HE now lives in New York City but Lewis-born virtuoso fiddler Alasdair White is quick to dispel any notion that he comes from the back of beyond.

White believes it’s a mistake to think that islands and rural places are of little importance to the wider cultural landscape.

Instead, he is convinced they are the driving force behind heritage and identity on a global scale and that Lewis and its music are of singular importance to Scotland’s musical heritage – beliefs which have only been reinforced by a lifetime of travel.

It’s why his specially commissioned upcoming concert is called The Heart Of Beyond, a phrase from Hebridean author Kevin MacNeil’s novel The Stornoway Way.

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It reads: “We do not live in the back of beyond, we live in the very heart of beyond.”

White said: “I think Kevin’s quote really speaks volumes as it challenges some common misconceptions of rural or remote areas. It would be a mistake to think places like Lewis don’t have an impact beyond their immediate boundaries – nothing could be further from the truth.

“Often the people and the culture that have the biggest impact nationally and internationally are from what would be considered remote or rural places.

“That’s not to say that rural or Gaelic culture is in any way superior or anything – it’s just that it deserves parity in the eyes of people concerned about culture and those who take an interest in their country’s heritage.”

White added that it was the nature of people in rural places to aim to go out and see the world beyond their neighbourhoods – even if just for economic reasons.

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“Lots of people from my parents’ generations joined the Merchant Navy or moved abroad for work and if people do that then return home, they bring with them the experience they have garnered from being out and about and that is really important.

“It was something that was very clear to me growing up. There were loads of people who always had a great perspective on the world. They knew there was a whole big world out there but they chose to return and live on Lewis and they weren’t living there because there were no other options.

“They wanted to live there and were very aware of Lewis’s place in the wider world as well, which is something that is actually quite important to me the older I get and the more time I spend away from home. That is very stark for me.”

Communities surrounded by the sea are particularly outward looking, White suggested.

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“They have a tradition of going out and making their own way in the world and gaining some kind of perspective of their homeland’s place within a wider international context,” he said Smaller communities also tend to have greater interaction between generations which supports the survival of cultural traditions.

“Learning from people you know, like and respect adds greater weight to the tradition’s significance in your mind, I think,” said White.

His concert will open the An Lanntair programme for this year’s HebCelt festival from July 17-20, which features Scottish and international talent including headliners James, Del Amitri and Skipinnish.

The National: HebCelt

White’s show will be a rare opportunity to hear his original compositions in his hometown venue. He will be joined by Aaron Jones on bouzouki, Ewan MacPherson on guitar and mandolin, and fellow Leòdhasach James Duncan MacKenzie on pipes and flute.

Widely regarded as one of the foremost Scottish fiddler players of his generation, White has been a member of Scotland’s seminal Battlefield Band for over 16 years, touring extensively throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.

He has also performed and recorded as a guest with many of the best-known names in Scottish, Irish and Breton traditional music including Kathleen MacInnis, Julie Fowlis, Eddi Reader, Allan MacDonald, Manus Lunny, Nuala Kennedy, and Arnaud Ciapolino. Current ongoing projects include Dàimh, the Alan Kelly Gang and the Battlefield Band.

HebCelt artist programmer, Michelle Shields, said: “The HebCelt team are excited to be partnering with An Lanntair again this year to bring a brilliant series of performances to the heart of Stornoway for all the community to discover.

“We’ve got fantastic artists from the Hebrides, Scotland and beyond putting on shows during the festival week and I would encourage locals and visitors alike to make the most of this opportunity to enjoy them, both at An Lanntair and through our Breasclete Community Concert.”