Robbie Burns Day will be celebrated a little differently this year, but celebrated it will be as the Tidemark Theatre presents a live virtual celebration that will be available for ticketholders to view for three days. Black Press File Photo

Robbie Burns Day will be celebrated a little differently this year, but celebrated it will be as the Tidemark Theatre presents a live virtual celebration that will be available for ticketholders to view for three days. Black Press File Photo

Celebrating Burns Night in a pandemic: The Bard & His Ballads

A tale of whisky and haggis, and of how Robbie Burns would emerge as a champion for the common man

This year marks the 225th year since Robert Burns’ death, an important landmark.

Since the first Burns Dinner in 1801, people have gathered to pay homage to this great Scottish Bard.

This year due to COVID-19 restrictions, this Burns’ Day tradition has been upended, but there’s still a way to celebrate: by joining songsmith Bruce Coughlan with special guests Daniel Lapp on fiddle and piano and René Cusson on pipes and whistles in a virtual Burns Night Musical Celebration, An Address to Robbie Burns.

The stage is set for an intimate portrait of Burns in his own time. The story of his dramatic life and tragic death, woven through the lines of his own songs.

It’s a tale of whisky and haggis, and of how Robbie Burns would emerge as a symbol of the Scots identity, and a champion for the common man, whose genius continues to shine 225 years later.

This virtual live event is set for Friday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. and is being presented by Campbell River’s Tidemark Theatre.

When COVID hit and all venues had to close, the Tidemark was one of the first venues to pivot and purchase state-of-the-art streaming equipment with five cameras, and create a stage for streaming with the addition of lighting and sound technicians.

They have built a situation where the artists can perform to ensure the best quality digital concert experience for their patrons, which is why they have been selected to host this amazing event. To date they have produced over 40 streaming concerts, festivals and events.

For those who can’t make it to the live event, tickets purchased also enable the ticket holder to enjoy the recorded live event anytime until Robbie Burns Day, Monday, Jan. 25, at 10:30 p.m.

“I have always admired the works of Robbie Burns and have taken pains to decode much of the broad Scots vernacular in which it’s so brilliantly framed,” Coughlan says.

“I have performed dozens of Burns dinners, led the tartan throngs singing Auld Lang Syne, Ae Fond Kiss and The Star o’ Rabbie Burns, and have on rare occasions, amidst all the pipes, pomp and circumstance, been permitted to address the hallowed haggis! Still, my mind begged for context.

“Who was Robbie Burns in his own time?” Coughlan continues. “A man of modest means, possessed of “mither wit and native fire” Burns’ words themselves reveal much about the man, his humility, humanity, passion, compassion, humour & insight.”

Robert Burns published over 350 songs, and as a songwriter himself, Coughlan says he is “especially drawn to his craft.”

“The songs Burns either wrote or adapted have survived because of the quality of writing and how simply and eloquently they convey immensely powerful messages,” Coughlan says. “In approaching the music of Robert Burns, I’ve drawn on the work of many great ballad singers. Expect to hear shades of Ewan MacColl, Dick Gaughan, Archie Fisher, Andy M Stewart, Ian Benzie, Jim Malcolm & Dougie McLean. Like many Celtic balladeers I’ll be playing guitar in DADGAD tuning.”

In Burns’ time, the Scots were a culturally and economically oppressed people.

Robert Burns gave voice to their struggle. His work, in so many ways, reflects the nobility of working-class life.

By embracing the older, common Scots tongue, what Burns was saying is “This is who we are, and we will not be treated as less than,” and Coughlan says that message still resounds today with people the world over.

Tickets are available oneline at for only $20 including GST, plus applicable fees.

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