Growing up in a Scottish Highland immigrant community in northern Nova Scotia, the ancient Gaelic language and music of Scotland was, and continues to be, a significant influence on the music and life of the community. And while the passage of time has diminished the impact of both the music and language, a revival has been underway since the late-1980’s. Ashley MacIsaac, Natalie MacMaster, The Rankin Family, Barra MacNeils and many other fine musicians have been at the forefront of this musical revival. Now the language is undergoing it’s own resurgence. In Nova Scotia, the Office of Gaelic Affairs, (Lomairtean na Gàidhlig) a Division of the provincial government Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, is headquartered in Antigonish with an office in Mabou, Inverness County (Cape Breton). Language classes are going strong, and I’m proud to report several of my nieces and nephews are enrolled in learning the original language of our grandparents.On Wednesday evening, I had the pleasure of attending a concert by a band that was influential in my musical growth. The Battlefield Band has been around since 1969. And while it has undergone a number of personnel changes since those early years, it continues to deliver rich, vibrant Celtic music from regions of Scotland that resonant with many people from my home community. Fiddler, bagpiper, vocalist and pianist Ewan Henderson is from Fort William; the last town my ancestors saw in Scotland as they set sail as immigrants to the New World in the late 19th century. Fiddler Alisdair White is from the Isle of Lewis – the ancestral home of many families from Antigonish and Inverness Counties. Along with Sean O’Donnell and piper Mike Katz, the band continues to deliver music from these regions on the instruments that our people brought with them to the new world – bagpipes, fiddles and their own voices. The concert had an intimate feeling to it, similar to a ceilidh with musicians trading and sharing instruments. There was no technical magic to this concert, no blaring electric instrumentation or fancy lighting to distract from the essence of the music. It was pure, simple Celtic music, delivered by a competent quartet of musicians steeped in the musical traditions of the Scottish Highland’s. I thank the Rogue Folk Club for bringing in the group, their only Canadian appearance on the band’s current tour. I am glad to provide their latest video here for your enjoyment.
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