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The Buxton Military Tattoo
Published on Wednesday, 11 July 2012

5 starsUniversity of Derby - Buxton Dome, Events
7 Jul, 2:00pm-4:00pm, 6:30pm-9:00pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

This has been a year which, once again, has put the role and sacrifices of our nation's armed forces at the forefront of our minds. But amidst the sombre news reports and the political debate, there's still room to celebrate the pageantry and proud history shared by all those who serve. And so, the third annual Buxton Military Tattoo proved both stirring and poignant - filled with music, showmanship, military precision and superlative skill.

A Tattoo is, first and foremost, a musical spectacular, and the packed programme embraced a refreshingly large range of genres and styles. The Band of the Mercian Regiment served up a few musical surprises, including movie themes and a pleasingly incongruous close-formation version of the Humming Chorus - yes, they really did hum. Civilian guests the Rolls Royce Male Voice Choir shared a medley of African tunes, while their lady colleagues offered a new take on Bohemian Rhapsody. And of course, there were plenty of old-school marches for traditionalists to enjoy: the Yorkshire Volunteers Band and Band of the King's Division supplied treats for both ears and eyes, while few in the room could suppress a conspiratorial grin when the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment struck up Colonel Bogey.

Read the programme carefully, though, and you may tune in to a more muted beat. None who know their WW2 history can listen cold-hearted to pieces called Arromanches or Arnhem, still less the defiantly upbeat For Our Tomorrows - whose true meaning is revealed only if you know the full quote, "for our tomorrows they gave their today". Most affecting of all, in this anniversary year, was the haunting Crags of Tumbledown, reputedly penned on a ration pack in the aftermath of the Falklands' decisive engagement thirty years ago.

But this was a celebration of the future, too. The cadets of the 126 (City of Derby) Squadron Rifle Drill Display Team offered an appropriately modern take on time-honoured skills, with an exciting and closely-choreographed routine delivered to a thumping beat. The Corps of Drums from 2517 (Buxton) Squadron Air Cadets displayed a focus and precision which confirms our future skies are in safe hands. And the little details of military planning are fascinating to watch: I particularly enjoyed the small changeover ritual which occurred each time the baton passed, almost literally, between different conductors' hands.

The whole event was capably overseen by the legendary Colonel Alasdair Hutton - for twenty years the voice of the famous Edinburgh Tattoo, and a man who's equally at home describing the history of a regiment as he is explaining how Mariah Carey came to write Hero. His wasn't the only Scottish accent to be heard: no Tattoo would be complete without the skirl of bagpipes, provided here by the Manchester branch of the Scots Guards Association.

It must be said that the sound levels aren't for the faint-hearted - at times I wondered if the Buxton Dome's historic roof might simply fly off - and the unusual acoustic presents occasional challenges for musicians and audience alike. But the whole space was filled for the dramatic finale, Hector the Hero, which saw the massed bands and choirs accompany a haunting fiddle solo by Musician Katie Walters. It's a lament to a man who enlisted at 17, and ended his career as a major general; and there could be no better end to this celebration and commemoration, drawn from yesterday, today and tomorrow.

The Buxton Military Tattoo is performed in aid of ABF, The Soldiers' Charity.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.