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the big burns night, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

ON the one hand, our national bard's birthday falling when it does is a gift to Celtic Connections; on the other, there's the challenge of continually coming up with fresh variations on the Burns supper.

This one, as well as observing all the rituals such as the address to the haggis, took a fairly broad view of Burns, his influence and the sources he tapped for inspiration, incorporating Edwin Muir and featuring long-time Burns admirer Dougie Maclean leading the audience through amiable sing-alongs on his own Ready for the Storm and the bard's Green Grow the Rashes-o.

While fiddler Duncan Chisholm served drinks in Rab's Bar and performers tucked into haggis between numbers, a house band comprising Breabach and Blazin' Fiddles kept the musical kettle boiling and fiddle trios supplied a vigorous toast to the lassies and the lassies' response. Liz Lochhead's Immortal Memory, complete with a brilliant "From a Mouse" parody, threatened to steal the show but Kathleen MacInnes's soul-catching unaccompanied Gaelic singing and her lovely reading of the Gaelic song whose melody Burns borrowed for Ae Fond Kiss provided the moments that lingered on the drive home.

HHH

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