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POSTED: 05 FEBRUARY 2010

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo: Celebrating 60 years of Valour, Mateship, Glory

Sydney Football Stadium | Until 07 Feb | MORE INFORMATION

I’ve heard various, sometimes rather deprecatory, descriptions of what constitutes a gentleman.

Fred Trueman, the late, great Yorkshire fast bowler, reckoned a gentleman was someone who got out of the bath to have a piss. Like Arthur Morris, the equally great Australian opening batsman, I’ll let Trueman’s probing outswinger straight through to the keeper.

I’ve also heard a gentleman described as someone who knows how to play the bagpipes but chooses not to. By that definition, the number gentlemen on the Sydney Football Stadium arena at 8.15 last night was far less than 350 Scots and Australians who opened proceedings for the 60th-anniversary version of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, bringing with them scudding rain typical of the Scottish Highlands.

But they were certainly not an ungentlemanly rabble and their visit was certainly not unwelcome. Their music was stirring and beautiful; their marching absolutely precise; and their stoicism admirable in adverse conditions.

Appearing from the gates of a very credible Edinburgh Castle, they provided a memorable first act to an exceptional evening of entertainment that featured more than 1500 performers, mostly human but also with a dash of exceptional equine talent.

And the half hour or so of rain didn’t matter. It certainly didn’t detract from the performance and it seemed almost to draw the audience together — both with each other, and with the performers. Do take a poncho, however. It makes life a lot more comfortable.

When wave after wave of drummers, pipers, marchers, dancers, singers, twirlers and flag wavers almost overwhelms you, it can be difficult to pick highlights, simply because everything is so good.

For me, the standouts included the enthralling precision of the Swiss Top Secret Drum Corps, the Military Band of the People’s Liberation Army of China and the Norwegian King’s Guard and Drill Team, Norway; the funkiness of both the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Band and the New Zealand Army Band; and the near boggling horsemanship of the NSW Mounted Police.

And then, of course, there were those wonderful pipes, both en masse and so alone atop the castle.

This is a show that will only come along every so often. Do yourself a favour and grab a ticket if you can.

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