Canadian International Military Tattoo

Beyond the Music… What makes the Canadian International Military Tattoo Unique


The coliseum is dark and the crowd murmurs quietly to themselves in anticipation. A single spot light appears on a young man in full combat gear emerging through the curtain. Ten paces behind him, another solider appears until a dozen young men are circling around the arena floor, rifles ready and on the look out for danger. As they finally come to rest kneeling in a large circle facing the crowd, with their commanding officer in the middle meeting with the village leaders, the compelling voice of the announcer welcomes home the members of the Third Battalion of the famed Vandoos, who had just returned from their tour in Afghanistan. After a moment of absolute silence where you could have heard a pin drop, the audience breaks into tremendous applause and rises as one to give a standing ovation as they realize that this is not a performance, it is an echo of the life these soldiers had been living a few weeks earlier as they risked their lives while on patrol every day during their tour of duty.  


Yes, the Canadian International Military Tattoo has music.  


Our goal is to "Connect Canadian to our Military Through Music". We have bagpipes, drum, bands, singers, dancers which total over 400+ performers, who entertain the crowd with their unique sounds and passion for performing. What makes our Tattoo unique is that we go beyond the music to give the audience a glimpse of the life of a soldier and the opportunity to the thank them. Over the years we have had training exercise, equipment demonstrations and vignettes such as the one described above, which gives the audience an emotional view of the dramatic difference Canadian soldiers have made in the lives of Afghanistan citizens. It reminds viewers of the high cost of citizenship and what it means to belong to this community. Some of the most emotional moments at the Tattoo are when we acknowledge all cadets and veterans (serving and retired) from the Canadian Armed Forces and armed forces from around the world, who are in the audience at each performance, by asking them to stand and be recognized through the applause of the crowd. It is also very emotional when the veterans from whichever conflict is being acknowledged at the performance join the performers on the floor for the final salute. Although their age or failing health required some veterans to require assistance, in the recent years soldiers from the Korean War and a former prisoner of war from the Battle of Hong Kong have proudly stood in uniform on the arena floor to the standing ovation of the crowd.   

On another level, our unique education program on the Friday afternoon before the Tattoo give over 1000+ local school children the chance to be introduced to the distinctive sound of the bagpipes, drum and bugles of the military bands as they sit through a mini performance. They are awed by the precision marching and their smiles are wide as they join the performers on the arena floor at the end of the show to talk with them about their instrument, the music and sometimes try on their funny hats! We have quite a diversified cultural mix in our inner city schools and it is quite entertaining watching a child be introduced to the bagpipes for the first time. During the performance, our announcer gives the children a brief and entertaining history of the performers, their uniforms and the type of instruments their playing.  


Other events that have surrounded the performances of previous Tattoos include: the Portraits of Honour Mural, the Freedom of the City Parade, the Alehouse Amble, Speaking of Canada Luncheon Series, the Police Yellow Ribbon BBQ, the Stoney Creek Battlefield Parade and many more.   The Canadian Military Tattoo illustrates the permanent role of music in military history. From the Boer War and American Revolution to the Afghanistan conflict, music has played a role and the Tattoo celebrates this history.


The Tattoo engages you to remember this history and to feel a soldier’s excitement as his band plays the anthem as he enters into battle. To remember the feelings as “The Last Post” is played commemorating the dead. The Tattoo helps us remember what it’s like to feel nervous, happy, scared and proud to be a Canadian all at once.  


Yes, the Canadian International Military Tattoo has music…..but it has so much more!