“For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne. We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”
The Scottish poet Robert Burns penned these words 230 years ago, and they still are sung by millions of New Year’s Eve revelers around the world. It’s a timeless, universal sentiment: gathering with friends to share a toast to the good times.
Another opportunity to gather with friends and make new memories takes place at the end of January each year in Pittsburgh and around the globe as Robert Burns Suppers mark the prolific 18th-century poet’s birthday, which is Jan. 25.
This year, the Macdonald Pipe Band of Pittsburgh’s annual Burns Supper will take place at 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Pittsburgh’s North Hills.
“The Burns Supper is a celebration of all things Scottish, and it’s a great mid-winter night out. We have the pipe band, Highland dancers, Burns poetry, a rich and savory steak pie for dinner, and even haggis for those daring enough to try the traditional Scottish dish,” said Betsy Bethel-McFarland of Martins Ferry, Ohio, pipe major of the Macdonald Pipe Band.
“Burns Suppers can be intimate affairs held in someone’s living room, or big public events such as ours. We offer old and new friends in the tri-state region the opportunity to celebrate with us in grand style,” she said.
The Burns Supper is a fundraising event for the band, which operates solely on donations and money earned through performing. The event will include an extensive basket raffle, 50/50 raffle and a special raffle for a McCallum bagpipe practice chanter.
Reciting Burns’ “Address to a Haggis” prior to dinner will be Patrick Regan, a Pittsburgh piper and entertainer whose rousing rendition of the poem has delighted audiences for many years. Laura Wagner Bondi, a teacher, author and musician from the North Hills, will present the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns speech, a short tribute to the Scottish bard.
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Allan Olson, son of the late Davey Olson, a founding member of the band, will give Burns’ Selkirk Grace blessing, and Scottish ex-pat Arthur McAra of Wexford will serve as emcee. The Celtic Spirit Highland Dancers based in Pittsburgh and professional piper Palmer Shonk of Avalon also will perform.
In addition, a Celtic marketplace will be set up by St. Brendan’s Crossing, with a portion of the proceeds donated to the band.
Founded in 1966, the Macdonald Pipe Band is the longest continuously operating pipe band in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The band has performed with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and Rod Stewart and twice competed on the world stage at the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.
The Macdonald pipes and drums perform annually at the Pittsburgh Irish Festival, Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day Parade, CHANGE Inc. St. Paddy’s Fest at Mountaineer Race Track in Chester, W.Va., Follansbee Community Days Parade in Follansbee, W.Va., and the Wheeling Celtic Celebration in Wheeling, W.Va., among other festivals, parades and Highland games.