Monday evening’s Institute of Musical Traditions concert featured the Scottish folk music institution Battlefield Band playing to an enthusiastic full house. From the first notes from Mike Katz’s Highland pipes to the last notes of the encore, this thoroughly entertaining and professional group took the crowd on a delightful tour of traditional and contemporary Scottish folk music.
Battlefield Band has gone through a variety of personnel changes over the 40 years since the group was formed. Besides the bearded multi-instrumentalist Katz, the core of the current band features fiddler Alasdair White (who has been with the band since 2001, when he was 18 years old), and vocalist/guitarist Sean O’Donnell.
The band ripped through a strong first half which concluded with a “big set” of tunes featuring the pipes and twin fiddles. Then Katz came out solo to begin the second half, mesmerizing the crowd with the haunting sound of the pipes before being joined by his band mates.
Then, as O’Donnell began singing a song about bagpipes, everything went dark. As in, the power went out. No lights (except for the church hall’s emergency lighting), no sound system, nothing. And we soon learned that the power was out all along Old Georgetown Pike.
The band missed a beat for about 15 seconds, then Katz begin playing the pipes from the stage (he never used the sound system in any event), and the other members of the band began wandering through the crowd. Smartphone lights came on to provide lighting for the strolling musicians. And the magic began, as first a fiddle would pass by, then perhaps the guitar, then a tenor guitar, and back again. If you closed your eyes, you heard different lines rise and fall as the musicians walked past different sections of the hall.
This continued for at least 10 minutes, and then the lights returned. But the band stood at the front of the stage and played “acoustic music” for a while longer, perhaps captured by the magic they had just conjured up.
Live music is wonderful because of special, unexpected delights. This would have been a terrific concert without the power outage. With it, the evening became magical.
Enjoy Eight Men of Moidart from a recent Battlefield Band concert.
More to come…