RAF Halton Pipes and Drums

RAF Halton Events

RAF Halton - Events

It should be said that the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is probably the most prestigious event that any piper or drummer would ever wish to play at. It sort of completes your experience of Scottish music and tradition. Here at RAF Halton Pipes and Drums we are able to take part in that experience by playing within the Royal Air Force Pipes and Drums. Rehearsals are at Redford Barracks, Edinburgh, and the staff of the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming put you through your paces before you are allowed to set foot on the famous Esplanade at Edinburgh Castle. Several of our pipers have even played the lament high on the ramparts at the closing of the event.

Tattoos are a tradition now all over the world, in fact the very word is a corruption from the Dutch! The original meaning of military tattoo was a military drum performance, but it has come to mean military displays and shows in general. The term dates from the 17th century, during the Thirty Years' War in the Low Countries (Belgium and the Netherlands). The Dutch fortresses were garrisoned with mercenary troops under federal command. The Dutch States Army had become a federal army, consisting mostly of Scottish, English, German and Swiss mercenaries but commanded by Dutch Officers. Drummers from the garrison would be sent into the towns each evening to inform the soldiers that it was time to return to barracks. The process was known as doe den tap toe (Dutch for "turn off the tap"), the instruction to innkeepers to stop serving beer and send the soldiers home. The drummers then continued to play until the curfew. Tattoo, earlier tap-too and taptoo, are alterations of the Dutch words tap toe as explained.

Members of RAF Halton Pipes and Drums have taken part in Tattoos in Edinburgh, London, Windsor, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Korea, Russia and Switzerland. Sometimes we play as part of the RAF Pipes and Drums, sometimes with the Central Band of the RAF but always with pride.

There are many other types of event of course and at RAF Halton we are not just limited to Tattoos. Obviously there are various military functions from the Families Day at the Station (like a fete) to solo pipers playing at the Officers Mess. There is the annual Founders Day Parade through London to St Clement Dane's, the Freedom of Aylesbury Parade and Remembrance Sunday All of which are solemn occasions that are treated with respect and reverence.

Then there are events such as carnivals, fetes and shows. We have taken part in the Lord Mayors Show, the Royal Norfolk Show and many other County Shows. Celtic Music Festivals are also the type of event that we get asked to play at. We have taken part in concerts in Wembley Stadium, Birmingham, the O2 Arena, Bordeaux, Paris, etc.

The band have different uniforms for various types, or level of work. For most band jobs and competitions the band wears Day Dress with kilt, jacket and tie. A variation on this is our Working Dress worn on rehearsals for major events and is very similar but with RAF woolen jumpers instead of jackets. No1 Ceremonial Dress is worn on State Occasions, Tattoos, etc. For example we wore No1 Dress at the State Opening of Scottish Parliament.

Solo pipers are often requested for smaller indoor functions such as weddings, St Andrews night dinners, New Year's Eve, Burns Night, the list goes on and on. Finally, just occasionally, we are asked to play on television or even for film. You can see many of our pipers and drummers on all sorts of shows, so next time you see a piper on the TV, take a closer look; it may be one of us... especially if they're wearing blue!

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