Shetland fiddlers head to antipodes for Edinburgh Tattoo tour

Shetland fiddlers in front of replica Edinburgh Castle in Melbourne
Shetland fiddlers in front of replica Edinburgh Castle in Melbourne
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IT’S one thing performing at Edinburgh Castle for the Military Tattoo – but what about playing at the same venue on the other side of the world?

Well, that is what Shetland fiddle band ‘Hjaltibonhoga’ are currently doing.

Shetland fiddle band Hjaltibonhoga in Melbourne

Shetland fiddle band Hjaltibonhoga in Melbourne

They are performing in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo Tour of Australia and New Zealand – wlong with a life-size replica of the famous castle.

Led by Margaret Robertson, the band have just completed their fifth show in Melbourne, marking the half way point of the tour, and are now beginning their next set of rehearsals in Wellington.

The performances began on the Friday, with five shows over the weekend in the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne.

The Stadium sat a crowd of 35,000 and amazingly included a life size replica of the Edinburgh Castle at one end, providing a Tattoo experience on a much larger scale than that of the Edinburgh Tattoo for both audience and performers.

This tour sees an amalgamation of bands and groups from the 2014 and 2015 Edinburgh Tattoo casts so, in turn, this has made the experience feel very much like a reunion.

Hjaltibonhoga have been rehearsing since first arriving in Australia.

The rehearsals were spread over four days and saw the Shetlanders massing with the Melbourne Fiddlers to form a 45 plus strong string section for the shows.

Rehearsals were held at Mooney Valley Racecourse in the city and saw bands and groups spread out over the buildings and grounds rehearsing music, dance steps and drills.

Hjaltibonhoga member Jillian Copland said: “The rehearsals were extensive but very worthwhile and enjoyable. The heat a long side of the day long rehearsals allowed us to prove our staying power with the military bands.”

Fiddler Maggie Adamson spoke about her enthusiasm to be in the group.

She said: ““Who could refuse a stadium gig to 35000 standing in front of the biggest live band in the world.”
And she wasn’t joking, considering Hjaltibonhoga play along with another 900 plus military musicians and pipers.

Another member, Helen Whitham, said: “At first I couldn’t comprehend just how vast the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne was.

“The sight of so many people intently focused on the arena floor was hard to take in, and only really sunk in after I had the first three shows under my belt.

“My favourite moment so far was the last performance on Sunday night, I decided to really enjoy our last show in Melbourne and go out with a bang! Which I think we did”

Jillian Copland continued: “One of my favourite moments is when we are waiting at the draw bridge to enter for Hector the Hero, and we hear Margaret on the Stadium floor playing solo fiddle.

“After all the hard work that Margaret has put into the Tattoo and the overseas Tattoo that this gives her her moment of well deserved limelight, it’s incredibly emotional and makes us all very proud of her.”

Band member Marjolein Robertson spoke about the coming together of the 1300 strong cast, saying: “Even with a cast of 1300 members there’s this great harmony and enthusiasm throughout that you just cannot fault.

“I have never been anywhere, nor can I imagine anywhere, where you can turn around to the stranger next to you and start a conversation and every time be greeted with warmth and interest.”

{ |READ MORE: Royal Edinburgh Tattoo set for overseas tour}
The Hjaltibonhoga Fiddlers have now arrived in Wellington, New Zealand, and are embarking on another week of rehearsals.

The group again are joined by more fiddlers, this time New Zealanders, to increase the numbers, and all are practicing hard together to be ready for the first show on Thursday. 
Hjaltibonhoga are a group of fiddlers of all ages and backgrounds formed by Margaret Robertson to perform at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoos in 2014.

They have continued to perform locally and once again at the Tattoo in 2015 and practice as a group.

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