we explained where we wanted to go, they graciously pointed us in the right direction. After travelling a long underground passage way we found the Canadian International Military Tattoo offices and it's two occupants, Chair Joy Shikaze and Publicist Richard Seager. We much relief we now looked forward to the luncheon. After chatting with Joy and Richard and still having lots of time before the luncheon, we made our way to Jackson Square for coffee.

The luncheon was well attended with many bus tour folks joining in. We were fortunate that Richard Seager joined us at our table and introduced us to a great couple from Pennsylvania Gettysburg. As mention above, after lunch we all "marched" back to Copps Coliseum to enjoy the Tattoo. It's amazing, Gary and I have attended the Canadian International Military Tattoo a few time, but it never gets "old" the music, the dancing, the pageantry, all stir emotions that are hard to explain. I know that we both get "lumps" in our throats as the bands play the Grand Finale and all the players amass on the area floor. If you love music, dancing and pageantry, you should  plan on visiting this event. 

Canadian International Military Tattoo re-Visited (2011)

A small boy stood in the centre of a crowed arena with a single spot light upon him. He was all alone, with exception of the violin he was playing. The crowd listened with rapt attention as he wound his way to the exit of the arena and the crowd broke into an appreciative applause. The lights in the arena then faded to black. The MC’s voice came loud over the P.A., announcing the start of the performance. Bag Pipe music reached us from the far end of the arena. This was the start of the Canadian International Military Tattoo in Hamilton at Copps Coliseum! The Fanfare began with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band. As I had been to this Tattoo in the past, I watched Judi as she tried to keep in rhythm to the beats and the drums. The Massed Pipes and Drums stirred the hearts of all those listening. One of our favourite highlights was watching The American Originals Fife and Drum Corps. Judi has played the flute in years gone by, but these Fife players were amazing. The performance had movement, action, comedy and more! The young Royal Canadian Ari Cadet Squadron Band was a big surprise with their skills and talents. The next group, The Tattoo Dancers, had so much energy we got exhausted just watching. Their dressed/costumes were colourful and elegant too. We bounced to the rhymes of the Massed Military Bands just before a short intermission. After they played again, with the pipes and drums, we were entertained by an amazing group of performers from Quebec. The MacInaw Folklorique Ensemble might have been worth while watching for an entire afternoon. We were not too sad when they left the arena floor, because the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band performed again for us. Also this afternoon, Jack London performed the heart felt song “Band of Brothers Requiem”. While he sang, large colour photos rotated on the centre floor or the arena depicting our heroes and families honouring these brave soles. After a fantastic salute to The Canadian Forces, both moving and touching, the grand finale began. Once the performers were all on the stage decorated Veterans from various Wars marched smartly onto the arena floor and fell into line. Once everyone was in place a squad marched up through the entire assembled ranks lined up in the front row directly in front of the reviewing stand. The Mass Bands began to play “Taps”. Danielle Bourne, who has a beautiful powerful voice, sang “We Gather Together” among other songs. I turned to Judi who was standing there silently with tears in her eyes. I asked her why and she told me she was thinking of her grandfather, who she had never met, but had died a hero in a long ago war. It was at this point when the MC said over the PA that he “would like us all to stand for the anthems but I can see you are all standing already”. What was interesting was that those around us all sang all the Anthems including God Save the Queen. As I stood listening to those around us, it made me think of Judi’s and my participation in the upcoming War of 1812 Celebrations. It made me think how fortunate we were to have such great friends in the U.S.A. and to have 200 years of peaceful co-existence.

Opportunity Knocked…

I have never been to a military tattoo. When the opportunity to visit the Canadian International Military Tattoo in Hamilton presented itself, I immediately accepted the offer. With Judi being out-of-town, I asked me sister, Barbara, if she would like to go with me. She accepted, so on an overcast Sunday morning I set out for Oakville and my sister’s home. Just before I reached Toronto, I tuned onto 680 News Radio for the traffic report. The report told me that the 401 highway through Toronto was jammed with two major accidents. I took a quick detour and headed for ETR 407. Fortunately this highway was clear and I made good time to Oakville. I was a little late in picking up Barb, so we left for Hamilton immediately. We were able to find a parking spot close to Copps Coliseum (where the Tattoo was being held). After we picked up our tickets at the Box Office, we decided that we had time for a quick lunch. When we returned to the Coliseum, the doors had opened and people were entering the building. We followed the crowd and made our way to our seats. Inside the Coliseum, which is oval shaped, people started to fill the seats. The south end of the Coliseum was blocked off with a “Castle” façade. This was where the performers were going to make their entrance. There were three “Castle” openings. At the north end of the Coliseum a platform had been erected for the event’s dignitaries. Once the crowd had settled, the lights dimmed and then, at the south end, spotlights lite up the castle wall and members of the Navy, Army and Air Force Cadets entered the Stage. This was the start of the Canadian International Military Tattoo. After the Cadets had left the stage, the opening ceremonies began, dignitaries were introduced and the crowd was welcomed by the event’s commanding officer. The lights the dimmed again!

Let The Fanfare Begin!

The building was very quiet and then we could hear the drone of bagpipes and drums. Spotlights were directed to the Castle wall and the Royal Regiment of Canada  and the 48th Highlander Bands came marching through the main opening! Surprisingly the applause of the audience could be heard over the sound of the combined bands! The Canadian International Military Tattoo had begun in earnest! Once the bands had completed the fanfare, the spotlights turned back to the wall. The Massed Pipes and Drums marched through the three openings onto the stage! The intricacy of their marching and the precision of their playing all added to the drama of the performance! The bands played a number of pieces to the delight of the audience! Once they were nearing the end of their performance, they marched to the north end exits. The lights were once again turned down. After a few moments of darkness, the spotlight moved to the far end of the Coliseum. The Salvation Army Meadowlands Corps Band came marching through the opening playing the music of “Onward Christen Soldiers”. Although the number of band members did not equal the Massed Pipes and Drums, the sound of the music coming from the Salvation Army Band was just as powerful! After their first song the band formed a square and played a few more tunes. They finished their performance by marching off the stage to “When the Saints Go Marching In”! The Salvation Army Band was immediately followed by the American Originals Fife and Drum Corps. As the American Originals marched onto the stage it was easy to see why they are one of the United States most sought after bands! They marched onto the stage with precision and excitement and had captured the hearts of the audience. This was especially true when a lone fifer played Canada’s National Anthem and the band leader displayed a Canadian flag! The final performance for the first half of the Tattoo began with the Young School of Irish Dancers. They were joined by the Royal Regiment of Canada and the 48th Highlander Bands who marched onto the stage. As the bands performed, the spotlight shifted to the west side of the Coliseum and out, into the spotlight, walked songstress, Danielle Burre. She joined the bands and started to sing. Danielle’s voice was magnificent and the audience was captivated. Once Danielle had completed her performance, she left the stage and headed back to the west side. The two bands then completed their melodies and marched off the stage. The Coliseum lights were then turned on and intermission was declared. During intermission the crowds remaining in their seats were treated to a solo performance by a very young violinist! His skills were amazing and he entertained us throughout the entire intermission!

The Maple Leaf Forever…

The second half of the Canadian International Military Tattoo began as it started, spectacularly! From the three openings in the castle façade the Massed Pipe and Drum Bands marched in unison onto the Copps Coliseum stage. Their music was a tribute to “Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines”! After playing several “flying” related tunes, the Massed Bands turned their attention to paying tribute to the 250th Birthday of Robert “Robbie” Burns. One of the highlights of this tribute was a solo performance by internationally recognized classical singer, Serena Paton. Serena was followed in the tribute by the Tattoo Dancers who performed brilliantly under multi-coloured spotlights. Once the tribute was over and the Massed Bands had left the stage, the Toronto Signals Band marched lively through the main Castle opening. Their performance was nothing short of amazing! It was certainly easy to see why the Toronto Signals Band has earned the reputation as one of the world’s top performing military bands. Their music and intricate marching was second to none! When we had first entered the Coliseum, I had noticed a bi-plane at the south end of the Coliseum, nestled against the Castle façade. I had wondered at the time what it was there for. With the start of the next section of the Tattoo, I knew! It was there for the tribute to the 100th Anniversary of Powered Flight in Canada! During the cover of darkness, the plane had been moved. When the spotlights came up, the bi-plane was in the middle of the stage with two World War 1 re-enactors standing by the plane. The PA announcer told the audience the significance of the plane and the two re-enactors. From there the spotlight switched to different locations and different costumed re-enactor. By doing this the story of Powered Flight in Canada was told! The Powered Flight story was presented by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. With the tribute over, the Finale began! First came the Massed Pipe and Drum Bands. They came through the Castle openings. They were followed by the Royal Regiment of Canada and the 48th Highlander Bands. They stopped marching and continued to play. While this was happening all the other Tattoo participants marched onto the stage and took their pre-arranged place. The Coliseum was alive with the vibrating sound of the combined bands! The audience was on their feet applauding in appreciation! The sight of all these performers together sent chills through the crowd! As the bands continued to play, an opening in the middle of the bands and performers appeared. From the Castle, 12 soldiers emerged, in their battle fatigues, and marched through the opening, up to the front of the stage. There they took their salute from the commanding officer. The crowed roared with approval and appreciation. These were the soldiers of 31 Brigade  who had seen active duty in recent years and they formed the “Honour Guard”. The Finale of the Canadian International Military Tattoo was concluded with the National Anthems of the Unites States and Canada plus “God Save Our Queen”! With the playing of “The Black Bear/Will Ye No Come Back Again” and “The Maple Leaf Forever”, all the bands and performers marched off the stage!