Despite the fact that he passed away in 1796, Robert Burns remains, perhaps, the most famous and revered Scottish poet. All over the world, fans continue to hold “Robert Burns Suppers,” where they recite his poetry and celebrate his memory. It’s a tradition that Brad Pierson— Director of Choral Activities at the University of Toledo, as well as founder of the choral group whateverandeveramen— wants to help keep alive.
“I just kinda fell in love with Robert Burns’ poetry years ago,” Pierson said. “When I learned about these traditional events called ‘Burns Suppers’ that happen every year, all around the world, celebrating his poetry, I thought that would be such a cool way to integrate what we do with that sort of an event.”
A new tradition
Whateverandeveramen will host a Robert Burns Night, Saturday, January 29 at Monroe St.’s Black Cloister Brewing Company. The night will feature some of the expected traditions of a typical Burns Supper, given a unique spin by Pierson and his performers.
“The traditional Burns Supper has a well-established lineup. There’s a running order, and certain pieces to the Burns Supper that happen every year, wherever people do them. And we won’t do all of those things, but we will celebrate his poetry, and incorporate some traditional drinking songs that are not Robert Burns, but are festive and appropriate for the event.”
Originated in Seattle in 2012, whateverandeveramen is what Pierson calls a “project-based ensemble”— not a regular group of performers, but a troupe employing different individuals for specific gigs. Pierson continues to organize events in Seattle and is delighted to bring some of the group’s traditions to the Glass City (he started as UT’s choral director in August 2015).
“We’re coming up on our fourth annual Burns Supper in Seattle, and we would certainly love to see this event at Black Cloister continue in future years and potentially to expand with other similar events in the area,” Pierson said.
Creating an experience
The idea to hold a Burns Night at Black Cloister arose out of Pierson’s friendship with Tom Schaeffer, the brewing company’s CEO and President.
“I’m kind of a craft beer-head, and become familiar with Black Cloister as a patron,” Pierson said. “And I know that they’re always interested in doing unique, out-of-the-box things. And Tom is certainly a supporter and patron of the arts. So we’ve talked, really for the last year, about finding a way to get the group in there to determine what sort of event would make sense.”
In addition to music and poetry, the event will feature an appearance by Dr. Neil Reid, who has a reputation as UT’s “beer professor,” to discuss traditional Scottish drinking songs and their cultural relevance. Providing a diverse array of material, Pierson hopes, will create an unforgettable night for attendees.
“One of the big things about performances with whateverandeveramen. is that we are very cognizant of the fact that we are not the most important people in the room. Our guests are why we do what we do, and we want to create an experience for them.”
6-9pm. Sunday, January 29.
$15/includes admission and a ticket good for any draft beer. Black Cloister Brewing Company,
619 Monroe St., 419-214-1500.