Thousands of spectators gathered at Mala’e Pangai, a field in downtown Nuku’ Alofa, for the opening ceremony of the Kingdom of Tonga Military Parade and Tattoo in honor of the birthday of His Majesty, King George Tupou V, Aug. 1.
The three-day military musical spectacular, held Aug. 1 – 3, drew in a multinational audience observing performances by the Tongan military, Australian Army Band Kapooka and U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, Band from Hawaii showcasing their wide array of talent and skills through musical stylings and military exhibitions, remarked Tongan Army Lt. Col. Lord Ve’ehala, the senior director of music for the Royal Corps of Musicians.
“Military units displayed their musical skills with humor, fun and entertainment,” Ve’ehala added, referring to the Tattoo performance. “They also demonstrated their skills in their corresponding jobs.”
Traditionally, a Tattoo is comprised of military units – musical and operational – from different countries collaborating in an extensive exhibition of musical performances and demonstrating military capabilities, explained Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael J. Smith, the band officer for the MARFORPAC Band.
Each time the lights were dimmed and the curtain pulled back, the audience awaited each new act to emerge onto the field as it became lit. And each time, they were treated to an amazing show of patriotism, said Ve’ehala.
With the clacking sounds of rifles, the Tattoo opened with the Tongan Royal Guard simultaneously flipping, spinning and maneuvering their rifles while fluidly marching in formation around the field.
Next up was the Australian Kapooka, who brought with them from “down under” a lighthearted display of musical theatrics playing popular Aussie tunes, such as “Waltzing Matilda,” “On the Road to Gundagai,” “Click Go the Shears” and many more.
Another highlight to the evening was the performance by the MARFORPAC Band playing traditional melodies with a more somber – yet stoic – tone. Their precision drill movements, coupled with their musical expressions of patriotism, gave the event a touch of American flavor.
However, what really stole the show were the performances by the Tongan Royal Corps of Musicians and the various military demonstrations by the Tongan forces. The musicians displayed a mixture of military marching and contemporary music while adding a bit of humor. The Tongan military simulated a battle drill, conducted a boarding party, maneuvered across the confidence course, responded to fires, constructed buildings and executed close-combat tactics.
“[The Tattoo was] well prepared, educational and entertaining; each unit mixed in some humor and invited the audience in to what they were doing,” said Smith, who also expressed his confidences in the Tongan forces’ abilities after having seen firsthand their motivation and professionalism throughout the Tattoo.
Not only was the parade and Tattoo a success, but according to Ve’ehala, “It was a great opportunity for Tonga to announce its diplomatic relationships [with Australia and the U.S.],” which further illustrated the cooperation between the three nations.