Books and music for a Burns Night supper

Celebrate the Scottish bard's birthday in words and music

By Mike Lewis

January 25 is the day when Scots everywhere gather for a feast in honor of Robert Burns. And, as I wrote elsewhere on Veg World, there's no reason for vegetarians or vegans to feel left out (see Yes, you CAN have a vegetarian Burns Night supper.)

But there's more to Burns Night than food and drink. Music, poetry, speeches and ritual all have their part to play.

Planning the big event

Nancy Marshall's Burns Supper Companion is the definitive guide for those planning a Burns Night supper. Widely consulted in Scotland and beyond, it sets out the traditional format for the evening, including sample speeches. It also has a short biography of the Robert Burns, and a selection of his poems and songs. This book will appeal to anyone having an interest in the bard, and not just on January 25.
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Hugh Douglas's Burns Supper Companion is another useful guide. Written by a leading Burns biographer and historian whose own family had connections with the community where Burns lived, this book will tell you all you need to know about organizing and enjoying the big event.
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Words and music

The Poems and Songs of Robert Burns. A CD audio book containing a wide range of Burns songs and lyrical poems, all read by John Cairney, famous for his performances of the bard's works.
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Eddi Reader Sings the Songs of Robert Burns. A CD of 18 of Burns' best-loved songs, beautifully sung by Eddi Reader.
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The Scottish Collection. This 3-disc box set, with over 60 classic Scottish songs, will provide just the right atmosphere for Burns Night or any other Scottish gathering.
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Books about Robert Burns and his work

Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns. This volume contains the complete text of all of Burns' poems and the words of all his songs. To help place the works in context, the book includes historical and biographical notes. There's also a useful glossary of Scots words. If you're looking for a selection of verse and songs for your Burns Night supper, this book would be an excellent source.
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The Life of Robert Burns, by Catherine Carswell. A classic biography, which 'seeks to shake the image of Burns as a romantic hero [it] brings to life the personality of this man, showing him to be passionate, hard-living, generous, melancholic, morbid and triumphant.' (Quoted from the synopsis.)
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Updated October 2010

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