Annual Robert Burns celebration moves to McCandless
In Scotland and around the world, the end of January marks a time to eat, drink and be merry in celebration of the Scottish Bard, the prolific poet and lyricist Robert Burns, who was born Jan. 25, 1759.
In the Pittsburgh area, one such celebration will take place Jan. 27 at the Holy Trinity Center in McCandless.
The event includes Scottish fare such as steak pie and haggis; music and the Celtic Spirit Highland Dancers; a salute to Burns delivered by Hampton Township author and artist Laura Bondi; and recitations of Burns' works, including a rousing rendition of “To a Haggis” by North Side resident and bagpiper Patrick Regan.
Professional piper Palmer Shonk will provide dinner entertainment on the smallpipes.
The Macdonald Pipe Band, which began 52 years ago at Carnegie Institute of Technology, is a nonprofit organization devoted to perpetuating and celebrating the Scottish arts in the tri-state region.
Members play the Highland pipes and drums and hail from the city, the suburbs and as far away as Somerset and Chester, W.Va.
The band has been named Best Pipe Band in both the Pittsburgh St. Patrick's Day and Labor Day parades. It also has performed for Prince Charles, opened for singer Rod Stewart, and competed around the eastern United States, Ontario and twice in the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.
The Burns Supper helps the band raise money to purchase uniforms and instrument parts.
“The Burns Supper is a bright spot in the dead of the Pittsburgh winter,” said the band's leader, Betsy Bethel-McFarland. “We look forward to celebrating a night of poetry, piping and all things Scottish in our new venue at the Holy Trinity Center.”
For more than a decade, the dinner was held at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Mt. Lebanon, but the church no longer is open for events in January. Unlike the previous venue, Holy Trinity has ample, level parking and the performance hall is located on the first floor, both pluses for guests, Bethel-McFarland said.
Burns is best known as the writer of the lyrics to “Auld Lang Syne,” which has become a New Year's anthem around the world. He also wrote such literary standards as “My Luv's Like a Red, Red Rose” and “To a Mouse.”
According to the Poetry Foundation, Burns was hailed for his pre-Romantic allegiances to nature, feelings and emotions. He was a mouthpiece for the Scottish everyman, writing in the common Scots dialect, which is now obsolete. He also was known for his keen observation of discrepancies between the rich and the poor and for his “fierce stance of freedom and against authority.” In addition to dinner and the performances, the evening will include a Celtic marketplace provided by St. Brendan's Crossing and a raffle of prizes, including a Scotch whisky basket, local handmade jewelry and Pittsburgh sports memorabilia.