Performers from the  Trinidad * Tobago Defence Steel Orchestra  joined Highland Dancers and military pipers and drummers on the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle (Photo: Ian Georgeson)
Performers from the Trinidad * Tobago Defence Steel Orchestra joined Highland Dancers and military pipers and drummers on the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle (Photo: Ian Georgeson)

Military tattoo will be light and bright in 2019

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo will be the light fantastic when it takes place this year.

The event will celebrate visible light in all its forms with incredible architectural projections, cutting-edge lighting, sound and special effects to accompany music and performance from some the world’s finest military and folkloric performers, as it launches its 2019 show Kaleidoscope today.

Staged on the iconic Edinburgh Castle Esplanade between 2-24 August, the military spectacle, which marks its 69th show this year, has taken inspiration from the much-loved optical instrument patented by Scottish scientist, Sir David Brewster in 1817 and Sir Isaac Newton’s original seven hues (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet).

Musical and cultural showcases from China, France, Germany, New Zealand and Trinidad & Tobago, as well as homegrown talent from the UK at the centre of it all. The Army is the lead Service this year and there will be scarlet and gold everywhere with three huge State Bands at full stretch.

These are reinforced by the legendary sound of the Massed Pipes and Drums – more than 250 pipers and drummers from Scottish Regiments, the Pipers Trail and around the world – and the dazzle and athleticism of the Tattoo Dance Company, along with enchanting tunes from the Hjaltibonhoga fiddlers from the Shetland Isles.

This year’s theme, Kaleidoscope, is designed to showcase the brilliant uniforms, costumes and formations for which the Edinburgh Tattoo is famous.

The symmetries of the military bands matched with the precision of the dancers and marching drill teams creates an effect which is spectacular and constantly changing, just like the view through a kaleidoscope. Each performance will take the audience on a 100-minute journey around the world, exploring the rich heritage, culture and traditions of the nations involved.

More than 60 youth performers from the Beijing Marching Wind Band and Cultural Display have travelled from China’s buzzing metropolis to appear for the first time in Edinburgh. Drawn from schools and universities, each performer will play a key part in bringing to life the Chinese folktale of Dragons Playing With A Ball, starting in muted colours, transitioning through the colours of the rainbow to red and gold as seven dragons tap into a divine spirit every evening.

Temperatures will rise as the Trinidad & Tobago Defence Steel Orchestra showcase their unique skills on the Caribbean’s much-loved steel drums. Representing the colour ‘yellow’ – for the sunshine of their islands – the Band will be escorted by limbo dancers, fire-eaters, stilt walkers and the dark character of The Midnight Robber from the traditional masquerades, setting the arena alight with colour and movement.

Performers from the Trinidad * Tobago Defence Steel Orchestra joined Highland Dancers and military pipers and drummers on the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle (Photo: Ian Georgeson)

Inspired by the kaleidoscope’s ability to create magical patterns to the eye, organisers have assigned a colour to each sequence, allowing the nightly 8,800 audiences to see the whole show through a colourful Tattoo lens. In a first for the show, overhead projections will light the floor of the Esplanade under the feet of 1,200 performers.

Brigadier David Allfrey, chief executive and producer of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo said: ‘Within the conventional framework of a military Tattoo we always look to strike a balance between time-honoured tradition and innovative ideas. This year, our audiences can expect plenty of tradition… but with a twist!

‘The Tattoo is always looking to stimulate as many senses as possible: sight, hearing, smell, touch and even taste. To do this, we shape the production around a creative frame which provides inspiration for the military and civil performers to stretch and give of their best.

‘Through the Kaleidoscope, audiences can expect to see colours coming together in an infinite variety of military formations, bands and folkloric performers – individually and together moving on the Esplanade – creating a fabulous human mosaic. The huge tableau, with our great castle as an incomparable backdrop, will be framed by cutting edge lighting, projections, sound, special effects and fireworks. It is perhaps the Tattoo’s most colourful and extravagant show yet.

‘Above all, we want everyone to come together – from wherever they hail – for an evening that is inspirational as well as entertaining.’

Other highlights from this year’s show include:

The Tattoo Dance Company will introduce Newton’s seven hues with its opening scene ‘Prism’, a prelude to the greatest colour set of all: The Massed Pipes and Drums.

Audiences will join a traditional day’s hunting with Heeresmusikkorps Kassel – the German Army Band Kassel – as they represent ‘grün’ (green) and a day in the manicured German forests – der Wald. The orchestra gathers after a call by ‘Fürst Pless’ horns, followed by a collection of German marches and traditional folk music, before ending with the famous ‘Regimentsgruß’. The Army Band Kassel is one of 18 Bands of the German Military Music Service.

Fifty performers from La Musique de l’Artillerie will transform the Esplanade ‘bleu’ (Blue) for a fiery display of France’s best-loved entertainment including a rousing rendition of the ‘Can-Can’ with the Tattoo Dance Company and the French military musicians. The Lyon-based Band will also deliver their own take on Bruno’s Mars’ ‘Uptown Funk’.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo 2018

The prestigious Lochiel Marching Drill Team from New Zealand will return in what will be a significant year for the troupe after the loss of their coach of more than 53 years, Colleen Pobar, at the beginning of the year. In her honour and representing ‘white’, they will showcase their world-renowned skill and precision in drill marching, timed to the second. Colleen had already accepted the offer to perform before her untimely death and she will be honoured with her own melody Colleen’s Line as part of team’s score The Ice and in a reprise during the Finale.

Hailing from the magical Shetland Isles, Hjaltibonhoga will represent ‘indigo’ with their composition ‘Sea Sway’. Composed by Director, Margaret Robertson, the tune is inspired by the sunlight filtering through the kelp in the clear and wildlife-busy waters off Shetland.

Bringing up the energy levels to represent ‘black and silver’, the New Zealand Army Band – in their scarlet uniforms with the unique black ‘lemon-squeezer’ hats – return for a sixth season. Renowned for their playful spirit and impressive performance, the Band will cover the length and breadth of the arena belting out hits including Circle of Life and other favourites.

The Massed Pipes and Drums will deliver the real flavour and sounds of Scotland in two iconic sets, one rousing and one more reflective, to culminate in the Kaleidoscope finale, stirring combined music and a display of pure showmanship, with more than 10 formation changes synchronised to the score, the lights, and the projections.

Set to the incredible sight of the closing fireworks above the Castle, the Massed Military Bands will play one of Queen and Freddy Mercury’s greatest hits, ‘The Show Must Go On’ before the entire cast of 1,200 reforms to the tune ‘The Greatest Showman’ leading on to the poignant ‘Evening Hymn’, the haunting Lone Piper and, of course, the Return to Barracks to ‘Scotland The Brave’, ‘The Black Bear’ and ‘We’re No Awa’ Tae Bide Awa’

More than 220,000 visitors will see the Tattoo in Edinburgh during August with a further global audience of over 100 million through programmed televised broadcasts.

Last year, the Tattoo announced its ambitions to develop its international influence by securing overseas tours in China, Australia and Canada by 2021 and doubling its turnover to £20 million by 2025.

Tickets for this year’s Tattoo can still be purchased online at