The Whistlebinkies – Hall of Famers 2014


Check out pictures from our December 10 gig at Edinburgh Folk Club


To book the group for a concert:

Contact Eddie on +44(0)141 334 8580 (, Rab on +44(0)7957818672 (

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For more than 40 years the Whistlebinkies have toured the world with their own brand of authentic Scottish traditional music. Their music has been received with enduring enthusiasm wherever they have played. They have travelled extensively taking Scottish music all over the UK, to France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, USA, Italy, Ireland, Finland, Iceland, Taiwan and Estonia. In 1991 they were the first Scottish music group to tour China. Festival appearances include the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Glasgow Mayfest, Celtic Connections, Hong Kong Folk Festival, the Festival Interceltique at Lorient, Brittany, the Scotland: Cultural Counterpoint Festival, Binghampton, NY. The Whistlebinkies have featured as the BBC Radio 3 ‘Artists of the Week’. The quirky name is derived from the old Scots word for a bench: a ‘bink’. A whistlebinkie was someone who played the whistle whilst sitting on the bink. Other musicians who joined became known by the same generic appellation, hence the name of the group. Whistlebinkies were travelling minstrels who played and sang for their supper. The present group continues this tradition but, naturally, expects a modest fee too! The group use only acoustic instruments arranged to complement each other. Those employed are Scottish lowland and smallpipes, fiddle, flute, concertina, bass, percussion (Scottish style side drumming and bodhran), clarsach (celtic harp). The group do do some vocals, but the main fare is instrumental. Their music comes from all parts of the country: airs from the far west archipelago of St Kilda, Border ballad melodies, Shetland reels and song tunes from the land of Burns, Ayrshire. Always keen to advance the tradition, the group also performs a number of new works set within the musical parameters of what makes it sound ‘Scottish’ or ‘Celtic’. In this the group is fortunate in having one of Scotland’s leading composers in its ranks, Edward McGuire. His suites ‘Inner Sound’, ‘MacBeth’ and ‘Albannach’ have taken Scottish traditional music to a new level of musical complexity and interest whilst never losing the vernacular feel. These pieces can be found on the recordings in the discography. The group has also explored the music of Brittany, Ireland and Catalonia, and this often features in its concerts and recordings.

The Whistlebinkies frequently work with others on special musical projects. Collaborations have included a joint performance of Scottish fiddle music with Yehudi Menuhin, tours with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra collaborations with composer James MacMillan, with poet and writer Hamish Henderson, with the choir Capella Nova and a major project with the Glasgow Festival Strings and Scottish Ballet in Eddie McGuire’s ballet The Spirit of Flight. The group have recorded with pop stars David Essex and The Cutting Crew. The band commissioned, premiered and broadcast Scottish Circus by avant garde composer John Cage. The Whistlebinkies have contributed much music to documentary, film, television, radio and stage drama productions.

What people say:

‘A fascinating mixture… arrangements and new compositions based on Scottish traditional material provide an interesting example of joint creation, with all the members of the group contributing and discussing ideas,’ Ailie Munro, The Folk Revival in Scotland.

‘Their repertoire is about as wide-ranging as it is possible to be. Kenny Mathieson, The Scotsman.

‘Well, they’re just lovely. They don’t play sentimentally… they play straight, and with some kind of dignity. It is that quality of people doing their work well that I admire,’ John Cage, Tempo 1991.

‘Punctilious attention to detail is typical of the group. They led the revival of interest in Scottish traditional music precisely by their willingness to dig deep into neglected territory, and played their findings with great attention to authenticity, as well as palpable affection,’ George Mackay, The Scotsman.

‘There’s real spirit and energy about the whole set which, allied to inventive orchestration, makes it highly commendable,’ Nick Beale, Folk Roots.

‘They are an outstanding group,’ Michael Tumelty, The Glasgow Herald.

‘Their output has remained consistently good over the years, and they have never once been blown off their committed course by the gimmiky gusts that have swept through folk music since the Seventies,’ Alastair Clark, The Scotsman.

‘Eine schöne Platte für ruhige Abende vor dem Kamin mit einem guten Single Malt Whisky,’ Review of CD Timber Timbre, FolkWorld 9, Germany.

‘Anyone who made the trip to see their show at St Margaret’s Hope church in the afternoon got to experience the most moving performance of the whole festival when they backed the Limbe Choir in a reprise of MacMillan’s Sanctus. I was, I confess, close to tears,’ Keith Bruce, The Herald