Haggis ready for Burns night in Cowichan

The Cowichan Pipers and Drummers Society is reminding everyone that Robbie Burns Day is just around the corner and that means it’s time for the group’s 16th annual celebration of the Scottish bard.

This year the event is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 24 at the Duncan Travelodge.

Doors open at 5:30 with the program starting at 6:30 p.m. Entertainment will consist of performances by the Cowichan Pipes Drums band, the Kathy White Highland Dancers and this year it will also feature a musical tribute to the Immortal Memory of Robbie Burns.

Tickets to the event are $50 for adults and $25 for children under 16. Get them from Chuck Robertson at chuckrobertson@shaw.ca The ticket price includes a full course meal. There will also be a no host bar.

The event celebrates Robbie Burns’ birthday on Jan. 25, 1759 in Alloway, Scotland but it is also aimed at promoting the Scottish culture, food and music in the Cowichan Valley.

The celebration begins with the parading in of the haggis accompanied by a piper, sword bearer, haggis bearer, as well as a bearer of the Scottish national drink. This is followed by the address to the haggis, this year by Andrew Hutchison, the Selkirk Grace, and then a full course meal of haggis, roast beef, neeps (turnips), chappit tatties (mashed potatoes), vegetables, salads, dessert and coffee/tea.

There will also be a fish dish for those who cannot eat meat. Once everyone has had their fill of good food, the celebrations of toasts and music will begin.

Once the toasts have been completed, the pipes and drums will play and the musical tribute will begin.

"We’ve got a local fellow, Gordon Keel, who’s going to be singing for us. That will be something different," band president Derek Crawford said.

Keel is a talented entertainer, who was recently seen as Laughalot in the Shawnigan Players production of Rumplestiltskin.

The evening will also include a silent auction to help generate additional funds to help support the band as it prepares for a trip to China in 2015.

The pipers and drummers will represent Canada and the Cowichan Valley at next September’s Shanghai Tourism Festival.

"For a community-based organization with members from Mill Bay to Cedar, it’s a unique chance," Crawford said.

The 45-50 member traveling group will include pipers, drummers, dancers, flag-and banner-bearers.

"This is an international event that involves more than 90 groups invited from around the world and is highlighted by a grand parade Sept. 12 on Huaihai Road which is viewed by eight to nine million spectators," he said.

"It is televised to an audience in the hundreds of millions."

In addition, the Cowichan group will have other performances around Shanghai during the fiveday event.

Following the festival, the band will travel and perform in centres near Shanghai and at Beijing, and play on the Great Wall, he added.

"We received an invitation several months ago and had tentatively agreed to it but now we’re actively working towards fundraising," Crawford said. "We’d like to make it possible for everybody that wants to go to make the trip so that money’s no object. Some people are a little more strapped than others. Going to China is a big undertaking. We’re really excited about it. We’ve been in touch with a couple of the groups that went this past September and it sounds very good.

"One participant from this year’s festival described it to us: ‘The most incredible mind-blowing experience is coming to the dress rehearsal and finding out that the world has come to Shanghai, as this is probably the closest thing to being in the Olympics, as you will see and hear music from countries from all over the world!’" A link to view the 2014 parade can be found at www.youtube. com/watch?v=s0ndWDCQwQU

To help band members make this never-to-be-forgotten trip, the Cowichan Pipes Drums are selling raffle tickets for $10 each on a Pacific Coast Cruise for two, which will be drawn at the Robert Burns celebration on Jan. 24. Tickets are available from any band member or from Pete at palmd@island.net or 250-246-7015.

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