The Ohio Valley continues to be well represented in the Macdonald Pipe Band of Pittsburgh, as two officers and two members hail from both sides of the river.
Band officials are hopeful that means more Ohio Valley residents will join the band in celebrating its annual salute to Scottish poet Robert Burns. The annual Burns Supper will take place Saturday, Jan. 22, at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Mount Lebanon, Pa., not far from South Hills Village Mall.
"One of the band's two pipe sergeants is Joe Dobson, a Wheeling resident; and two brothers from Mingo Junction, Bron and Forrest Turner, play the pipes and snare drum, respectively," said Betsy Bethel-McFarland, pipe major of the band and a Martins Ferry resident. It will be Dobson and the Turners' first Burns Supper performance with the band.
Macdonald Pipe Band of Pittsburgh members pose
following a competition at the Stone Mountain Highland Games in Stone Mountain, Ga., October 2009 (date tag on photo is incorrect). Martins Ferry resident Betsy Bethel-McFarland is pictured in the second row, center.
Burns Suppers are celebrated all over the globe and take place on or near the Jan. 25 birthday of Burns, who wrote such famous songs and poems as "Auld Lang Syne," "Tam O'Shanter" and "To a Mouse."
The Macdonald Pipe Band event features a dinner of steak pie, mashed potatoes with cabbage and leaks, green beans almandine and - for the bold of palate - haggis, a Scottish peasant food made of ground organ meat, oats and spices, boiled in a casing that is traditionally a sheep's stomach.
"The tasting of the haggis is optional, but it wouldn't be a Burns Supper without it," Bethel-McFarland said. Other Burns Supper staples include the lively recitation of Burns' "Address to a Haggis," complete with haggis as a prop; a short tribute to Burns; and toasts to the lassies and the lassies' reply. Bethel-McFarland noted soft drinks are provided; guests may bring other beverages if they wish.
Entertainment for the evening includes performances by the host band, the Edinboro (Pa.) University Pipes and Drums, the Jacqui Pressley Highland Dance Co. and the Celtic Spirit Highland Dancers, both of Pittsburgh. A ceilidh (dance) band made up of Macdonald band members will play during dinner.
Doors open at 5 p.m. to allow time for shopping at the Scottish marketplace provided by Thistle & Pine and to peruse the Chinese raffle items and purchase tickets. The dinner begins at 6 p.m.
The Macdonald Pipe Band of Pittsburgh Inc. is a nonprofit group that was founded more than 40 years ago at Carnegie Tech University, now Carnegie Mellon. Former owner of Idlewild Park, C.K. "Jack" Macdonald, was the band's benefactor for a number of years before it incorporated in 1984.
The band is a popular attraction at the Wheeling Celtic Celebration each March and performs in parades and shows throughout the tri-state area. The band also competes against other bands at Highland games throughout the eastern United States.
Burns Supper tickets are available in advance only. Deadline to purchase tickets is Friday, Jan. 7. Visit www.macdonaldpipeband.net to print out a mail-in order form or purchase tickets through PayPal. For information, call Bethel-McFarland, 304-280-6212.
Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church is located at 123 Gilkeson Road, Mount Lebanon, Pa. The dinner will go on regardless of the weather.