Monday 3rd September
Mid-morning, 30 band members flew from Edinburgh to Geneva en-route to Fribourg, the capital city in the Fribourg Canton. Here the band would be billeted at the La Poya Army Barracks, 10 minutes walk north of the city centre. Also staying here were about 50 Swiss pipers and drummers from multiple bands who were taking part in both the Massed Bands tattoo and piping and drumming workshops organised by the Pipe Band Association of Switzerland. These were run by piping instructors Gordon Lawrie, Robert Mathieson, Ian McKerral, John Brown, David Bruce, David Caldwell, drumming instructor Steven McWhirter and Drum Major instructor Paula Braiden.
After a short break to freshen up, we broke out the instruments, had a quick tune-up and then were back on the coach for the 20 minute drive west to Avenches. Formerly known as Aventicum, Avenches was the capital of Roman Helvetia. The Emperor Augustus founded the Roman city on the site of the Helvetian capital and in its heyday during the 2nd century had over 20,000 inhabitants. The Tattoo was to be held in the Roman Arena located in the centre of the town, the country’s best preserved Arena and a stunning backdrop able to seat 2000 people.
Dinner was served at a local canteen and then it was a solid two hour rehearsal with all the bands performing. Along with the Swiss piping and drumming contingent, we worked on dress, deportment and formation plus a run through the tunes for the fifteen minute massed band section of the two hour show. Separate to this, we had our own four minute solo slot as part of the continuous programme of bands playing at the event which included the
Royal Netherlands Army Band
Admiralty Navy Band of St Petersburg
Lucerne Marching Band
Band of the Prince of Wales’s Division
Swiss Musique militaire ER 162
Musique de la Garde Republicaine de Paris
Backstage a massive marquee had been set up with a bar and Plasma TV showing the arena so whilst we were naturally focused on getting the show right we were also able to enjoy a few beers as the night wore on. Just before midnight we headed back to Fribourg and our barracks, in time for the partying to begin!
Tuesday 4th September
This was a full-on rehearsal day. After breakfast at the Barracks we had a quick rehearsal as a band for our own part of the show. Then it was onto the coach and over to Avenches for a late morning massed band rehearsal, followed by lunch and then a solid afternoon of rehearsals. The grand finale featured all the orchestral bands playing together for an Appenzeller medley composition by Swiss conductor Christoph Walter and included some input from six of our pipers. After this it was back to Fribourg for a quick break and then into kit for a return to Avenches, dinner and a full dress rehearsal. Wearily at midnight we returned to the Barrack to sleep whilst the more foolhardy partied on.
Wednesday 5th September
Another full day of rehearsals interspersed with workshops. During the afternoon we were able to take some time to explore Fribourg which is a beautiful medieval city located on both sides of the river Sarine. The river cuts a deep gorge through the city creating some dramatic views and the city is populated by a number of monasteries and impressive churches.
That evening we performed the first of four, two-hour shows. Thanks to the rehearsals and with the aid of the backstage screen, we knew exactly when to be ready for our call. In between performances there was time to socialise with a beer and before we knew it, the show was over and it was back to the Barracks for more late night antics.
Thursday 6th September
Our morning duties included a 20 minute performance outside one of the Barrack halls for about 30 Army Veterans. The slightly overcast weather of the past few days was clearing up and this was the first blast of good sunshine we’d had since arriving with a promise of more to come.
In the afternoon we had time to explore Avenches’ Roman quarter including the Amphitheatre, Roman Theatre, the Forum’s Thermal Baths and the Eastern Gate and famous Tornallaz Tower column; the only column remaining intact out of the original 73 columns, inside the ancient Roman town.
A leisurely dinner and then full steam ahead for Tattoo number two, this time to an almost full house and a standing ovation too. Quite an experience when you are in the bowels of a Roman Arena, this gave a real sense of what Gladiators and entertainers would have experienced when the crowd roared their approval!
Friday 7th September
Friday dawned a glorious and sunny day and in the morning we travelled to the lakeside town of Murten. Here, amidst the picturesque streets we played outside the ancient city gates before marching through the town. After another brief performance outside Chesery, a local eatery, we were treated to some excellent Swiss cuisine and sparkling wine.
And with a free afternoon we were able to explore the medieval town and enjoy a boat trip around Lake Murten, again basked in glorious sunshine. A brief coach ride took us on to Avenches where after dinner we performed the penultimate Tattoo number three. Running like clockwork now it was possible for all the bands to be ready for their call time, perform, and enjoy plenty of convivial socialising to boot!
Saturday 8th September
The weather kept getting better and better and today we were off to Lake Murten again, this time to the lakeside holiday came, Camping de la Plage, to play for the visitors and holidaymakers. Marching down through the campsite we drew a large crowd who watched us play for about 30 minutes. A quick change out of band kit and it was time for al-fresco lunch followed by an afternoon of beach fun in the sun. The hardier band members swam out into the lake whilst the majority enjoyed the views and the sunshine.
Then back to Avenches for a pre-dinner parade through the town to mark the finale of the Tattoo. We joined forces with the Swiss for a massed band parade through the streets led by the tutors whilst the other bands followed behind – twice round the old town and then into the main tented village before a quick bite to eat. The final Supper over, it was down to the Arena and on with the show. Saturday drew a full house and it was all over in a flash with the show’s finale bringing to an end the Aventicum Musical Parade Tattoo for 2012.
The Massed band Tattoo was organised as part of the Aventicum Musical Parade by the Pipe Band Association of Switzerland and we would like to thank both Thomas Müller and Peter Mueller for all their hard work and assistance in arranging our trip. We’d also like to express our thanks to the workshop tutors as well for their encouragement, assistance and friendship during the trip. Thanks also to Blair Milne, our former G4 PM now with the Grampian Police pipe band, who joined us for the trip.
Switzerland is a beautiful country to visit – we made a lot of good friends in the Swiss pipe band fraternity whilst on this trip and we sincerely hope to be able to return soon.