Haggis is on the menu in Moab once each year.
The Scottish treat is a savory pudding of sheep’s organs minced with onions and oatmeal.
The Moab Music Festival will feature haggis at their ninth Robert Burns Tribute 6 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9 at the Grand Center. There will also be poetry and song.
Known as “Scotland’s favorite son”, Burns’ birthday has been celebrated since 1802 “to cherish the name of Robert Burn; to foster a love of his writing, and generally to encourage an interest in the Scottish language and literature.”
Burns was the national poet of Scotland and is a pioneer of the Romantic movement that was popular in the late 18th century. He is the author of “Auld Lang Syne,” often sung on New Year’s Eve.
The Moab Music Festival began celebrating Robert Burns in 2003.
The festival’s artist-in-residence Christopher Layer asked Andy Nettell if he’d be interested in hosting the tribute at Back of Beyond Books for a night of Scottish poetry and song.
“It was so crowded it was packed,” Layer said. “People had to stand outside the door.”
The venue continued to grow over the years and is now held at the Grand Center to accommodate the crowd.
“Hundreds of people come,” Layer said.
Layer credits the “cultural curiosity” of Moab people for the success of the decade long tradition.
“One of the reasons I love Moab is that Moab people have cultural curiosity. Some of that has to do with the fact that Moab is somewhat isolated, at least geographically,” Layer said. “But if you walk down aisles of the grocery store you’ll hear two or three different languages. There is something very cosmopolitan about Moab.”
Much of Layer’s musical experiences have been around Scottish music. He taught in Scotland for several years and plays both the Irish Uillean bagpipes and Scottish Highland bagpipes, as well as wood flutes.
There will be music.
The Community Dance Band will play, musicians from the high school will be invited to play.
Layer will be accompanied by local bagpipe player Ricky Foster and songwriter Kate MacLeod who is known as a strummer and thrummer of fiddle and guitar.
“Every year I study up on Robert Burns’ music for the Burns’ celebrations that I sing in. I learn a new song every year,” McLeod said. “I’m wondering if Robert Burns had a fetish about making love in fields, or if it was just that during his cultural time frame you could not mention beds.”
Layer described Burns as a “consummate genius.”
“He has some of the most beautiful songs, but he also wrote some very bawdy songs,” Layer said. “For his short life, he lived a lot of life.”
Burns was only 34 years old when he died.
“There is something to his words that are inclusive and appealing to so many people,” Layer said. “
The highlight of the night is the “Address to the Haggis.”
“It is a soliloquy to a sausage and goes with the droll Scottish humor. It dramatizes the whole affair,” Layer said. “If there is a poet who could dramatize chopped liver, it is Robert Burns.”
And dramatic it is.
Rob Regher, described by Layer as “the tallest guy in town” carries the haggis into the hall on a silver platter. Flora Erickson, a Scottish lass from the Isle of Lewis, carries the sword.
Flora Erickson, a Scottish lass from the Isle of Lewis who now lives in Moab, reads the poem over the Haggis.
And, at the appropriate time, Erickson hands the sword to Layer to stab, as indicated by the poem.
“You steam the haggis. It gets very tight in the casing. When you stab it, the organs spill out,” Layer said. “People express awe, or abject horror.”
The event is free and open to all ages.
“But we like people to leave coins in the hat to benefit the educational outreach programs during the week,” Layer said.
He and McLeod will be performing at the elementary school and visiting Canyonlands Care Center during the week.
“We encourage people to come in for a short visit,” Layer said. “It is a causal event and meant to be fun.”