With just days to go before the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo opens at the Scotiabank Centre, the international cast is arriving, the stage is set, and rehearsals are underway.
Taking a break to talk to us by phone about what is in store this year is Scott Long, the Tattoo’s newly installed managing director and executive producer. Just four months into the job, Long is now fully immersed in helping to ensure the success of his first show.
Not that Long is any stranger to running an organization like the Tattoo, having been at the helm of Music Nova Scotia for ten years, until he departed at the end of February to take on this new role.
“I thought it was a good fit for me culturally,” he says of the move. “I’m also a Highland bagpipe player so I thought this would be something that would be of interest as well.”
Now into its fifth decade, Long credits the Tattoo’s longevity for the way it balances its military roots with civilian acts.
“It’s a unique mix of recognizing and supporting the Canadian Armed Forces and first responders, mixed with the culture and the music of Nova Scotia,” says Long. “It’s definitely become an iconic event, wrapped tightly into the fabric of Nova Scotia culture over all these years.”
The eclectic mix of acts has also become an imperative for the Tattoo to ensure its continued longevity.
“We want to have a variety show, we want to have a show that appeals to a broad range of people and demographics,” says Long. “We want to have a show that’s family friendly, and a show that we can encourage youth to be a part of and help build our audience for the future.”
Part of building that future audience includes a number of community-based acts who have become an integral part of the Tattoo over the years.
“The community acts may not exactly be professional in that they don’t do what they are doing for a living every day, but they all have a certain level of excellence to be in the show,” says Long.
One such local connection is Zeph Caissie who founded Halifax’s Diaga Irish Dance in 2010. A former Riverdance cast member, he and his dancers are no strangers to the Tattoo.
“This is my 5th Tattoo as a choreographer and I am delighted to be back,” says Caissie. “The Tattoo is a huge opportunity for local Irish dancers. To perform in front of a home-town crowd alongside acts from around the world is both an honour and a life-long memory.”
This year Caissie is particularly excited about unveiling the Nova Scotia Irish Dancers Junior Troupe with fourteen top young dancers from the Maritimes performing with the Nova Scotia Youth Ambassadors fiddle players. His Diaga Irish Dancers will also perform in the Pipes and Drums scene, while Irish and Highland dancers will duel and showcase their styles, “ultimately coming together to demonstrate the power of Celtic dance.”
In addition to the local community groups, the Tattoo actively searches out non-military professional acts from across Canada and around the world to continue drawing audiences in each year.
From close to home comes Dartmouth-based opera singer Jon-Paul Décosse who makes his Tattoo debut this year. A little further afield, this year the Tattoo welcomes acts from as far away as Australia and Estonia.
“It’s a very large show in a very large building so we have opportunities to do lots of things over-and-above marching bands or the military pomp and pageantry,” says Long. “We want to have a good healthy mix to entertain our guests.”
Of course Long doesn’t discount the military components of the Tattoo, which are the tradition in this longstanding show. This year, along with a strong Canadian contingent among the military performers, international performers include the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Band, the elite drill unit Wachbataillon from Germany, and others.
“There is always a couple of Canadian Armed Forces bands, pipes and drums, and brass bands,” he says. “There is also a foreign military component which is also a big part of what the show is about creatively, in celebrating the armed forces and their role as peacekeepers, providing safety and stability around the world.”
It is, in fact, the military’s role as peacekeepers that is the focus of this year’s Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo with the theme, “Power of Peace”. Celebrating peace in its many forms, it is also a celebration of how the friendship between participating countries has strengthened over the last forty-plus years.
In addition to daily shows, the Sobey’s Tattoo Canada Day Parade returns on July 1. The Canada Day festivities begins at 10:00am outside the Scotiabank Centre before winding its way through downtown Halifax and along Spring Garden Road.
The 2019 Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo plays the Scotiabank Centre (1800 Argyle St, Halifax) from June 29 through July 6. Visit nstattoo.ca for more information. Organizers remind ticket buyers that Ticket Atlantic is the only authorized reseller of tickets to this year’s Tattoo