What a cracking gig last week in the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow. It wasn’t the Binks per se but myself (RW), Eddie, plus fiddler Alastair and his trio: Iain (who doubles on bass with the Binks) and Euan Drysdale (guitarist in Alastair’s trio). We also had the good fortune to work with Ewan Robertson, flautist with Scottish Opera and folk fluter and whistle player and Finnish musicians on kantele, piano and vocals plus a Swedish choir — you can imagine the possibilities.
Three days of rehearsals really paid off for what was billed at the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s end of season party. There was some haunting Finnish singing and also a lot of Alastair’s superb compositions. I couldn’t get his ‘Leaving for America’ out of my head for days afterwards. Show over, we headed for the pub where the choir had the Merchant City resounding to some gutsy sea shanties. The whole show has been recorded for BBC Online so look out for it there in the next week or so.
Alastair’s now off to the Netherlands, Eddie has been down south at Marlborough College where he is having a commissioned piece performed and I’m heading off to the US to judge and teach for ten days in June.
Before that we have a performance of John Cage’s Scottish Circus in Glasgow University Concert Hall at 5.30 – 6.30pm on Friday the 1st of June. Free, though ticketed on Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/scottish-circus-a-celebration-of-john-cage-and-eddie-mcguire-tickets-45548754551
Discussion with Eddie McGuire (led by Bjorn Heile)
4.33 – played by Eddie, Fergus, Eilidh and Bill
Scottish Circus – played by everyone
New Scottish Circus – played by everyone
Organiser Fergus Hall: ‘Scottish Circus is a devised improvisation involving Scottish traditional music. The idea is that performers choose one Scottish traditional/folk tune and play this melody while moving around the performance space. Players should take breaks at regular intervals which should amount to approximately half of the performance time. The score indicates that this should last around half an hour but we are going to bring this down slightly to 20 minutes so as to accommodate New Scottish Circus.
‘The idea behind New Scottish Circus is that it is exactly the same as Scottish Circus except that performers should instead play a traditional/folk melody that is more specifically personal to them. This could be a tune from your childhood, where you were born, where you live now or just a tune that you like. The two pieces will be segued together. We already have quite a bit of interest in the performance due to promotion as part of the West End Festival.’
Lismor Bar Has Info on the Binks
If any of our followers are in Glasgow, in paerticular the west end of the city take a trip to the Lismor bar just off Dumbarton Road and you will see this framed picture on the wall. It dates from 2003 and has short biographies of members at that time, including Mick who has now passed on.
Hopefully as long as the bar remains the picture will too. To other news….
Later this month (May ’18) Eddie, Rab and Alistair will be combining with Finnish musicians at an end of season party promoted by the BBC SSO in Glasgow City Halls. The blurb for the concert reads: ‘Kullervo, son of Kalervo/Had the very bluest stockings/And the fairest golden hair…” Every story has to start somewhere, and in this remarkable choral symphony the young Sibelius took inspiration from Finland’s most ancient poem, the Kalevala. This is Sibelius in the raw: the tragedy of a young hero and a love more terrible than war, told in music of epic power and brooding passion. So gather round: Thomas Dausgaard, two magnificent young singers and one of Scandinavia’s best choirs retell the story tonight, alongside performances of folk music from the same far Northern roots. And then, let’s dance: the evening – and our season – ends with a party in the Old Fruitmarket.* Prelude: 6.45pm in the Recital Room. A chance to meet the folk musicians performing in the concert. *All tickets for the Post-Season Party are £5.00 (free to season ticket holdersattending this concert).
Get tickets here.
The Passing of Garech Brown of Claddagh Records and Binkies Mentor
We were all terribly saddened to hear of the passing of Garech Browne. Garech was the man who made things happen for the Binkies back in the mid 1970s. We’d been invited to record a track on a Hamish Henderson album ‘Freedon Come All Ye’ for Garech’s Claddagh Records. There he was at the studio and when he heard us playing he invited us to lunch to discuss making a record for him. I think he saw us as a sort of Scottish Chieftains.
He got Manx harpist Charles Guard to join us and our first album ‘Whistlebinkies 1′ was born complete with picture taken on top of Dumbarton Rock. More albums followed most with iconic covers by artist John Bellany, all selected with great taste by Garech. No expense was spared in achieving a quality p[roduct and some of the playing was quite god too! Later we were invited over to Dublin where we played oGay Byrne’s Late Show and stayed at Garech’s Woodtown Manor. Great days and I hope Ireland appreciates what Garech Browne did for their traditional music – and for Scotland’s too. RIP Garech; the memories remain. RW
• Read an obituary of Garech from the Daily Telegraph here.
Mary Barbour Concert and Eddie’s Birthday Lunch
We had a very enjoyable day today in sunny Govan playing at the unveiling of the marvellous sculpture commemorating the pioneering housing activist Mary Barbour. Wikipedia records:’ Mary Barbour was a Scottish political activist, local councillor and magistrate. She was closely associated with the Red Clydeside movement in the early 20th century and especially for her role as the main organiser of the women of Govan who took part in the rent strikes of 1915.’ The statue of her is very striking and today’s ceremony drew a large crowd. Eddie explained to the audience that over the years we had played at many similar political events in the area and that our founder member, the late Mick Broderick, used to work at the nearby Fairfields shipyard. Here’s a pic of the Mary Barbour installation:
Something for the people of Govan to be proud of and we hope it will be included on the city’s tourist maps and is easily accessible sited as it is at Govan underground station.
Afterwards we headed over to the west end for a nice lunch to mark Eddie’s 70th. It was a very pleasant affair with a packed restaurant near Partick Cross joining in the singing of Happy Birthday with Eddie joining in on the piccolo in his own honour. The wine flowed and I think he enjoyed himself, especially this attention from my wife Yvonne (bottom left), Stuart’s wife Maureen (top left), Rhona (top right) and Peter’s wife Betty:
First Concert to Mark Eddie’s 70th Birthday
Eddie is nearly 70! Can you believe it? the Binkies flautist and great Scottish composer has hit the three score years and ten. The first of a celebratory series of concerts was held in the Scottish Music Centre in Glasgow’s Candleriggs tonight (Jan 25) aptly on an evening celebrating that other great Scot, Robert Burns. Piano virtuoso Peter Seivewright played two pieces by Eddie and one each by his composing friends Martin Dalby and Sir James MacMillan (60 next year! Peter told us). There was a small but perfectly formed audience listening to Peter’s brilliant playing. Eddie’s pieces were his Prelude 7 from 1982 and Harbour of Harmonies from 2000.
This last was commissioned by Invergordon Arts Society to mark the Millennium and was premiered iun the Highland town in 2000. The work takes its inspiration from the ‘Invergordon Mutiny of 1931, fishing, the oil industry all harnessed together by the enduring optimism of the sea’ to paraphrase the programme note.
Eddie’s actual birthday is on Feb 15, so if you can, wish him well via his Facebook page or in some other way. The next concert marking this momentous year for him will be held as part of the West End Festival. It’s in St Silas Church, Park Road, Glasgow. Binkies fiddler Alastair Savage is organiser in chief and the programme will include Eddie’s Concerto for Viola and Strings, his Auriga (played by the Alba Brass Quintet), Celtic Knotwork for flute trio and a solo flute piece played by Ewan Robertson. It’s going to be a great night so mark the date in your diary.
We had a very successful concert last week (August 25) at the Edinburgh Fringe. Venue was as it has been for the past several years, the historic Canongate Kirk. We played for an hour before an audience of a couple of hundred and were delighted to receive a standing ovation at the end of two encores, the second of these a haunting rendition of Ae Fond Kiss by Alastair on solo fiddle.
Another highlight of the evening had to be his self-penned tune, the beautiful, Leaving for America. This works particularly well with smallpipes and the crowd clearly enjoyed the tune and the arrangement and give Alastair prolonged applause. We will be back in Edinburgh next year but are considering a new venue which can take more people. Our next concert is in Strachur in the autumn. Date to be confirmed.
NELSON MANDELA The group played at a private reception at Glasgow City Chambers on July 18 where it was announced that a statue to Nelson Mandela would be unveiled next year to mark 25 years since Mr Mandela visited the city.
He is pictured above as he appeared in Glasgow City Council’s newspaper The Bulletin in October 1993 speaking in the City Chambers after receiving the Freedom of the City. His address was heard by an audience of 400, and he later spoke to a crowd of around 10,000 people in George Square thanking them for the stand Glasgow had taken against apartheid.
The July 18 reception was attended by Mr Azwitamisi Golden Neswiswi, Deputy High Commissioner for the Republic of South Africa, Mr Brian Filling long term anti-apartheid activist and a Ghanaian student activist. They are pictured with the Binkies after their performance.
The group has, since the early 1970s, played at a host of benefit concerts to raise money in the anti-apartheid cause so it was appropriate that they should have been playing for the Mandela memorial statue committee. You can donate towards the cost of this worthwhile project here.
Of all the cities in the UK to honour him, Mandela chose Glasgow for his presentations because it was the first city, in 1981, to make him a freeman. The South African government at the time refused him permission to leave prison to accept the honour fuelling the worldwide campaign to set him free. In 1986 the city renamed St George’s Place, the location of the South African Consulate, as Nelson Mandela Place in his honour.
Nelson Mandela died in 2013 aged 95. During his 1993 visit he praised the ‘citizens of Glasgow’ for being the first to offer him the Freedom of the City at a time more than a decade earlier when many others were still condemning him as a terrorist for his role in challenging the system of racial segregation in his home country.
In the speech at the City Chambers in Glasgow on 9 October 1993, he said: ‘While we were physically denied our freedom in the country of our birth, a city 6,000 miles away, and as renowned as Glasgow, refused to accept the legitimacy of the apartheid system, and declared us to be free.’
Mr Mandela’s visit was the culmination of a long association between people in the city and his campaign for freedom, which began when he was imprisoned in 1962. Eventually, at the age of 71, Mandela was freed on 11 February 1990 after 27 years in prison.
Mandela, the leader of the African National Congress, became his country’s first democratically-elected president in 1994.
During the 1980s he had been given the Freedom of the City by nine UK regions – Aberdeen, Dundee, Greenwich, Islwyn in Gwent, Kingston Upon Hull, Midlothian, Newcastle, Sheffield and, of course, Glasgow. It was the city which was chosen to host Mandela as he arrived to accept all these awards in October 1993.
St Petersburg, April 2017More than 2,000 people attended Rab and organist Kevin Bowyer’s concert in the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg last week. They played a few spolo spots and then duetted on numbers mostly arranged by Eddie. These included Rab’s ‘Barlinnie Highlander’ and Broderock Bodhran’, tunes tha cwill be familiar to Binkies fans.
Unfortunately the theatre management would not allow filming or recoding of the show so we have no clips or stage shots for you,. A few of the theatre helpers said they had done some stuff on their phones and would send it on but so far no joy. Rehearslas took place on the Tuesday afternoon and it became clear early on that Rab and Kevin would make a suitable musical pairing. Here is the programme with the contents:
After the show it was off for a well-earned meal and in the morning Keven, the full time organist at Glasgow University Chapel, headed off to Poland where he was performing and giving some lectures. Eddie and Rab meanwhile stayed on to explore the city venturing as far as the Metro where, tragically, the terrorist attack of a few weeks ago had been carried out. Thereafter oit was off the Hermitage and an exhausting but fascinating look round what must be one of the world’s most brilliant displays of art and decor. Below are some pix we took on our tour in sunny but very cold weather.
Stuart’s Been Busy with New Book on History of Clarsach
Stuart, our concertina player and fiddler, has produced a new book on the history of the Clarsach Society and its role in the revival of the small harp in Scotland.
The official press release reads: ‘The Clarsach Society/Comunn na Clàrsaich is delighted to announce the publication of a history of the organisation specially researched and written by musician and ethnomusicologist Dr Stuart Eydmann.
‘IN GOOD HANDS : The Clarsach Society and the Renaissance of the Scottish Harp’ was launched at the 2017 Edinburgh International Harp Festival held at Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh, from 31 March until 5 April.
‘Based on extensive archival research, this is the first comprehensive exploration of the clarsach in Scotland in the modern period. The author charts the rediscovery of Scotland’s oldest national instrument by writers and artists of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries before its subsequent adoption by the Celtic Revival and those engaged in the promotion of Gaelic culture.
‘We learn how this lead to the establishment of Comunn na Clàrsaich/The Clarsach Society in 1931, and how the organisation, mainly led by women, ensured that the renaissance of the small harp became one of Scotland’s most enduring and significant cultural achievements of the twentieth century. The activities and growth of the Society are detailed; its current flourishing is celebrated and there is discussion of the future directions and prospects of both the instrument and the organisation.
‘The author notes: “As a scholar of Scottish music with an interest in the history, use and revival of musical instruments in the modern era, I was delighted and privileged to be given the opportunity to pursue this project to map and share the intriguing story of those dedicated to its promotion of the clarsach and responsible for leading its renaissance. It is hoped that this first exploration of the harp in Scotland in the modern era will prove of value to students, learners and enthusiasts and serve as a base for further research by others. I am sure readers will share my conclusion that the revival of the clarsach is an achievement for which The Clarsach Society and its membership should be very proud.”
‘The text of over 130 pages is illustrated throughout by a unique selection of contemporary photographs. Copies are available directly from: The Clarsach Society, Studio G43, Out of the Blue Drill Hall, 36 Dalmeny Street, Edinburgh EH6 8RG. £12.00 + £2 postage within UK (+£5.50 to Europe). ISBN 978-1-5272-0729-5′
Well done Stuart!
BINKS Head For Russia
Eddie and Rab head to St Petersburg in Russia next week for a concert in the world famous Marinsky Theatre with organist Kevin Bowyer. Rab will duet with Kevin on music arranged by Eddie. Rab will also perform a solo spot during the evening. Said Rab: ‘This is my first visit to Russia, though Eddie is a bit of an old hand having visited the city a few times on various music assignments. Russia, I am told, has a soft spot for Scots music and a respect for the poetry of Burns so that augurs well for our visit.’ Both Binks will stay on for a few days sightseeing after the concert.
Background to this historic arts venue from Wikipedia: The Mariinsky Theatre (Russian: Мариинский театр, Mariinskiy Teatr, also spelled Maryinskyor Mariyinsky) is a historic theatre of opera and ballet in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Opened in 1860, it became the preeminent music theatre of late 19th century Russia, where many of the stage masterpieces of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov received their premieres. Through most of the Soviet era, it was known as the Kirov Theatre. Today, the Mariinsky Theatre is home to the Mariinsky Ballet, Mariinsky Opera and Mariinsky Orchestra. Since Yuri Temirkanov‘s retirement in 1988, the conductor Valery Gergiev has served as the theatre’s general director.
Video of the Binks from 1980
This was done for a BBC folk music show. The tunes we played were the Lewis Jig, Donald MacKillop by Sandy Hain and Granny MacLeod by Charles MacLeod Williamson. The line up is Eddie McGuire, flute, Rhona MacKay (clarsach), Rab Wallace (lowland pipes), Mark Hayward (fiddle) and the late Mick Broderick on bodhran. This track featured on Whistlebinkies 3 on Claddagh Records. The first and third tunes can be found in Rab’s ‘Glasgow Collection’ of pipe music. Here’s the link on YouTube
Monday January 16th, 7.30pm
RECITAL ROOM, CITY HALLS, GLASGOW
The group’s links with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra go back over 40 years when our founder Mick Broderick and our piper Rab Wallace came to hear the premiere of Eddie’s ‘Calgacus’. Rab subsequently performed the Highland Pipes part when the piece was played at the Proms in 1997. The recording was included in the BBC Music Magazine’s covermount CD ‘The Very Best of the BBC Orchestras’. Orchestra members Alastair Savage and bassist Iain Crawford play in The Whistlebinkies and the concert will feature some of Alastair’s fiddle compositions. The group performed at the BBCSSO’s 60th anniversary and one of their title tracks – The Albannach – has been orchestrated for the orchestra by Eddie and broadcast as part of a series of encores commissioned by the BBC Scottish Symphony Club.
The Cumnock Tryst
Our performance on Saturday, October 3, 2015, at the above festival was very enjoyable. The highlight for the audience came when the Cumnock Tryst’s founder, Sir James MacMillan CBE, sang his own song ‘The Tryst’ to our musical accompaniment. Indeed Sir James announced to the audience that the festival was named after that very song, based as it was on the poem of the same name by William Soutar and to which he put the music. In his part of the introduction Eddie reminded us all that we had recorded the song some 30 years ago. thecumnocktryst.com
To book The Whistlebinkies for concerts or recordings: contact
The Whistlebinkies have received the accolade of being inducted into the Traditional Music ‘Hall of Fame’. The group joined fellow inductees at Glasgow’s Oran Mor in October 2014 for the gala award ceremony.
A history of the group:
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, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; collaborations with composer James MacMillan, with poet and writer Hamish Henderson, with the choir Cappella 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