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Burns an’ Mair - BBC Programme

11 January 2018

BBC Northern Ireland continues its week of programmes and content celebrating the life and work of Robert Burns with a one-hour music special recorded at Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church in Belfast. Presented by Sylvia Burnside and Mark Wilson, Burns An’ Mair, will be broadcast on BBC Two Northern Ireland at 9pm on Thursday 25 January, the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns.

Burns an’ Mair - Thursday 25 January

BBC Two Northern Ireland, 9pm

Here in Northern Ireland, we are more than familiar with the major poetic works of Robert Burns. Though he has long been heralded as Scotland’s National poet, Burns was primarily a songwriter with an often-overlooked body of work containing upwards of 400 songs. He was a composer and arranger of consummate skill, a fiddle player and a song collector.

This programme, made by Barking Films, celebrates Burns but not in the traditional sense with an ‘Address to a Haggis’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’, delving instead more deeply into the musical world of Robert Burns, and the writers and performers his work inspired.

Burns had a lifelong passion for music and made a major contribution to ‘the Scots Musical Museum’. Published in the early 1800s, this collection of folk songs played a pivotal role in the preservation of Scotland’s song tradition. As well as a collector, Burns was an innovator who re-wrote and reshaped many of the songs and tunes he included in this publication. One of these was the haunting ‘Green Grow the Rashes O’, performed in the show by the celebrated Scottish singer Siobhan Miller.

Rasharkin-born singer/songwriter Andy Calderwood who performs a special arrangement of  ‘A Mans A Man for A’ That’, found a real affinity between Burns’ language and the Ulster-Scots he grew up with in County Antrim.

Robert Burns was an admirer of the most famous Scottish fiddle player of the 18th century, Neil Gow. The internationally acclaimed duo of Scottish Fiddle player Alasdair Fraser and American cello virtuoso Natalie Haas deliver a set inspired by Gow’s legacy that combines tradition and innovation.

Echoing Burns’ love of the natural world, young Lisburn singer, Ruth Trimble, who has toured with Beth Neilson Chapman, performs the beautiful Wild Mountainside written by contemporary Scottish songwriter John Douglas.

Ballyclare High School Choir sing a cantaireachd (a musical tradition which employs chanting) along with Grahame Harris playing a pibroch (a form of music for the Scottish pipes) on Highland pipes. While other local acts taking part in the programme include piper Scott Wallace and Ballymena fiddle players Diane McCullough and Emma Nevin.