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Nanaimo musician to play the pipes and whistles in Robbie Burns tribute show

René Cusson to join Bruce Coughlan and Daniel Lapp in Tidemark Theatre concert
Robbie Burns Day will be celebrated a little differently this year, but celebrated it will be as the Tidemark Theatre presents a live virtual celebration that will be available for ticket holders to view for three days. (Black Press File Photo)

Fans of the Scottish bard Robert Burns have been holding dinners in his honour for more than 200 years. This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Robbie Burns Day tradition has been upended, but there’s still a way to celebrate.

On Jan. 22, roots musician Bruce Coughlan, fiddler and pianist Daniel Lapp and Nanaimo-based piper and whistler René Cusson present Burns Night 2021: The Bard and His Ballads, a virtual live show from Campbell River’s Tidemark Theatre. Tickets holders can also watch the recorded live event anytime until Jan. 25, Robbie Burns Day.

The concert promises “an intimate portrait of Burns in his own time. The story of his dramatic life and tragic death, woven through the lines of his own songs.” Burns published more than 350 songs, and as a songwriter himself, Coughlan says he is “especially drawn to his craft.”

“The songs Burns either wrote or adapted have survived because of the quality of writing and how simply and eloquently they convey immensely powerful messages,” Coughlan said. “In approaching the music of Robert Burns, I’ve drawn on the work of many great ballad singers.”

Coughlan said he’s always admired Burns’s works and has “taken pains to decode much of the broad Scots vernacular in which it’s so brilliantly framed.”

“I have performed dozens of Burns dinners, led the tartan throngs singing Auld Lang Syne, Ae Fond Kiss and The Star o’ Rabbie Burns, and have on rare occasions, amidst all the pipes, pomp and circumstance, been permitted to address the hallowed haggis. Still, my mind begged for context,” Coughland said in a press release. “Who was Robbie Burns in his own time? A man of modest means, possessed of ‘mither wit and native fire,’ Burns’s words themselves reveal much about the man, his humility, humanity, passion, compassion, humour and insight.”

WHAT’S ON … Burns Night 2021: The Bard and His Ballads virtual live show from the Tidemark Theatre in Campbell River. Tickets $20, available at

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