Thursday, March 06, 2008

Battlefield Band

I think I've gone to Celtic heaven.

The Battlefield Band concert was tonight, and the place was packed. Only one of the band members, Alan Reid, one of the founders, was the same as the ones I saw back in 1983. The youngest there tonight, Alasdair White the fiddler, was born that year.

Before the concert started, I bought their newest CD to avoid the rush. They autographed it after the show.

Here's a sample audio clip from the CD. It's the song "Dookin' for Beetroot." Here's a sample audio clip of "Lord Haddo's Favourite," the sad, sweet song from their "There's a Buzz" CD that I bought back in 1983. If you go to their website and click on the "discography" link at the top, it will show all the CDs they've made, and there's a sample audio clip available for each one.

Back to the concert.

They opened with an instrumental number, and true to Battlefield Band form, the song started small, with the fiddle and guitar. Then the bagpipes joined in, then the keyboards, and they played at a toe-tapping pace and ended with a flourish.

Alan did much of the talking, and the beauty of it was the lovely Scottish brogue from all of them but guitarist Sean O'Donnell, who happens to be Irish. Their humor was low-key, and Alan made Alasdair the butt of some gentle ribbing. He said that Alasdair is from the Outer Hebrides, and then explained that Scotland has thousands of islands, most of them uninhabited. But Alasdair was fortunate enough to have been born on one of the inhabited islands.

At a certain point in the concert, I realized that watching Alasdair was like watching Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin), from the Lord of the Rings, playing the fiddle. He has the same look and build.

Alan and Sean did all the singing, I suppose because Mike Katz had pipes and whistles in his mouth most of the time, and Alasdair had his chin on the fiddle. The two singers did a fine job, giving us traditional ballads and some of Alan's original songs. They sang of emigration and true love. And bad weather.

And they played. Alan had invited the audience to clap and stomp our feet and even get up and dance if the need arose. One man on the other side got up and danced by himself during most of the instrumental songs. During one particularly rousing number, a lady on our side of the room joined the man, and they swung in circles arm-in-arm. Here's a sample audio clip of a song that will make a dancing person want to get up and move. It's "Chuir i Gluin Air a Bhodach (She Put A Knee In The Old Man)" from their Time & Tide CD.

One of the songs they played started slow and built speed, the way Jewish folk music tends to do. Alan said afterwards that they weren't sure what to call that style of music. He said he'd suggested "Celtic Schmeltic," but the band rejected that name. They're open to any good suggestions...

We (my son and I--and the rest of the audience) had a great time. The instrumentals put a smile on our faces, the singing was a joy, and the conversations the band had with us from the stage was the topping on the cake. And we got an encore.

Check their website for their concert schedule, and if they're going to be in your area, by all means be sure to go.

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