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Fiddlers gear up for Tattoo

Fiddler Marjolein Robertson, one of around 70 heading for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, sporting the special outfit designed for the occasion whose theme is "east meets west". Photo Shetnews

A GROUP of more than 120 Shetland fiddlers will perform at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo this summer for the second year running.

Hjaltibonhoga, who were initially formed in 2014 to perform at the renowned event, will  follow their successful debut at the Tattoo by performing in front of Edinburgh Castle a total of 25 times in August.

Last year the group played to audiences of 9,000 people each night as they put Shetland on the map at an event dubbed as a “global gathering”.

At Lerwick’s Town Hall on Wednesday night the collective, formed with the help of fiddler Margaret Scollay, unveiled their 2015 outfits as well as the music they will play at the Tattoo, which enjoys a television audience of around 100 million.

The performances will see a rotating cast of around 70 fiddlers whittled down to 40 on the night, with ages ranging from 13 to the 60s, with all abilities included.

The outfits, designed by Nielanell and produced by Laurence Odie Knitwear, were inspired by the theme of this year’s Tattoo – ‘east meets west’ – and its global reach.

Margaret Scollay, the inspiration behind Hjaltibonhoga. Photo Shetnews

“It’s a single piece of material, which I suppose is indicative of Norwegian and Scandinavian capes, Scottish kilts, the North American poncho,” Scollay said.

“And then of course you have the Indian sari too.”

The music has moved on from last year’s “very safe” option of well-known Shetland tunes, with every piece written for the occasion.

“Musically, you can hear the inspiration of North America, Scandinavia and then back to Scotland.”

Barring sponsorship from Promote Shetland and NorthLink Ferries, the trip is entirely self-funded, with a number of events being held to raise cash.

“The total of what we’ve managed to raise ourselves is sitting at just under £25,000,” Scollay said.

“We’re very much indebted to the community of Shetland for supporting us with their time by coming to our fundraising events and their financial support when they are there.”

Musician Marjolein Robertson is heading to the Tattoo with the group for the second year running.

“I went last year for two weeks, but I’m going for all four weeks this time,” the 26 year old said.

“When I was peerie, Dad and I would sit and watch the Tattoo, and I always thought it was such a fancy, extravagant show.

“I thought maybe one day I’ll get to see it – but to get the chance to actually be in it, it feels like once in a lifetime. So I’m blessed to get to go twice.

“And it gave me a lot of confidence. There’s so many good fiddlers in Shetland, but playing in front of large crowds at the Tattoo – it makes you think ‘I can play in front of folk and I can represent Shetland’.”

Hjaltibonhoga – whose name translates as ‘Shetland our spiritual home’ – will set sail on Saturday to meet around 1,200 other Tattoo performers from all over the world, before performing for the first time five days later.

They have been busy practicing three times a week for their slot, which was secured last year partly due to the Tattoo production team’s connections with Shetland Folk Festival committee member Mhari Pottinger.