In July 2022, nineteen RCMP Pipers and Drummers assembled in Basel, Switzerland for the 2022 Basel Tattoo. Most were Ottawa members, but we were augmented with friends from RCMP Pipe Bands in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. The Tattoo had been cancelled for the previous two years, as had most big events due to Covid, so the chance to be there for the 15th anniversary of the Basel Tattoo was very exciting.
This year, we were the only Canadian band in the Tattoo. Pipe bands joining us on parade were from South Africa (2), Australia (1), Malta (1), the U.K. military (4) and from Switzerland itself (1). Military bands (brass and reed) were from Switzerland, Bulgaria, Norway and the U.K. Adding excitement to the show were the USAF Honor Guard drill team, the Kumudini Homes School Pipe Band from India, the Flings and Things Highland Dancers from Scotland, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and the Top Secret Drum Corps, the local boys. Not to mention the Cows and singers from Les Armaillis de la Fete de Vignerons.
Band members arrived on 11 July and settled into the hotel. The next morning, we started four days of intensive rehearsals to fine tune the formations and the choreography. The music came together quickly as all of the bands had done their homework and were ready to play. The choreography took a bit longer as there were many adjustments to the plan until the Director was satisfied. Then, it was on to the first of 11 shows on 15 July.
Saturday, 16 July was a very busy day. It featured a 2 km street parade, with the Tattoo acts joined by over 20 guest formations. This was a popular event, with an estimated 100,000 spectators lining the route. There is a great video of the entire parade on YouTube if you’d like to watch. Just search for “2022 Basel Tattoo Parade”, or click here. After the parade, we changed to dress uniforms and presented an afternoon and an evening show, both to a full house of over 8000. I think the spectators were overjoyed to have live events again as the ovations were long and enthusiastic!
The last day of the Tattoo was Saturday, 23 July and a special event took place – Children’s day. Many of the participating acts took place, giving the visiting kids a chance to try out instruments, ask questions and admire the uniforms. The RCMP tent was a popular stop. Five members were on the show floor handing out candies and RCMP and Canada flag pins. They also allowed the kids to try their hand at both snare and tenor drums, under drummer supervision of course. Many kids took the opportunity to get their photos taken holding the Drum Major’s mace and wearing some of the uniform accoutrements. Then, of course, all members were back into full uniform and marching on for the 5:30 and 9:30 PM shows to wrap up the tattoo experience.
Photos from Childrens’ Day
Basel was a very warm place to be in July, with the temperatures in the high 30s, reaching 37 degrees on one day. We were happy the majority of the shows only started at 9 PM when it was a tad cooler. Of course, it was not all hot, sunny days. Thunderstorms moved in Thursday night and pelted the city with monsoon like rain. Fortunately for us, the rain ended before the Massed Pipe Bands marched back on, but the band of the Welsh Guards got a drenching.
Band of the Welsh Guards – they don’t let the rain deter them
I should mention that the Tattoo was very well organized and took good care of the participants. Each band had a liaison officer assigned who made sure our needs were met and that we made it to our commitments on time. They brought in many pallets of water to help keep us well hydrated on those warm days. The food and accommodation was great and the passes for the city transit system were well used. It was nice to feel wanted.
Tattoos are hard work, but there is time for fun and comradeship as well. One of the highlights for many was a float down the Rhine; especially appropriate given the heat. Not everyone tried it, but many wished they had. Recreational trips organized by the Tattoo were popular, with visits to Bern and Lake Neuchatel, a day in the Alps at Stoos and Fronalpstock, a visit to the St Beatus Caves and a chocolate tasting among the offerings. On the 25th, those of us still in Basel took the opportunity to ride the local tram to the area where France, Germany and Switzerland meet. Not often you get a chance to have breakfast in Switzerland, a beverage in France, lunch in Germany and back to supper in Basel, all in the same day!
The two weeks of the Tattoo commitment signalled a return to a more normal year for the RCMP Pipes and Drums and was an experience we won’t soon forget.