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The articles below appeared in The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo 'Fanfare for the Future' programmes

The Shetland Fiddlers - Hjaltibonhoga

The Islands' culture was originally Nordic and the fiddle the main provider of dance music.

Shetland, the United Kingdom's most northerly community, is renowned worlwide for the excellence of its fiddle-based traditional music.

The Islands' culture was originally nordic and the fiddle the main provider of dance music.  The Island's remoteness from mainstream influences historically created a near-unique playing style and repertoire.


Through determination and effort, Dr Tom Anderson MBE inspired a revival of Shetland's musical heritage thanks to the collection and preservation of tunes, leading to the establishment of fiddle tuition in Shetland schools from 1972. Dr Anderson - fiddler, composer, collector, teacher and traditionalist - died in 1991 but his inspiration lives on, as musicians like Aly Bain and Fiddlers' Bid continue to take Shetland's music around the world.

Hjaltibonhoga, which means 'Shetland, my spiritual home', is representative of both their community and county.  The 20 fiddlers who have travelled from Shetland are augmented here by 30 guest fiddlers.  Over time, many Shetlanders have chosen to immigrate to the distant lands of the Antipodes.  This is an opportunity to rekindle these links, friendship and kin through Shetland's international language - her traditional music.

The collective group embodies the tradition of Shetland fiddling by performing a selection of tunes, both old and new, with a modern approach as Hjaltibonhoga presents 'Fanfare for the Future'.

Melbourne Scottish Fiddlers

The not-for-profit commnity music group collaborates regularly with some of the world's best traditional musicians...

20 years old and stronger than ever, the Melbourne Scottish Fiddlers explore the lively sounds of Scottish music with repertoire that both acknowledges and reinvents tratitional roots, drawing enthusiastic and loyal crowds.

The not-for-profit community music group collaborates regularly with some of the world's best traditional musicians such as American-based Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas; Chris Stout, Ross Couper and Catriona McKay from Shetland; and local heroes such as Chris Duncan, Catherine Strutt and Catherine Fraser.

The Melbourne Scottish Fiddlers have undertaken a number of successful tours to New Zealand (2005), Tasmania (2008), regional NSW (2010), Western Victoria (2012) and, most recently, to Scotland (2015).  They have released five CDs, several of which have won awards, and their sixth album is due in early 2016.

Known for their lively, captivating performances, featuring a heart-warming mix of the traditional and contemporary, their choice of songs and tunes will bring a smile to the lips and perhaps a tear to the eye of anyone who can trace a link back to Scotland, Shetland or even Nova Scotia.

Building on friendships and connections made during their 20th Anniversary celevration tour to Scotland and Shetland, the Melbourne Scottish Fiddlers are joining Shetland's Hjaltibonhoga fiddlers.

New Zealand's Fiddlers of Hjaltibonhoga

Many Kiwis have Scottish heritage and some aspects of Scottish culture such as fiddling continue to be celebrated...

Formed especially for this Wellington production of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, this ensemble features some of New Zealand's finest fiddlers.

Many Kiwis have Scottish heritage and some aspects of Scottish culture such as fiddling continue to be celebrated and practised by New Zealanders of all ages.

The fiddlers have been gathered together by Kiwi musician Elisabeth Auchinvole, with the support of Margaret Robertson, leader of the UK Shetland Fiddlers, and have been rehearsing together over the past three months.  Each a skilled musician in their own right, collectively the group has many years' experience performing traditional Scottish musci as soloists and within a range of cultural groups throughout New Zealand.  They are delighted to be joining with Hjaltibonhoga - The Shetland Fiddlers for this exciting occasion.

This press release was sent on 16th February 2016.

Hjalti in the Antipodes

Shetland fiddle band ‘Hjaltibonhoga’ are currently performing in The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo Tour of Australia and New Zealand. Led by Margaret Robertson, the band have just completed their fifth show in Melbourne, marking the half way point of the tour, and are now beginning their next set of rehearsals in Wellington.


Hjaltibonhoga have been rehearsing since first arriving in Australia. The rehearsals were spread over four days and saw the Shetlanders massing with the Melbourne Fiddlers to form a 45 plus strong string section for the Melbourne shows. Rehearsals were held at Mooney Valley Racecourse in the city and saw bands and groups spread out over the buildings and grounds rehearsing music, dance steps and drills.


Hjaltibonhoga member Jillian Copland spoke about rehearsals saying:
 “The rehearsals were extensive but very worthwhile and enjoyable. The heat a long side of the day long rehearsals allowed us to prove our staying power with the military bands.”


The performances began on the Friday, with five shows over the weekend in the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. The Stadium sat a crowd of 35000 and included a life size replica of the Edinburgh Castle at one end, providing a Tattoo experience on a much larger scale than that of the Edinburgh Tattoo for both audience and performers. This tour sees an amalgamation of bands and groups from the 2014 and 2015 Edinburgh Tattoo casts, so in turn, this has made the experience feel very much like a reunion.


Fiddler Maggie Adamson spoke about her enthusiasm to be in the group:
 “Who could refuse a stadium gig to 35000 standing in front of the biggest live band in the world.”

And she wasn’t kidding considering Hjaltibonhoga play along with another 900 plus military musicians and pipers.


Helen Whitham described her experience of the performances at the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne:
 “At first I couldn’t comprehend just how vast the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne was. The sight of so many people intently focused on the arena floor was hard to take in, and only really sunk in after I had the first three shows under my belt. My favourite moment so far was the last performance on Sunday night, I decided to really enjoy our last show in Melbourne and go out with a bang! Which I think we did”


 Jillian Copland has reminisced on her favourite moments of the Tattoo so far:
“One of my favourite moments is when we are waiting at the drawbridge to enter for Hector the Hero, and we hear Margaret on the Stadium floor playing solo fiddle. After all the hard work that Margaret has put into the Tattoo and the overseas Tattoo that this gives her her moment of well deserved limelight, it’s incredibly emotional and makes us all very proud of her.”

Band member Marjolein Robertson spoke about the coming together of the 1300 strong cast saying:

“Even with a cast of 1300 members there’s this great harmony and enthusiasm throughout that you just cannot fault. I have never been anywhere, nor can I imagine anywhere, where you can turn around to the stranger next to you and start a conversation and every time be greeted with warmth and interest.”

Now the Hjaltibonhoga Fiddlers have arrived in Wellington, New Zealand and are embarking on another week of rehearsals. The group again are joined by more fiddlers, this time New Zealanders, to increase the numbers, and all are practicing hard together to be ready for the first show on Thursday.

Peesters da Fellow

A highlight of the Tattoo on Tour for the Shetland contingent was the translation of 'Breathes There the Man'.


The Scottish poem by Sir Walter Scott is a standard part of every Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo show. Hjaltibonhoga fiddlers Stewart Grains and Mary Rutherford, with contributions from other band members, translated it into Shetland dialect.  It is sure to be a favourite moment for Hjaltibonhoga as we hear it in the finale of tattoos to come.

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