We’ve been celebrating military sports performances over the past few days, but music is another powerful way to tighten the link between the military and civilians. One of the most moving and entertaining military music events in the world has to be the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (nothing to do with body art but from the Dutch phrase “Doe den tap toe” (“turn off the taps”) the 17th and 18th century closing-time call in Dutch inns) an annual event which runs throughout August and is sold-out again for the 18th consecutive year!
And this year, for the first time ever, it is a female serving soldier who holds the prestigious role of the Lone Piper standing atop the castle by herself at the end of the finale to play the famous lament ‘Sleep Dearie Sleep’, a haunting tune that can be heard almost across the city. Lance Bombardier Megan Beveridge, 21, is the first woman to pass the exacting Pipe Major’s course.
Beveridge is a member of 19th Regiment Royal Artillery and when she isn’t piping she is a Transport Junior Non-Commissioned Officer coordinating transport for the day-to-day running of the Regiment and for more complex tasks such as large exercises. “I hope that I’ve inspired other female Pipers to join the Army. It’s a great job and I’m really pleased to be able to do it,” she says.
You can hear her playing in this video between 15’21” and 16’55”
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is the Army in Scotland’s contribution to Edinburgh’s International Festivals. Seen by an annual audience of some 220,000 (plus another 100 million or so who see it on international television), the Tattoo has been held annually for the past 66 years on the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle, hulking up there on its rock keeping watch over the Scottish capital, forming a backdrop that is hard to match.
Military musicians and performers from 48 countries across six continents have performed at the Tattoo over the years, with the first overseas regiments and performers being the Band of the Royal Netherland Grenadiers, the French Garde Républicaine and performers from Canada. The last time a French military band was invited to play was in 1995 with La Musique du 42ème Régiment de Transmissions. After the Garde Républicaine in 1952, came the 7th Spahis (Algeria) in 1959, the Bagad of Lann-bihoue (navy) in 1964 and in 1977 the Batterie-Fanfare de la Garde Républicaine of Paris.
This year features the Royal Jordanian Armed Forces Band and Drill Team, the New Zealand Army Band and Lochiel Marching Drill Team, His Majesty The King’s Guard from Norway and military bands from Nepal and the United States.
Produced since 2001 by Brigadier David Allfrey, former Commander of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, the first Tattoo was held in 1950 and since then not a single performance has ever been cancelled despite the somewhat unreliable summer weather in Scotland!
The Tattoo is set up and run for charitable purposes and in 2014 generated approximately £10M (€11.5M) in box office receipts.