How it’s New York: Thomas Burt is a New York lawyer, and the Iona Sessions take place in Brooklyn.
How it’s (Irish) Scottish: Robert Burns is Scotland’s favorite son, and symbolizes Scottish heritage. See below for Robert Burns songs sung by Jim Malcolm and the late Andy M. Stewart with Silly Wizard (with the late Johnny Cunningham, Phil Cunningham, Martin Hadden and Gordon Jones, filmed in 1988). Just try not crying when Andy M. sings it.
Trust me. You know a few poems by Robert Burns. What do you sing on New Year’s Eve? “Auld Lang Syne.” That was his. “My luv is like a…” if you’re thinking “red, red rose,” you’re right, and that was his, too. “The best laid plans of mice and men…” also his.
The “Bard of Ayrshire,” who wrote in broad Scots in the 18th century, has become over the years the national symbol of Scotland.
The Irish have Bloomsday, which celebrates James Joyce and “Ulysses.”
The Scots have Burns Night, which celebrates Robert Burns (1759-1796) in a formal dinner, complete with recitations, music, and, of course, Haggis.
There are fewer Scots than Irish in NYC, and as lawyer Thomas Burt points out, the Scots have been very good at assimilating. They are harder to spot, but they are here.
“It’s a focal point to remind us who we are, and what we have in common with each other.”
And the wonderful, amazing, BEST THING ON NEW YORK STAGE “The Strange Undoing of Pruedencia Hart,” which comes to the McKittrick Hotel courtesy of the Scottish National Theatre, with script by David Grieg, has just been extended until March 26th. The show, set in a Scottish pub, includes free drams, Scottish music and a wonderful retelling of a “woman meets the devil” folk tale– in rhyme! (this is one of the best things I’ve ever seen in the theatre. Review/podcast has been delayed thanks to a cold that lasted pretty much all December and January but believe me when I say you do not want to miss this show).
There’s even a Scottish music session: the Iona Session is held on Mondays at Iona, 180 Grand St., in Brooklyn. And they are having a Burns Night celebration, too:
The IONA BURNS NIGHT returns in all it’s shaggy glory next Wednesday 25th January at 9pm. Fiddler Emerald Rae and piper Andrew Forbes will unleash the musical beasts. Poetry, comedy, haggis and cheap adult beverages will flow. JR Strauss, Max Carmichael, Amy Lynn, Calum Michael, Matt Diaz, Pamela Jean Agaloos, Miguel Coias and Karen Brown in the house. Crying and screaming permitted. Also dancing and laughing.
The Burns Society of the City New York was founded in 1871, and is still going strong. It’s a great resource for anyone wanting to throw their own Burns supper, Burt says. It has a supper, and so does the American Scottish Foundation.
But what is a Burns Night (Burns Nicht) supper, anyway? It celebrates the poet’s life, and the history of the Scots, and is held around his birthday: Jan. 25.
“It’s a rallying point for a diaspora that is hard pressed to find rallying points,” Burt says. “We assimilate out of existence into the economic and power structure of anywhere we land.”