Review: Burns in Belfast
The celebration of Robert Burns 221st birthday was a brilliant mix of the Bard’s words and Scotland’s best music.
The Ulster Orchestra and the Ulster-Scots Agency were hosts for the evening and the Waterfront Hall looked sensational with the tartan drapes as a back drop, the lighting, the orchestra gentlemen in white jackets and the ladies in black and that was before we heard a note of music. The guests were in top form, Emily Smith renowned Scottish singer with her husband Jamie McClennan who accompanied her on guitar and then stepped up his profile with some sensational fiddle playing. We were treated to local singers Alan McBride and Sylvia Burnside, the wonderful Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band and the Ulster-Scots Agency Juvenile Pipe Band who came marching on through the audience and raised the roof, around 50 children, some looked about six, so disciplined and surely the future of the pipe band movement is secure in their hands, both drummers and those on the bagpipes. The dancing was provided by the Markethill Ulster-Scots Dancers, six smiling young ladies who didn’t put a foot wrong.
We were guided through the evening by Zoe Salmon who introduced Rabbie Burns himself on a quick visit to Belfast a few days before his actual birthday. He gave us a selection of his poetry including his Address to the Haggis before stabbing it with his dirk as is traditional and downing a wee dram of whisky. Burns, in the guise of re-enactor Christopher Tait, then gave us a potted history of his connections with Belfast telling us that his granddaughter actually came to live in the city and that a lot of his memorabilia rests in the Linenhall Library. He thanked the Belfast Newsletter and the Irish News for publishing his works and helping him make his name.
The evening came to an end with a lively medley of jigs and reels and under the baton of John Logan the orchestra had us jumping in our seats. Then the traditional finale for such a celebration, the entire audience crossed arms and we sang Auld Lang Syne.
Having told you all of this, the good news is that the show was recorded for television and you can see Burns Night at the Waterfront on BBC 2 on Wednesday evening at 7 p.m.