“You’ve always wanted to see this Tattoo, you just didn’t know it,” said Scott Jackson, General Manager of the Virginia Arts Festival and Producer/Director of the Virginia International Tattoo, who is positive you will see nothing else like it in the United States.
The 20th anniversary edition of the Virginia International Tattoo is the only true Tattoo in United States.
Performances for the 2016 Virginia International Tattoo are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. on April 21, 22, and 23 and at 2:30 p.m. on April 24 at the Scope Arena in Norfolk. Discounts are available for students and groups of 15 or more. Tickets can be purchased by phone or online.
I went to the Tattoo for the first time last year. I was overwhelmed by the amount of patriotism I didn’t know I had. I was amazed by the spectacle of the military bands from as far away as Korea and as near as our own backyard. Most of all, I was impressed by the precise and beautiful production. Over 1,400 performers came and went seamlessly, often dramatically, onto the floor of the Scope. For the Grand Finale, bands and singers from around the world came together and performed Amazing Grace. It sent a chill down my spine. Who was able to take 23 performing groups from 8 different countries, put them together for less than one week of rehearsals, and produce a huge, dramatic, and inspiring performance?
Scott Jackson does it. He has a team of expert light, sound and stage people with over 100 volunteers, but he is the captain of the ship. Scott is also a percussionist with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. It makes sense. The rhythm section of the orchestra provides the heartbeat, the “pulse of the piece.”
He sees his job as the person who provides that pulse for the Tattoo. “I love the organizational part,” he said. “I love the preparation. I also love to find ways to connect with people, to move people. I need to be the person who ties all the pieces together into an intense experience.”
Scott’s uses his left and right brain almost equally. He is an artist who has every second of the Tattoo on a spreadsheet. There are 21 scenes in the Tattoo, no intermission, because Scott believes “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” The timing, tempo and drama of this show would be interrupted by any kind of break.
The Tattoo will start precisely on time. There is a countdown, accompanied by an animation on the giant screen, conceived by Scott, and created for the 20th anniversary of the Virginia Arts Festival International Tattoo. There is also an original piece composed by SGM Paul Murtha, Chief Arranger of the U.S. Army Band, for the fanfare that will be performed for the first time at the 2016 Tattoo. No spoiler here. The opening will be “stunning.” I watched the animation on a small computer screen and it sent shivers down my spine.
Scott sees himself as the conductor of the Tattoo. He has the vision. He has traveled to Tattoos around the world, trying to figure out what works and what does not. He is constantly figuring out how to make our Tattoo “powerfully American and powerfully international at the same time.” He builds the architecture with the performers, lighting, sound, music, digital content, narration, props, and a hundred other elements, including a rider less horse.
“There is a great give and take when you have a team you trust and we’ve been building this team for fourteen years,” he said.
Jackson is always asking himself, “what can we do this year to make the Tattoo unique, what can we do to surprise the audience, what can we do to make this show more powerful?”
This year, I am taking my 9 year-old granddaughter and my 93-year-old mother. The 2016 Virginia International Tattoo is a show for all ages. If you’ve been before, some of the favorite bands will be there, but there will be some bands you have never seen before. The German Army Band is new to the Virginia International Tattoo this year. They are a traditional military band with three tuba players, something Scott says you will never see anywhere else.
The highlight of this 20th anniversary edition of the Tattoo will be the performance of Highland Cathedral by over 200 bagpipes from some of the most elite pipe bands in the world. This is a unique event. The pipers will perform at each performance of the Tattoo, but will also be competing in the Virginia International Tattoo American Pipe Band Championship on Scope Plaza on Saturday, April 23 from noon to 5:00 p.m.
The competition will be free and open to the public.
The Tattoo Hullabaloo will have many of the performers out on Scope Plaza before each Tattoo performance, with pipes, drumlines, dancers and drill teams. The Tattoo Hullabaloo if also free and open to the public.
If you’ve never been to the Virginia International Tattoo, have gone each year, went once ten years ago, if you are 9 or 93, this is the year to go to the Tattoo. It will be an “intense experience,” joyful, patriotic and maybe the best show you have ever seen.
For anything else you need to know about the 20th Virginia Arts Festival 2016 Virginia International Tattoo, click here.