Each year, around the time of his birthday, the songs and poetry of Scotland’s “national poet” Robert Burns are celebrated worldwide with songs, poetry and typically a serving of haggis – a traditional Scottish savory meat pudding.
Moab’s own 11th annual Robert Burns Tribute Concert will take place Saturday, Feb. 7, at the Grand Center, 182 N. 500 West.
Salt Lake City-based award-winning fiddler and guitarist Kate MacLeod will return this year to help host the event with Moab Music Festival Artist-in-Residence Christopher Layer, who will play flute and various Irish pipes and whistles.
New to this year’s weekend of music is a special Friday night performance by MacLeod, who is also a singer-songwriter and contemporary folk artist. Layer will also accompany MacLeod for the singer-songwriter show at Triassic Stone, 7 N. Main St., at 7 p.m. on Feb. 6.
“Kate’s music is wonderful, and so I wanted to feature her,” playing some of her contemporary and original tunes in addition to the traditional Irish and Scottish music that the two will perform on Saturday, Layer said. “She’s a fine fiddle player and a popular performer at the cowboy poetry festival in Elko, Nevada. She has a wonderful Judy Collins-style voice, in that high range. She’s a tremendous talent.”
MacLeod won the Intermountain Acoustic Music Association’s “Best Violin/ Fiddle Player and Best Female Songwriter” awards in 2013 and 2014.
Her latest CD, titled “Kate MacLeod – At Ken Sanders Rare Books” is a collection of songs inspired by books.
“The songs span 30 years,” MacLeod said. “They’re not necessarily my favorite books, but something in the book stirred my imagination.”
Concert-goers can expect to hear some of those book-inspired songs Friday night. In addition to her original material, MacLeod said she may play a few covers by some of her favorite artists. And, she may bring a surprise guest artist to the performance.
Layer is a Brooklyn-based Broadway musician who travels to Moab twice a year to do free community concerts and teach music to Grand County High School students as the Moab Music Festival’s Artist-in-Residence. He recently performed in the final production of the Broadway musical “The Last Ship,” starring Sting; Layer also performs as an orchestral soloist, and for television and films.
He said he discovered the Moab Music Festival through his New York City music connections.
“I love it,” he said. “What I have found is the bucolic nature of Moab creates its own special vibe around music.”
Around Labor Day each year, the Moab Music Festival features world-class chamber music, jazz, and traditional music concerts that take place outdoors in various red rock venues. The 23rd annual music festival will be held Sept. 3-14.
During the wintertime, a free Robert Burns tribute concert is presented as a “thank you” to the community for supporting the music festival, Layer said.
Friday’s and Saturday’s shows will be two distinctly different performances, according to MacLeod, who has helped Layer host the Robert Burns Tribute for the past four years.
“Robert Burns was a very prolific writer of poetry and music,” she said. “He was very progressive for his time period. He wrote love songs, and he also wrote about human rights, equality, important issues. Some were serious, some were humorous.”
During Saturday’s concert, MacLeod and Layer will be joined onstage by the Moab Community Dance Band, and the Grand County High School Choir. The evening will also include poetry, light hors d’oeuvres and “The Presentation of the Haggis.” The latter is a Scottish tradition where a savory pudding is brought onto the stage where it is skewered by a sword, and then served to the audience during intermission – in true Scottish fashion.
During Layer’s week in Moab, he will perform free concerts at Canyonlands Care Center’s Extended Care Unit, and will help host a show at KZMU Community Radio. Layer has also been working with the high school choir students, who will join Saturday’s performance.
MacLeod will also be teaching a fiddle workshop at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center on Saturday, Feb. 7 from 10 a.m. to noon. Musicians can bring their violins, violas, cellos or mandolins and learn a couple easy folk or fiddle-style tunes. The MARC is located at 111 E.100 North.
Events this weekend are free, but donations are appreciated. All proceeds will benefit the Moab Music Festival’s educational and community outreach program, and its festival concerts.
Moab Music Festival hosts two free Burns tribute concerts
What: An evening with Kate MacLeod, guitar and fiddle player and singer-songwriter; Accompanied by Moab Music Festival Artist-in-Residence Christopher Layer
When: Friday, Feb. 6, 7 p.m.
Where: Triassic Stone, 7 N. Main St.
Cost: Free; donations are appreciated
What: 11th annual Robert Burns Tribute Concert
When: Saturday, Feb. 7, 6 p.m.
Where: Grand Center, 182 N. 500 West
Cost: Free; donations are appreciated
Information: Call 435-259-7003, or go to www.moabmusicfest.org