The heart of this particular Burns Supper – one of three Celtic Connections events celebrating his 254th birthday, thanks to extra funding from Scotland’s Winter Festivals – was very firmly in the Highlands, what with the combined forces of Breabach and Blazin’ Fiddles as house band, and the wonderful Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes among the featured guests.
Big Burns Night - Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
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Figuratively, though, the show took place in “Rab’s Bar”, a tartan-bedecked howff specially constructed onstage – complete with actual bar, and Duncan Chisholm serving as publican, plus a dining table alongside, where the musicians took turns tucking in to haggis, neeps and tatties (prepared by “celebrity chef” Ross Ainslie) when sitting out a number. The haggis was addressed and eviscerated with gusto by MC Kevin Macleod (of Singing Kettle fame, but better known in these parts as compère of the Celtic Connections Festival Club), while there were further fine recitations – and an excellent Immortal Memory – from Scotland’s Makar Liz Lochhead.
The music was broadly Burns-themed, including MacInnes’s sublimely artless yet unerring rendition of I Ho Ro ’s Na Hug Oro Eile, the Tiree love lyric which supplied the melody for Ae Fond Kiss, and other tunes from the songbook woven through a wealth of splendidly appointed instrumentals. Other vocal highlights were a stunningly soulful, sensual My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose from US visitor Sarah Jarosz, and a heartwarming mass singalong with Dougie MacLean on Green Grow the Rushes, O. With a sellout audience including Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop, this was a night that Rabbie himself would surely have relished.