Auld Lang Syne: Pipes perform in poet’s memory

Auld Lang Syne: Pipes perform in poet’s memory


In 1801, friends of the late poet Robert Burns hosted the very first Burns Night to celebrate the memory and legacy of Scotland’s national bard. Two hundred and nineteen years later, Northwest Arkansas’ premier pipe band, the Ozark Highlanders, continues the tradition half a world away with the group’s 37th annual observance of the tradition.

“It’s a traditional thing with bagpipe bands all over to celebrate Robert Burns, who was a famed Scot poet with a very interesting history,” shares Kara Mason, band manager. “We have a cèilidh band that comes and plays, and it’s amazing, usually a local student comes in and performs a solo. And there’s a memorial given for Robert Burns, piping in of the haggis — it’s just a fun night.”

The celebration features traditional Scottish foods — some of Burns’ favorites, including haggis, “the great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race” — readings of some of Burns’ works, pipe performances, a memorial of the bard and a group singing of Burns’ most internationally well-known piece “Auld Lang Syne.”

Burns Night is also the Ozark Highlanders’ one and only fundraiser, used to support members’ education and equipment needs.

“It’s the most frustrating thing I’ve ever learned to do,” Mason says of her own relationship with the pipes. “They say it takes seven years to become a piper. So it takes a lot of dedication, but at the same time, it’s very rewarding because there are several times that we do things for the community that other groups are just not able to do.”

Mason was drawn to the instrument, though, because of her strong Scottish family ancestry on both parents’ sides and also the heritage that existed within her career.

“I’m actually a firefighter, and it’s a very traditional thing in the fire service for bagpipes,” she explains. “It goes back to the Scotch-Irish that immigrated to America were mostly blue collar, the workers. A lot of the Scotch-Irish served as firemen and as police officers, and that’s where the tradition of the bagpipes came in very strong into the fire department as well as police, because the Scotch-Irish were traditionally serving in those capacities.”



Ozark Highlanders Bagpipe Band

37th Annual Robert Burns Night

WHEN — 6 p.m. Jan. 25

WHERE — St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville

COST — $40; reservations required

INFO — 444-0746,

Categories: Music