Tag Archives: Burns Night

Outlander’s Sam Heughan Brings Burns Lyrics to Life

Sam HeughanActor Sam Heughan, who stars in the hit television series ‘Outlander,‘ shows off his Scottish roots with renditions of the classic Robert Burns’ songs, A Red, Red Rose and Ae Fond Kiss.

A Red, Red Rose is a Scottish song which Burns is said to have picked up in the country. His writing of the lyrics immortalized the traditional song. The Scottish Bard gifted the lyrics to Scots singer Pietro Urbani, who created a melody for the verses.

The song has been covered by artists throughout history. Recent renditions were performed by the likes of Jean Redpath, Pat Boone, and Carly Simon. Bob Dylan cites Burns’ 1794 song A Red, Red Rose, as the lyrics that have had the biggest effect on his life.

Listen to Sam Heughan read A Red, Red Rose in this video:

Burns wrote Ae Fond Kiss for Mrs Agnes Maclehose, with whom he had a secret relationship. He penned the lyrics after their final meeting and sent it to Mrs McLehose before she departed Edinburgh for Jamaica to be with her estranged husband.

The letter can be viewed at the National Library of Scotland, where it is a part of the Watson Autograph Collection of manuscripts.

Listen to Sam Heughan’s reading of Ae Fond Kiss in this video:

Sam Heughan’s renditions of Burns poems are part of a series released by the Scottish Government as part of a campaign to celebrate the Bard across the globe. January 25 is Burns Night in Scotland, as it is the poet’s date of birth. Celebrate Burns Night with these beautiful poetry readings.

Burns Night is Almost Here!

As Burns Night quickly approaches, and festivities are in full swing, let’s take a look back in time at this centuries-old celebration and its namesake bard!

  • Robert Burns, one of Scotland’s most celebrated national poets, is remembered throughout the world for his poems and compositions. His poem-turned-song, Auld Lang Syne, is a particular favorite to be sung at Hogmanay and New Year’s celebrations across the globe
  • Burns Night celebrations and suppers take place around the time of year of Robert Burns’s birthday and have been held for over 200 years to celebrate his life and work
  • The celebrations were originally instated by friends of Robert Burns to commemorate the five-year anniversary of his death
  • A traditional Burns supper will often involve haggis, whisky, and the recitation of Burns’s poetry (visit this online archive for a complete index of Burns’s works), as well as piping in the guests, an address to the haggis and a ‘toast to the lassies’

Test your knowledge of Burns Night with this quiz, and take a look at this fantastic video by AboutScotland for a short animation on the story of Robert Burns:

If you haven’t yet picked up your tickets for the 20th annual ASF Burns Night Gala Celebration on Friday, January 16 at The University Club of New York, there’s still time! We’re delighted that acclaimed Ayr singer Jamie McGeechan, known as “Little Fire,” will be joining us for the evening and playing music as part of the festivities. The supper will also feature the wonderful music of vocalist Maureen McMullen and Hannah Read and Friends.

Little Fire. Image courtesy of Iain Brown/Ayrshire Post

We can’t wait to see you and honor one of Scotland’s most celebrated poets in style, song, and verse!


4,000 Likes on Facebook! ASF Thanks You!

In celebration of 4,000 likes on Facebook, all of us at ASF would like to thank you for your continued support this year. What a delightful way to end 2014 and ring in the New Year!

As we approach 2015, we look forward to another incredible year of community and events, from our Burns Night Celebration Dinner on January 16 to the New York Tartan Day Parade on April 11, along with many more events and partner events throughout the year. Stay up-to-date on ASF’s goings-on via our website and Facebook events page.

We look forward to seeing you!


Burns Night is Approaching… Join Us in a Record-Breaking Song!

On Friday, January 16, 2015, the American-Scottish Foundation invites members and friends to join for the 20th annual Burns Night celebration, held in association with the University Club, New York.

Join us as we honor and celebrate Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns, in words and music. Save the date! Reserve your tickets for a wonderful evening in true Scottish style and tradition! 

burns night

In celebration of Burns Night, AboutScotland is trying to break the Guinness World Record for the biggest version of people singing Robert Burns’s most famous poem, ‘Auld Lang Syne‘ – and they’d love your help!

To join us in contributing to their video compilation, visit Scotland.org’s website to hear Whisky Kiss’s recording of the song, get a feel for the tempo, download an audio track of background music, and learn the lyrics. Then, record a video of yourself or friends singing the lyrics with the provided background music and send it in before January 10! Submission instructions can be found on their website above.

We hope you’ll join us in attempting to break this world record and honor Robert Burns in true Scottish style!

Burns Season is upon us…


For the next two weeks Robert Burns will be celebrated around the world in words and music. On Friday, January 17, the American-Scottish Foundation held its 19th Annual Burns Celebration in association with the University Club, New York.

With over 250 people in attendance the evening was awash in tartan, bagpipes, haggis and reels as Scotland’s Bard was celebrated with music from Maureen McMullan and Mike Ogletree and the wonderful sounds of Hannah Read & Friends with their unique blend of Appalachian and Celtic Root music.

Kenneth Donnelly delivered a rousing Address To The Haggis, with great theatrical gusto. The procession was led by Andy Hamilton of the New York Pipes and Drums with the Chef Bagli, David McNicoll and the Stone Family completing the presentation.

ASF would like to thank WIiliam Grant USA for the Balvenie whisky tasting.

The Raffle was made possible by the generous support of:

ASF Burns Supper

January 17, 2014

The American Scottish Foundation is holding its 19th annual Burns Supper in NYC tonight. Recently we spoke with Alan Bain, Chairman of the ASF, about this evening’s event.

What is the history of the ASF’s Burns Supper?
Our Burns Supper started in the early 1990’s. I was head of the American-Scottish Foundation, and also on the board of a private club. The club management was noting the absence of social activities in the dead of winter, and I remembered my father, a Scot and a great Burns fan, talking about Burns Suppers. I suggested they might enjoy hosting a Supper in conjunction with the ASF, and so it began. Our first Burns Night Supper was in January 1995.

How has the event evolved over the years?
The foundation is about to host its 19th dinner. There have been a few fundamental changes – for example, many in our audience are not familiar with Robert Burns, and an in-depth lecture for the “Immortal Memory” may be too cerebral. Also, some Scots’ accents were too difficult for American ears! [laughs] But the audience really enjoys Burns’ music and words, so we have had skillful performers act out such works as “Holy Willie’s Prayer” and “Tam O’Shanter.” These are greatly enjoyable. We also often have the “Toast to the Lassies” and “The Lassies’ Response” sung using Burns’ songs, the toasts concluding with duets. Over the years, the music has become less operatic in style and more country/folk. Recently, we have enjoyed Alyth McCormack from the Isle of Lewis, Fiona Kennedy from Aberdeen, and Phaime Gow from Edinburgh. We’re delighted that Maureen McMullen and Mike Ogletree are returning this year to perform the toasts.

Who attends?
What is particularly successful about the program is the partnership between the club and the ASF, resulting in attendees from both groups. We also welcomed women at a time when several Scottish-American societies were men-only. We pick an early date for our dinner as there are several Burns Suppers in New York City, and this enables local Scots to attend more than one. And over the years, we’ve continued to encourage our members to bring new people, introducing them to this great tradition.

What can they expect to experience this year?
The evening is a celebration of Robert Burns in true Scottish style. We will have over 250 guests joining us, many returning each year. The setting we have heard described as “the nearest one can come to a Burns celebration in the Highlands,” a grand paneled dining room in a landmarked building designed by a Scot. Guests are greeted to the strains of the Foundation’s piper and enjoy a whisky tasting reception before being piped into dinner. Once seated and Grace is said, the music begins, performed by Maureen McMullen and Atlantic Seaway, Then it’s time for the ceremonial Haggis procession, where it is carried into the room by the chef, the piper, the whisky bearers – it’s a lot of fun. The “Address to a Haggis” is a key element of the evening, and will be performed by Ken Donnelly. Originally from Glasgow, Ken is a banker, a former board member, a member of the Burns Society, and great orator – his delivery is dramatic, clear and compelling. During dinner, there are short introductory remarks about Robert Burns, his reputation and the celebration of his life occurring around the world. Ambassador Uden will bring greetings from the British Consul General; Alfred Bissett, former president of the St. Andrew ‘s Society of the State of New York, will give the Toast to the Queen; Darren Burgess, Second Secretary, the Scottish Government, will bring greetings from Scotland; and John Booth, Head of Marketing, the Scottish Government, will give the toast to the President. The musical toasts will be followed by the Reels (an energetic set of Scottish dances led by Hannah Read) and the drawing of the Winter Raffle, bringing the formal part of the evening to a close. The bar stays open and the dancing continues until 11:00pm.

Why is it an important gathering for the Scottish community there?
Scots around the world have a deep love for Robert Burns’ music and poetry, and especially his themes of humanity and compassion. When the holidays have passed, and spring is far away, it’s wonderful to be able to get together with family and friends, celebrate his spirit, and feast and sing and dance. The success of the evening comes from a mix of the audience, their enjoyment, the opportunity to celebrate Burns’ memory, and being part of a cultural tradition that is being shared around the world.

What are the future plans for the soiree?
We recently discussed this with several of our members, and they did not want us to change anything. So for now, I expect that the evening will continue in much the same vein – keeping it fresh and with new musical talent. The Reels are a growing element and have added considerable vitality to the evening.

What else does the ASF have on tap for the coming months?
On February 25th, we have a New Member Night at a wonderful spot, Cafe Tallulah. Then on March 19, we’ll be heralding the arrival of the Kelpies to Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan! These are two 15-foot-tall scale models of Andy Scott’s massive 100-ft. horse sculptures. They will be on display for a month, making Bryant Park a center for the celebration of Scotland in New York, and connecting with the formal opening of the Helix Project with the full-size Kelpies in Falkirk, Scotland. The rest of February and March will be devoted to preparing for Tartan/Scotland Week (now up to two weeks) in April. For the ASF, 2014 is going to be a landmark year. We are involved in events not only in New York but also in Washington, DC. For example, Ross Gillespie and Tricia Malley, award-winning photographers from Glasgow, will have an exhibit entitled “As Others See Us” at POP International in the Citicorp Building. The exhibit consists of portraits of well-known Scots incorporating lines taken from their favorite piece of Burns’ work. The ASF is a founding member of the National Tartan Day New York Committee, and continues to work organizing the Tartan Day Parade in New York City, coordinating events that week, and assisting the Scottish Government in implementing its plans to bring its tourism and Homecoming messages to an American audience.