Tornaveen Village Hall, Aberdeenshire

RW gets a laugh and smiling approval from the troops

Great atmosphere in a packed village hall last night. We began pretty sharp (for Highland time) just after 8pm and finished after two encores at 10.30pm. It was a bring your own bottle night and thanks to the kind members of the audience who kept the collective Binkie thrapple well oiled throughout. Afterwards we had time to catch up with long time supporters of the group who have attended all of our gigs in this enchanting part of Scotland. Further thanks to Malcolm for the supper and to Geoff, Margaret and the committee of the ‘First Friday’ club. I made the point to them and the audience that they were to be commended for year after year putting on live music during the north east winter. After a comfortable night at Jane’s B&B we had pleasant sunshine for the drive back along Deeside and down to Glasgow via Stonehaven. Ian has gone home with a large sack of pinhead oatmeal freshly ground in nearby Alford. Nae mer hungry weans. RW.

One poster on the forum page was clearly delighted with the concert:

‘The Whistlebinkies’ performance last Friday in Tornaveen, Aberdeenshire, was an absolute joy. Relaxed and audience-engaging, their sheer professionalism and musicianship made for an evening of real delight. No sets of frenetic, ‘blistering’ reels or undanceable mish-mash; this group really understand the music they play. Unlike the groups that grind you into the floor, the Whistlebinkies lift you off it’.

Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival : 9 September 2012

Arcadis Zall de Doelen

The Festival served up a unique combination of Scottish music and whiskey tasting. Absorb the salty waves of Celtic melodies, allow the breeze of John Cage’s playful sense of disorder to rise, hand this brewage to the unequalled members of the Whistlebinkies and Scottish Circus is the result: an experience which sounds like dashing breakers. ‘And wide-eyed, ears straining, we remained, as more haunting phrases crept from all around,’ The Scotsman wrote, ‘… An improvisation of incredible beauty and delicacy.’

Rab Wallace writes: The picture shows some of us on walkabout in the city centre before rehearsals. Not in picture are Iain (bass) who is taking the picture, Rhona (clarsach) who was off powdering her nose somewhere and Stuart (box) who was off admiring buildings or some such. It really was a  superb night at the concert and we would like to thank all the staff at the Doelen for their hospitality and courtesy and the audience for being so receptive to Scottish Circus (Cage is never easy) and to our own more traditional fare. Thank you Rotterdam!

UCS : A Celebration Suite

The Whistlebinkies perform with Alba Brass and Sax Ecosse in a new piece by Eddie McGuire to open the concert celebrating the 40th anniversary of the historic 1971 work-in at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders.
Mitchell Theatre, Glasgow
October 1st 2011, 7.00pm
The work was commissioned by the UCS veterans and Scottish Ethical Events.
The concert also featured Rab Noakes, Arthur Johnstone, Simone Welsh, Alastair McDonald and Dick Gaughan, with a recreation of Jimmy Reid’s famous 1971 speech. An address by Tony Benn and a short film of  unseen footage from the 1971 events completed the evening.

Town Hall, Moffat

A return visit to Moffat Music Society – in a new venue! This what was written for the Moffat News:



Moffat Town Hall was alive with the music of Scotland on Friday night. The Whistlebinkies were back in town with a programme ranging from eighteenth century fiddle music and Gaelic mouth music to Eddie McGuire’s Moffat Suite, a work commissioned by Moffat Music Society in 2008.

Two lively introductory quicksteps had feet tapping before piper Rab Wallace introduced the other members of the group: Stuart Eydmann (concertina, violin and the wooden equivalent of spoons), Alastair Savage (violin), Peter Anderson (bodhran and Scottish side drum), Rhona Mackay (clarsach and vocals), Eddie McGuire (flutes) and Iain Crawford (double bass). After talking about his Lowland pipes Rab led the ensemble into a Strathspey and hornpipe; bittersweet leading to elation. Catriona McKay’s Swan LK234 made an excellent contrast. It was easy to picture sailing gently to the sound of water broken by a dinghy’s progress. Farewell to Sicily, harking back to military events of 1942-3, featured the pipes again, and then fiddle and bass played two reels by William Marshall, an eighteenth century Jock-of-all-Trades. A gifted fiddler and composer, he was also a mathematician, clock maker, surveyor, architect and astronomer, amongst other things.

Inner Sound by Eddie McGuire conjured up watery images again. Seeds rolling in a bodhran became waves lapping on a beach, before harp, concertina and violin took us out to sea. A plaintive, yet serene flute melody led to a lively tune joined by double bass and pianissimo concertina. Then, after a crescendo and side-drumming, a flute cadenza took us beach-wards till breathy sounds and rolling seeds set us ashore. Rab Wallace’s Wee Eddie Reels had hands clapping, and feet tapping until it was time for the two jigs of Loch Ness Monster to herald an interval.

The second half of the concert opened with the spirited Fiddlers’ Rally, followed by a revised Moffat Suite. The addition of harp and double bass added to the atmospheric impressionism of the Loch Skene episode, and the extended use of percussion added a touch of drama in the more discordant `troubled past’ section. Undoubtedly the music touched the hearts of local listeners. Lady Elizabeth Cole’s Air and Jig took us back to the poised elegance of the eighteenth century. Farewell to St Kilda which followed also used tunes of that period, but to very different effect and ending with a melancholic flute and harp adieu. After this Rhona sang Mouth Music, dance music in which tunes are often more important than words and in which the tempo usually increases. Her lovely voice and the sensitive backing made this a delightful interlude. The lament of Bonnie at Morn, begun by clarsach and concertina and joined by other melodic instruments, followed. It was linked with the Earl of Dunmore’s Jig in which bass and bohdran pointed the rhythm until a reprise of the opening lament brought the music to a satisfying close. Another of Eddie’s suites followed, The Albannach. It traced the progress of a young man from Lewis to the mainland in search of work, and his misfortunes and eventual salvation. Here lyrical sadness moved though anger to work-songs, and culminating in a jig. Two hornpipes led by Rab Wallace’s Lowland pipes ended the concert, a rousing and fitting end to an excellent evening’s music-making.

There is an intimacy and clarity of line in the Whistlebinkies music-making, stemming in part from the instruments used and in part from the way in which they are played. Often one felt one was at a homely gathering where music-making was part of everyday life. There was an especial sensitivity to the spirit and tradition of the art that was very persuasive. It was this, as much as the incisive rhythms, infectious dances, eloquent melodies, and felicitous introductions that made the evening such a joy.

Suedpunkt Nuremberg, Pillenreuther

The director of this venue could remember organising Whistlebinkies concerts in Germany in the 1970s!


From Die Abendzeitung, 23rd Aug. 2010 (in translation):

Folk music completely without Scottish kilts : The „Stefan Grasse Trio“ and „The Whistlebinkies“ in a colaboration (twin) concert at the Nuremberg Suedpunkt

In the home country be smiled at, abroad beloved: Bavarian folk music. However the „Stefan Grasse Trio“ confronted the Frankonian audience on Friday evening at the Nuremberg Suedpunkt with that, and attested (evidenced) with the „Three Bavarian Dances“ of the Scottish composer John Maxwell Geddes that the heart of many North Europeans may also beats for the Bavarian „Zwiefacher“. This Scottish-Frankonian folk mélange, mixed by the Grasse trio and the Scottish folk sextet „The Whistlebinkies“ at the colaboration concert (double feature) „stringendo #2“ on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the twin city of Glasgow, refused a homy presentation of traditional costumes with kilts wearing bagpipe players and snuff consuming (Bavarian) brass band musicians. Double metres and triples metres alternated permanentely. Sometimes a familiar home country melody brakes into chromatic jazz sounds. At first the Stefan Grasse Trio with guitar, marimba (correct is vibes) and double bass received only cautious reactions of the audience, but with the mixture of Bavarian folk and music from other twin cities of Nuremberg – as the dreamlike hypnotic Soléa from Córdoba or the song „Las perlas negras“ – they convinced more and more. The Whistlebinkies, who created the second part of the concert, searched and found the interface (joint) between serious music and Scottish home country sounds. Repetitions of one theme which lasted several minutes were performed in adventurous combinations of instruments, from the Celtic harp, concertina, drums, violin, flute and bagpipe, and so the simple melody dazzled (fluoresced) in very different colours. The musicians introduced with Scottish humour their music, narrated from inhabitants of Scottish islands, who imitated musically bleating sheep and cowing sea gulls in lack of other animals, and started to perform immediately these sounds on flute and bagpipe in a duet and raised them (these sounds) on a new level of musical aestetic. And all of this completely without male skirts (kilts).