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Join in hours of poetry and song

Langley teacher James Johnson stands in front of Scotland’s Doune castle during a 2009-10 work exchange with an Edinburgh teacher. Fans of British comedy will recognize the castle from 1975’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail.   Johnson is helping sponsor and will participate in the upcoming Robert Burns marathon recitation at SFU on Jan. 25. - submitted photo
Langley teacher James Johnson stands in front of Scotland’s Doune castle during a 2009-10 work exchange with an Edinburgh teacher. Fans of British comedy will recognize the castle from 1975’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Johnson is helping sponsor and will participate in the upcoming Robert Burns marathon recitation at SFU on Jan. 25.
— image credit: submitted photo

If you enjoy Scottish poetry and song — not to mention a bit of friendly competition — Simon Fraser University has just the thing for you.

SFU, famous for its world class pipe band, will celebrate all things Scottish on Friday, Jan. 25, with a Robert Burns Day marathon poetry recitation and world record attempt.

The second annual event will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the university’s Harbourview campus in Vancouver.

Last year, SFU hosted a four-hour, 12-minute and 27-second long poetry reading to set a world record. This year, they hope to build on that success by having even more speakers and singers work to extend that time — whether reciting by heart or reading from a volume of Burns’ poetry.

Breaking out his best Scottish accent for the event and co-sponsoring it through his business, Auldcountry Tours, this year, is Langley teacher James Johnson.

Though he didn’t participate in last year’s recital at SFU, Johnson liked what he heard about the event, which he said drew between 200 and 300 people.

“They said, ‘Let’s try to do something different than the traditional dinner — the haggis and the piping —let’s do recitation of poetry.’”

Among those scheduled to participate this year are Christopher Gaze — artistic director of Bard on the Beach — and Teresa Margaret King — a descendent of the Scottish poet.

Johnson, who graduated from SFU in 1995, isn’t sure yet what he’ll recite.

“Some of Robbie Burns’ work is incredibly difficult to read,” he said.

“Maybe (I’ll pick) the easiest one I can . . .

or maybe I’ll find the longest, most difficult one and just go for it,” he laughed.

“I’ll probably come with a couple prepared.”

There is plenty of material to choose from and — potentially — five hours to fill with Burns’ poetry, but Johnson expects to hear a few favourites — To A Mouse, perhaps — more than once.

“It will be quite fun hearing different interpretations of the same poem,” he said.

Although his own heritage is not Scottish (his wife, Kim’s, is) Johnson knows a thing or two about the culture.

The couple and their three children spent a year in Edinburgh as part of a teaching exchange in 2009-10, and fell in love with the country and its people.

“It was a beautiful year,” he said.

“As a family, we’ve always had a connection to the UK, Ireland and Scotland in particular.”

During the SFU event, the plan is to connect with friends in Edinburgh via Skype, said Johnson.

For more information, go to scottish.sfu.ca and click on the event link on the right side of the page.

To register as a participant in the event, email tbarker@sfu.ca.

SFU’s Harbourview campus is located at 515 West Hastings St. in downtown Vancouver.

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