Scotland's Battlefield Band heads to Zumbrota

Battlefield Band

Alisdair White likes feedback, so he's looking forward to getting back in front of an American concert audience.

"American audiences are far more vocal in expressing their appreciation than Scottish audiences, which is nice for us," White said. "It spurs us on."

White plays fiddle for Scotland's legendary Battlefield Band , which will open an American concert tour March 21 at Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota. The band, which was launched in 1979, has long set the standard for Scottish traditional music, despite a changing cast of members. It's still THE band for aspiring traditional musicians in Scotland.

White, for instance, joined at the age of 18 in 2001. He first picked up the fiddle when he was about 7 years old and living on the Isle of Lewis off the Scottish coast. "Scotland is a great place to grow up if you're into music," he said.

This is actually the second time the Battlefield Band has played at Crossings, and White said he remembers the intimate nature of the venue. "Our poor sound guy was up in the mezzanine, and he was all hunched over," White said.


White spoke by phone from New York while making preparations for the upcoming tour.

At this time of year in the States we get a lot of Irish bands coming through. What's the difference between Irish and Scottish music?

On the one hand, they're very similar. They're very close cousins. The instrumentation is slightly different, but we have a lot of tunes in common. You can characterize it as the same language, just different accents.

Why is there such a strong connection to traditional music in Scotland?

It's never really gone away, that's the thing. You're going to be attached to something that's always been around. It never really died out. The piping tradition continued, and all the tunes continued in some form, too.

Everywhere has a musical identity, and if it doesn't go away, it becomes ingrained.

It's part of the culture.

When I was a boy, my first opportunity to play was at ceilis, which are very much a way of keeping the tradition alive, keeping the culture alive. It was more of a social occasion, and music was part of it.


So what do you think American audiences are hearing in this music?

We play the music day in and day out, and we've all grown up with it. So it's hard to distance yourself and hear it the way people are hearing it for the first time. Americans always equate it with bluegrass music or old-time music, which basically come from Scottish and Irish music. They are similar in that we play instrumental music, but the tunes are different.

How do you arrange your concerts?

We vary it a bit. We've got some songs people can relate to very easily. We do a couple of Gaelic songs, which people might not be able to understand the words to, but you don't have to understand all the words to get the song.

Do you start with a planned set list?

We go in with a blueprint in mind. Otherwise, there would be a lot of arguing on stage.

What: The Battlefield Band


When: 7 p.m. March 21

Where: Crossings at Carnegie, 320 East Ave., Zumbrota

Tickets: $28 in advance, $32 the day of the show. Reservations at 507-732-7616.

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