The timings of the entrances and exits of the various participating acts in this year’s Cape Town Military Tattoo were particularly slick, I thought. One act was hardly out of the arena, when the next one was already marching on – there was no time to catch one’s breath or to take one’s eyes away from the action. It’s quite a feat to make sure that this happens smoothly at every single show, and clearly testimony to the professionalism of the production team that it went so well. And it is especially impressive considering that we only had one full run-through on Monday night, before having the Dress Rehearsal on Tuesday night. Opening night, after all, was already on Wednesday!
In past years, bands have usually marched onto the arena through the archway next to the ornate Kat Balcony – smoke machines on either side creating a magical and dramatic effect. The sound of the drums and the pipes, as well as the solid tread of boots marching on the wooden cobbles, was amplified within this fairly narrow space, and by the time the bands exited through the archway, the sound had built up to a crescendo. Exits in past years have usually been towards the sides of the seating stands – which were also aligned very differently at the time.
This year, as I wrote about in a previous post, a mysterious tall block of scaffolding appeared at the end of the rectangular arena, closest to Table Mountain. It turns out that this mysterious structure, which was later covered in camo netting, represents the ramparts of a Castle, with a level kind of gantry in the centre being flanked by a taller tower on each side. This middle section was used for the trumpeters in the Opening Fanfare and for the Lone Piper at the end of each night’s performance. The archway down below was the primary entrance point, with the performers exiting either through the Kat archway, or at the side of the VIP seating stand.
As the Castle Ceremonial Guard departed, after delivering the keys to the Van der Stel Gate to the Castle Commander as part of the Closing the Castle Ceremony, a big bang from the deceptively small cannon next to the Kat balcony made everyone jump out of their seats!
The smoke hung low in the air, while the massed military bands made a dramatic entrance through the archway. Led by Tattoo Drum Major WO1 André van Schalkwyk, the massed military bands were made up of the SA Army Band Western Cape (in scarlet), the SA Air Force Band (in blue), the SA Navy Band (in white) and the SA Military Health Service Band (in mastic brown), as well as our visitors from foreign shores – the Pakistan Army Band in their striking white, green and gold uniforms.
The five bands lined up, the wranglers raced to roll the conductor’s podium into position, and Captain Vernon Michels – the Director of Music for the Cape Town Military Tattoo since 2012 – took his place, baton at the ready. A row of trumpeters appeared magically on the Castle ramparts above, silhouetted against the early evening sky, with the spotlights playing across them.
During the Opening Fanfare, the flag bearers and the silent guard brought in the national flags of the countries who are represented this year – South Africa, Pakistan and the Republic of Ireland.
As it is a military tattoo, the SANDF flag as well as the flags of the four armed services were also on parade. Each of these flags has the South African national flag in the upper hoist canton, and the emblems of the respective services are contained within the outline of a nine-pointed star: SANDF – four spearheads and two crossed swords above two tusks on a green background; SA Army – the head of a lion surrounded by the heads of three lionesses on a red background; SA Air Force – an eagle with outstretched wings on a blue background; SA Military Health Service – a serpent coiled around an upright staff on a ruby red background. The SA Navy Ensign consists of a dark green cross on a white background, without any emblem.
Photo gallery of the Matinee:
If you click on any of the images below, you can access the click-by-click slideshow: