More 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.
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