Monday, June 14, 2010

Tattoo You

For the past month or two, I've been quite busy (as I'm sure I've blabbed about before on this blog) for various reasons, so I was very much looking forward to this past week as I didn't have to be anywhere or do anything! What an idea! I actually got out to a couple of movies, got some chores done, and got to catch up with some friends, which was great. This past weekend I got to sleep in and lounge around for half the day, and it was lovely.

However, this break was short-lived, as after this Thursday there will again be a monopoly on my free time as that's when daily rehearsals start for the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo. For the uninitiated (which is probably, oh, EVERYONE that reads this blog - all 2 of you, hah), this is a military variety show of sorts that takes place every summer here in my fair city of Halifax, Nova Scotia and brings together various acts from countries around the world - including military bands and performers (gymnasts, etc) from countries such as Germany, UK, US, Belgium, Estonia, France, and the Netherlands (in past years we've also had acts from Korea, Oman and Trinidad/Tobago). The show runs from July 1st to July 8th and has been going strong since 1979, when the Queen Mum herself opened the first one.

Believe it or not, it's the world's largest annual indoor show! There are usually approx. 2,000 people involved in putting it together each year, most of the organizers being very prestigious Canadian/Nova Scotian military personnel with extensive musical backgrounds as conductors, arrangers, etc.

I'm only one very tiny, insignificant "cog" in the Tattoo machine (I'm not sure if cog is a word, but Rachel used it (skip to 19:13), so I'm going to go with "yes" just because it's a neat word and Rachel is awesome). I'm an Alto in the Adult Choir. But it's still an amazing experience being a part of such a huge show. Not only is the music often moving (not to mention a challenge), it is so amazing to see it come together each year. So much time and effort goes into putting it on and people have no idea - I used to go to the show when I was a kid and never really appreciated it until I went behind the scenes. I now have so much respect for the organizers, and all of the groups that come from far and wide (often through vigarous fundraising) just to perform here with us. As a choir, we have to learn and sing (by heart) all of our music, including National anthems for each visiting country (and in their native language, thank you very much) so to say it's a major exercise for my brain is the understatement of the century! But what other opportunity are you going to have to do something like that?!

It's an awesome way to meet interesting people, be a part of tourism and culture here in Nova Scotia, and learn and sing beautiful music. This year is the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Navy, so we will be paying tribute to our men and women of the seas with all of our music, which is kind of exciting. The Queen will even be visiting Halifax at that time - though only for the Naval celebrations, and not the Tattoo (unfortunately - that's a story for a whole other blog entry - I could rant all day about that one but I'll spare you - you could always Google "Nova Scotia International Tattoo + Queen" or something).

It's a huge time commitment (as I mentioned, after June 17th, I'll be at the Metro Centre pretty much every evening and every weekend afternoon rehearsing, not to mention performing 9 nights in a row before/after working a full day), and each year I wonder "why the eff do I put myself through this?!" as I usually end up in this sleep-deprived state of zoned-outness (yes, I made up another word - I enjoy doing that) by the time July 4th comes around. But in a wierd way, it's also like a kind of vacation from "real life"- you are in this little fun, crazy Tattoo "bubble" for a few weeks where you are home so little that you really don't have to worry about silly, dry things like housekeeping and banking because you simply have no time. All you need to worry about is singing, joking around with friends, going out for drinks and food on breaks or after the show/rehearsal, and watching the Paris Police gymnasts rehearse in their (very tight unitards). Ahhh.....

Uhhhhh.....what? Where was I?

Anyway, if you're going to be in Halifax July 1st to July 8th, please come out and see us! I guarantee you you won't be disappointed (though don't pay any attention to that short, brown-haired girl with the glasses in the front row on the stage...she doesn't know what the hell is going on).

6 comments:

Melissa said...

Whoaaa, this thing sounds amazing. I wish I could go to this. And yay for choir -- I've been a few myself, but this sounds quite prestigious.

Question: what does "tattoo" mean in this context?

Kim Humes said...

Good question, Mel! Well, class, I will let Wikipedia explain where Tattoo comes from in this context since it explains it much better than I would: "The original meaning of military tattoo is a military drum performance, but nowadays it sometimes means army displays more generally. It dates from the seventeenth century when the British Army was fighting in the Low Countries (Belgium and The Netherlands). Drummers from the garrison were sent out into the towns at 21:30 hrs (9:30PM) each evening to inform the soldiers that it was time to return to barracks. The process was known as doe den tap toe (old-Dutch for "turn off the tap"), an instruction to innkeepers to stop serving beer and send the soldiers home for the night. The drummers continued to play until the curfew at 22:00 hrs (10:00PM).

Over the years, the process became more of a show and often included the playing of the first post at 21:30 hrs and the last post at 22:00. Bands and displays were included and shows were often conducted by floodlight or searchlight. Tattoos were commonplace in the late 1800s with most military and garrison towns putting on some kind of show or entertainment during the summer months. Between the First World War and the Second World War elaborate tattoos were held in many towns, with the largest in Aldershot."
Cool, eh? The best known Tattoo is probably the one in Edinburgh, Scotland each August.

paige said...

Wow, that sounds like fun! It reminds me of the tattoo in Edinburgh every year. It's spectacular! I bet it will be really great. Photos, yes?

Kim Humes said...

Oh yes, there will be many photos taken, don't worry! lol. Also, I plan on picking up a nice, single German military officer while I'm at it, so I'll be sure to post status updates on my progress! *wink*

I would love to go to the Edinburgh Tattoo sometime - it's outdoors, which could be interesting!

paige said...

Wow, that sounds like fun! It reminds me of the tattoo in Edinburgh every year. It's spectacular! I bet it will be really great. Photos, yes?

Melissa said...

Whoaaa, this thing sounds amazing. I wish I could go to this. And yay for choir -- I've been a few myself, but this sounds quite prestigious.

Question: what does "tattoo" mean in this context?

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