This article has been written with the support of Burns&Beyond.
4 November 2019
Rachel Sermanni / credit: Ryan Johnston
Edinburgh's Assembly Rooms hosts a range of concerts and events to celebrate Burns Night
With music at the heart of Robert Burns' rich poetic legacy, it seems only fitting to celebrate our national bard with a line-up of some of Scotland's finest musicians. Giving audiences the opportunity to raise a toast to the master songsmith, the Burns&Beyond Festival Club at Edinburgh's Assembly Rooms plays host to an array of concerts and events with folk, rock, whisky and a ceilidh all added to the mix.
Rachel Sermanni, Chris Stout & Catriona McKay
Opening night concert, Thu 23 Jan, 7–8.30pm
Folk-noir balladeer Rachel Sermanni has often cited Burns as an inspiration, her beautifully evocative sound rooted in the traditional while providing hints of contemporary soundscapes through grunge guitars and percussive textures. Having played the inaugural Burns&Beyond festival in 2018 with a sold-out performance 'under the moon', she returns for a special opening night concert with Chris Stout and Catriona McKay.
Sermanni is known for being a truly dynamic singer and songwriter, whose performance and lyrics draw from a deep well of mystic lore, dreams, nature and the simple-complex experience of being human. Nearly four years on from her critically acclaimed second album, Tied To The Moon, she returned this summer with her third full-length effort, So It Turns, which incorporates darker elements into her sound. Weaving in stories about her time spent at a Buddhist monastery in the Scottish Borders, general feelings of hopelessness about the current state of the world and her overwhelming desire for action and change, the album features a range of musical styles and powerful elements of storytelling. Performed live, the album's tracks take on a new life, their sublime and captivating melodies adding extra warmth to Sermanni's heartfelt vocals.
Having collaborated and gigged together for over two decades, Shetland fiddler Chris Stout and Dundonian harpist Catriona McKay have created a unique partnership and a sound that continues to evolve. They have excited audiences all over the world with their own brand of music inspired by the history of their native Shetland Islands and Scotland, taking their traditional instruments and catapulting them into the contemporary world of music making. Awarded Best Duo at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2018, Stout and McKay's performance at the opening night concert promises to showcase their trademark synergy and bold musical expression.
Chris Stout & Catriona McKay
Thu 23 Jan, 9–10.30pm
Elsewhere on the Festival Club programme you'll find Scottish music legend and inspirational artist Edwyn Collins. Recently celebrating his 60th birthday, the musician, producer and Postcard Records cofounder from Edinburgh, has been a pioneer of Scotland's music scene for over 40 years, both as the lead singer of 80s post-punk band Orange Juice and as a solo artist in his own right.
In February 2005, Collins was hospitalised following two cerebral haemorrhages which resulted in aphasia, and he subsequently underwent an extensive rehabilitation period. He resumed his musical career in 2007, with his latest album Badbea released in 2019 to rave reviews and critical acclaim.
'The album is nostalgic really, looking back to the Orange Juice days,' he said of Badbea in a recent interview. It's his fourth album since the brain haemorrhages that nearly took his life. The title of the album itself refers to an abandoned village (pronounced 'Bad Bay'; 'It's near the sea … ghostly … ' he says) just up the coast from where Collins and his wife and manager, Grace Maxwell, now live and have a studio in the northern Scottish village of Helmsdale.
Showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon, Collins embarked on a UK-wide tour in support of Badbea, inviting fans to enjoy the album's frenetic post-punk and soulful balladry, as well as continuing his obvious drive to keep performing and making music. His Burns&Beyond gig offers a chance to see the songwriter in his element and to reflect on a career that has greatly impacted Scottish pop history as we know it today.
Edwyn Collins / credit: John Maher
Fri 24 Jan, 9–10.30pm
The evening following Edwyn Collins' much-anticipated gig, Glasgow-based quartet Tide Lines will be taking to the Assembly Rooms stage with their highly eclectic sound, which is described as 'a combination of Celtic soul, folk philosophy and big guitars with the voice of a Gaelic angel in singer and chief songwriter, Robert Robertson'.
Having first emerged in the summer of 2016 with the release of their debut single,'Far Side Of The World', the band – Robert Robertson on guitar and vocals, Ross Wilson on keyboards, Ali Turner on guitar and bagpipes, and Fergus Munro on drums – have since taken the Scottish music scene by storm, heavily influenced by the traditional music of their native Highlands and Islands.
Their first single of 2019, 'Running at the Dark', charted at number 13 in the Scottish charts in the first week of its release, the and then embarking on a UK tour in spring this year, with a summer of festivals across Europe keeping them busy. Their devoted fans are renowned for creating electric atmospheres and raucous live shows and having recently sold-out the Glasgow Barrowlands for their biggest headline show to date in under 6 minutes, this promises to be a hot ticket for the festival.
No Burns celebration can be truly complete without a good old-fashioned ceilidh and luckily, the Burns&Beyond Festival Club has got you covered. Join Fergie MacDonald – 'The Ceilidh King' – for a tea-time ceilidh and accordion masterclass to kick-start your Burns Night weekend. Fergie formed his first band in 1953, had his first BBC radio broadcast and television appearances in 1964 and, to date, has recorded no less than 32 albums, making him the undisputed Ceilidh King.
Finally, what better way to honour the bard than by enjoying a wee dram or two to close the programme? Whisky connoisseurs and those less familiar with Scotland's national drink can head to the Assembly Rooms' grand Ballroom for an exclusive whisky tasting with Johnnie Walker, which will educate and entertain audiences on the history of the drink, while providing more insight into the process of whisky production in Scotland, the ingredients required and its legacy around the world. Johnnie Walker Ambassador Nigel Robertson will be your guide as you discover the distillation and taste behind some of Johnnie Walkers's most famous brands. In the words of Burns himself, 'freedom an' whisky gang thegither! Take aff your dram!'
Don't end the night without visiting the Festival Club Aftershow, with Davie Miller, founding member of Scottish electronic pioneers FiniTribe, and Paradise Palms Records keeping you dancing until late each night.
Burns&Beyond with Johnnie Walker returns to celebrate the life and legacy of Robert Burns through traditional and contemporary art and culture from across Scotland and beyond. The 2021 free online programme includes KT Tunstall, Aidan O’Rourke, Rachel Sermanni, Aidan Moffat, Kinnaris and more.