An American abroad

 

I’m sure that my fellow tattoo first-timers will agree with me when I say that being an American at an international tattoo is life changing. I have never identified as patriotic, or even proud of my country. It is not that I am ashamed of my heritage, I have just never had strong feelings one way or the other. While my identity has always been strongly influenced by my country and its history, I haven’t been excited to share that part of myself with people.Beth and Melena

Ever since we arrived for our first rehearsal here my attitude toward patriotism and national pride has changed. As a member of one of only two American groups performing in the tattoo I have been identified as my country. Acting as a representative of the United States, even in such an unofficial capacity, has reminded me how important kindness and friendship are. I am not a member of MCV to the members of the Kings Guard of Norway or Club Piruett of Estonia. I am one of The Americans. I belong with the red, white, and blue uniform and flag. When they see me backstage it is clear that they do not see me… they see the whole country. That is an incredible responsibility, and we all take it very seriously.

Every tattoo participant clearly feels the same way. We are ambassadors, proud of our roots and eager to reach out across borders to form bonds. Every member of the over twenty performing groups can be seen backstage when they are not rehearsing, talking with members from other countries. We laugh, shout, and wave our arms around to help communicate through the language barriers. We compare uniforms, ask questions about logos (fun fact: the Home Guard Band of Eslöv has three crowns on their shirts because it is a simplified version of the Swedish coat of arms), and talk about flag etiquette in different countries. We are making friends and having fun.

We are all representatives, and proud of it.

 

Seven Days in Malmö

20110522-Malmo-0310

MCV's first tour of Scandinavia was truly a whirlwind. We arrived on Tuesday, May 17th (after flying overnight from Boston) and started rehearsals early on May 18th. After morning rehearsal we had an excellent afternoon tour of Copenhagen and then an evening in Tivoli Gardens.  Rehearsals resumed first thing on Thursday and went all day until our first chance to march the actual Malmö Arena. Friday featured a Tattoo cast parade through downtown, afternoon rehearsals and then the first Tattoo Finale rehearsal.  Saturday was an all day affair (two rehearsal run-throughs of the entire 3.5 hour show) and then opening night! MCV played to a sold out house of 8,000 and we had a blast.  Sunday featured our second and last show and then it was to the airport on Monday to begin our long journey home.

MCV-HMKG-drum We made many new friends with the international cast members that hailed from throughout Europe and the UK. I wanted to give a special shout-out to our new friends in His Majesty the King’s Guard of Norway. Members of MCV and HMKG formed a great bond during our tour and we hope to see our Norwegian friends again in the not too distant future.

-George March, Fifer/MCV Webmaster

Opening Night Has Arrived!

Wednesday, 3 February was the one and only full dress rehearsal for the Tattoo at the Stadium along with Media Night. It was an odd sensation to march out under full lighting into a giant stadium and be surrounded by photographers yet have no audience. MCV marched through monsoon rains the previous night (watch video of this performance on youtube) and received a standing ovation from the other cast members for our perserverance.  We only endured a bit of drizzle in last night's Finale. Today's weather looks fine so far; we'll have a full report tomorrow on our Opening Night in Sydney!

 

 

This place is huge!

Castle MCV finally made it to our performance venue today for a couple run throughs of the show. At one end of the Sydney Football (that's soccer to our U.S. friends!) Stadium a full size replica of the exterior of Edinburgh Castle has been created out of plywood, fabric and other materials.  The replica is so realistic that it even has bird droppings on the short walls and moss on some of the wood!

It is always interesting to finally play in the venue where you'll perform, especially after rehearsing for months in totally different conditions.  The sheer size of the venue, plus the different acoustics, different surface (grass vs. concrete), etc. all contribute to disconcerting one during the first time WiredforSound running the show there!  It's so easy to become distracted with the new sights and sounds (not to mention that some of the fifers are miked for sound amplification!).  That's why we DO the rehearsals in the stadium before the performances start!!  We all have to get used to the feel of the place – not to mention the rehearsing needed to put all the bits of the show together into one seamless production.

SueB2 We'll have another long day of rehearsals at St. Andrews, at the official practice field at St. Paul's College Oval and also at the stadium again.  Might be a good day for a caffeine injection!

We’ve made it Down Under!

After countless hours of travel from various points around the globe, MCV has finally arrived in Sydney! Most of the corps left the morning of January 27 from their nearest airport and flew to San Francisco where we met up for our flight to Auckland, New Zealand and connecting from there to Sydney where we arrived sometime during the morning of January 29 (although it was still Thursday the 28th in Boston!) The flights themselves were pretty uneventful (except that fun turbulence between Auckland and Sydney!) StAndrews and our pick up from the airport by our Tattoo liaisons also went smoothly, as did our registration at St. Andrews College at the University of Sydney where we're staying.  What's wrong with this picture??  This was too easy!!  OK, just so that we can truly be MCV and have some glitch in the proceedings, Australian Customs was still holding all our equipment hostage because the shipping carnet (the document that describes in minute detail everything that was in the cargo shipment) was missing.  So, no drums, no uniforms, nada! (More on this in a moment…)

Now that we have pretty much out entire crew together (we're still missing one fifer – don't worry, we didn't lose her!!  She couldn't leave until a few days after us!) we put the "pedal to the metal" in terms of rehearsing to work out any issues or kinks that might have sprung up from the local contingent making changes to music or marching that our remote members might have missed.  Our first rehearsal took place the afternoon of our arrival (after we all had a chance to shower and get completely horizontal for a little bit – let's face it, you just can't get horizontal in airports and airplanes!).  Progress was made, but it was a little difficult without any drums or any way to mark a centerline on the circular field!

Today ran a bit more smoothly as (after much telephone traffic to both sides of the Pacific on Friday afternoon) the carnet was found and Customs released our cargo!  Hooray!!  All the equipment was delivered to the college this morning at 8am in time for our full day of rehearsing!  We were able to mark a straight centerline on the field, the drums could practice on real instruments and our support team could sort through the uniforms while we rehearsed so that they could hand them out to us once we were finished.

Tomorrow will be our first time playing in front of the Tattoo organizers, as well a s fellow cast members.  More on that later!

One Rehearsal to Go!

Sunday, the 24th will be MCV's final music rehearsal before boarding the plane on the 27th and flying and flying and flying to Sydney. This rehearsal won't be quite the same as last weekend's drill since we don't expect many of our out-of-town friends to be joining us for this one – we'll miss them!!  It is truly amazing how much depth is added to our sound when the whole group is together – wow!  The other amazing thing is how quickly everyone grooves in to each other to make the music and the marching work, even when it's been months since practicing with the group. I know I'm excited at the thought of rehearsing and performing with this group of 42 musicians (30 fifers, 8 snare drummers, 4 bass drummers) as well as with the color guard, guidon and very excellent drum major! We're almost there!!

Just 8 Days before Departure for Down Under

We had our last Drill rehearsal this past Sunday at the Concord, MA Armory with a great turnout and now have just 8 days to go before MCV departs the USA for Sydney, Australia. The group will arrive in Sydney on Friday, 29th January with MCV rehearsals beginning shortly thereafter. The Tattoo starts officially on 3 February with a Preview Show and then the main performances run 4-7 February at Sydney Football Stadium. Stay tuned to this Blog for regular on-site updates.

We’re no awa’ tae bide awa’

emt017When people ask me, “How was your summer?”  I say without the slightest bit of hesitation – “awesome.”   And they want to know if I had a nice vacation and… well… “nice vacation” is not exactly how I would describe it.  It’s more like crazy, intense, harder-than-my-everyday-life, kind of experience, but worth every ounce of energy I put into it to make it happen!  There are very few instances in my life where I get to feel like I really own a piece of music.  And with the Edinburgh Tattoo, I really got the sense that I owned every note in that show and I owned everything that went with it including the drill, the routine, my uniform, The Castle, the audience, the little blue line down the center of the Esplanade, and the magic that is EMT.

tattoo_and_edinburgh_2007_008I learned that, hey, we’re pretty good up here on this international stage.  We can definitely represent the United States and the community of fife and drum with great elegance and pride.  It’s a pretty incredible feeling for an amateur, I’ll tell you!  I’m very thankful that I had the opportunity to show that we care about carrying the torch for this little folk music hobby called fife and drum and got to demonstrate our self determination for excellence.  I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished.

img_0849I thought that the people of Scotland were fantastic hosts for us.  I kind of got the impression they’d never seen anything like us with our warm sounding fifes, intricate harmonies, and powerful drum sound.  Plus the bass drumming is just so incredibly different!  They responded with such enthusiasm and kindness, it was a joy to be the first representative of a fife and drum corps on the Esplanade.

scottbrianandmeThough I am extremely sad that the show is over, I look forward to the next time we can take center stage and represent the average American trying to keep alive a spirit and tradition central to the history of our country.  As the song we came to know and love goes,

For we’re no’ awa’ tae bide awa’,
For we’re no’ awa tae le’e ye,
For we’re no’ awa’ tae bide awa’,
We’ll aye come back an’ see ye.

astleview20070823223524poppies  -Andrea Wirth

Snare Drummer, MCV