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Brian Freeman presents 'An Evening of Scottish Music'

Brian Freeman was raised in Northern California, but the four trips he's made to Scotland rubbed off on him. When he first visited the country, the Ashland musician immediately felt at home and familiar with the lowlands, countryside and denizens of the southwestern area near Ayrshire.

"It is the area that Robert Burns was raised," Freeman says. "Rural farmland, the nearby coast — it all felt as though I'd grown up there."

Burns was a poet and lyricist regarded by most as Scotland's national poet. Born in 1759, he died in 1796 at 37 years of age. Also known as Scotland's favorite son, the Ploughman Poet and the Bard of Ayrshire, his accomplished works include "Auld Lang Syne," "Comin' thru the Rye" and the mock-heroic "Tam O'Shanter." Burns' songs and verses celebrated love, friendship, work and drinking with humor and sympathy for the working class.

"You can't walk down a street in Scotland without meeting someone who doesn't know of him," Freeman says.

From an early age, Burns joined his father tilling the fields of their family farm. As he grew older, Burns found time to compose poems and lyrics during the solitary hours behind the plow. 

"He was among the early ones who collected songs that had been passed down orally around the countryside," Freeman says. "He visited farms and homes, writing down the lyrics of Scottish folk songs."

For the past 10 years or so, Freeman has presented his annual Evening of Scottish Music, celebrating Burns' birthday. This year's concert is set for 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 44 N. Second St., Ashland. Tickets cost $15, $5 for ages 11 and younger, and can be purchased at Music Coop, 426 E. Main St., or at the door. Advance tickets and reservations are available by calling 541-482-1915.

"For the first half of the show, I'd like to present solo performances of Burns' songs, illustrating the solitary, simplistic way in which they were written while he was out walking or working. As Burns was alone when he wrote most of his works, I feel it appropriate to present them solo."

Freeman has performed Scottish folk music for the better part of 40 years at concerts, Highland games and clubs in the U.S. and Scotland. He's recorded and produced two CD collections of Burns' music, "Songs of Burns" and "Contented wi' Little: Cantie wi' Mair."

"Burns didn't write his own music. He put lyrics to existing music," Freeman says. "Over the years, I have written music of my own for his lyrics. If he had been around for another couple of hundred years, he would have heard more melodies. I like to think that he would have liked to use some of my tunes."

For the second part of the show, Freeman — who plays guitar, octave and mandolin — will be joined by singers Christine Williams and Jim Finnegan.

Harpist Kathleen Page and flutist Tish McFadden will play traditional Scottish tunes before the concert.

"They set the mood quite nicely with their instrumental Scottish music," he says. 

Brian Freeman presents an annual concert of Scottish music to celebrate the birthday of Robert Burns. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell