Scottish Gold Medalist Alasdair Currie sings at Mòd Ligonier and the Ligonier Highland Games.
Scottish Gaelic song, story and poetry rang out at the Ligonier Highland Games this year when ACGA held its latest Mòd — a day-long competition in Gaelic language arts and tradition. The popularity of the Mòd — ACGA has held one in Ligonier each year since 1995 — demonstrates how important Gaelic song is to learning, teaching, and promoting Scottish Gaelic in North America.
Mòd Ligonier, held at the games Saturday, Sept. 22, featured singers, musicians, storytellers, a Gaelic choir, and special guest Alasdair Currie, winner of the 2017 men’s gold medal at the Royal National Mòd in Scotland. Alasdair and Mike Mackay, ACGA president, adjudicated the competitions.
A Scottish Gaelic song competition will be held as well at the Central Virginia Celtic Festival Oct. 27, held in Richmond. That competition is sponsored by the Learned Kindred of Currie and Currie Family Cultural Tent.
The US National Mòd is expected to return next year in a larger format, and perhaps in a new location. Contact Michael Mackay for more information or if you would like to help with the event.
The results of Mòd Ligonier 2018 competitions are as follows:
Bàrdachd (poetry recital):
First place, Anne Alexander; Second place equal Cam MacRae and Hilary Rosado
First place, Cam MacRae; Second place, Hilary Rosado
First place, Hilary Rosado; Second place, Cam MacRae, Third place, Anne Alexander.
First place, Anne Alexander; Second place, Hilary Rosado; Third place, Sharon McWhorter
Combined (one prescribed, one self select song):
First place Anne Alexander; Second place, Mary Wake
First place, Carol Kappus, Second place, Anne Alexander
Còisir Ghàidhlig Ohio
First place, Sharon McWhorter and Anne Alexander.
Photo of Alasdair Currie, top, by Michael Mackay; Photos of Mòd competitions and competitors (Còisir Ghàidhlig Ohio, upper left, seated, Cam MacRae; lower right, standing, Sharon McWhorter) by Thomas Ashby McCown.
You may be aware that Halloween is derived from the Gaelic (and more broadly, Celtic) festival of Oidhche Shamhna and Samhain. The festival, with its pre-Christian roots, commemorated the last phase of the harvest season, ancestors, and the end of the old (agricultural) year. But how much do you really know about the Samhain customs and beliefs of the Scottish Highlanders?
To dig past the commercial trappings of the modern holiday (and modern misconceptions) and get at its roots, plan to attend a free public lecture at the University of North Carolina Oct. 26 called “A’ Cnagadh Cnù na Samha: Cracking the Halloween Nut: Sensing and Making Sense of a Scottish Highland Calendar Custom.” The lecture will be delivered by Dr. Tiber Falzett, the inaugural visiting lecturer in Scottish Gaelic Studies at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Dr. Falzett will explore the unique and universal aspects of Halloween folkways among Scottish Highlanders in North America and in Scotland, using field recordings of custom and belief within Gaelic-speaking communities, newspaper editorials, and song compositions. Together, these Gaelic voices will bring to life the cultural significance of Halloween for Highland immigrant communities, providing valuable insights into the reasons for Halloween’s near-universal appeal.
Learning more about the Gaelic customs of Oidhche Shamhna will help attendees compare Halloween’s many divergent re-interpretations as it has become popularized around the world. It will also help Gaelic learners and speakers reconnect with the holiday as Scottish Highlanders and their descendants in North America celebrated it yesterday and today.
The lecture is scheduled for 6:30 pm to 8 pm in UNC’s Kenan Music Building, room 1201, at 125 S. Columbia Street in Chapel Hill. There will be a celebratory reception afterward.
The lecture also celebrates the the first Scottish Heritage USA Scottish Gaelic Visiting Lectureship at UNC, a major step in advancing Scottish Gaelic Studies in the United States. The lectureship is funded by Scottish Heritage USA and is the result of a two-year campaign by the Scottish Gaelic Foundation of the USA or Gaelic USA.
Before coming to UNC this fall, Falzett, a fluent Scottish Gaelic speaker, lectured in the Department of History at the University of Prince Edward Island. He previously lectured at St. Francis Xavier University, in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where he taught courses on the folklore and ethnology of the Gaelic communities of Scotland, Ireland and Canada.
For more information, visit the lecture’s event page on Facebook.
Scottish Gaelic Studies in the United States takes a leap forward with the appointment of Dr. Tiber Falzett to the first Scottish Heritage USA Scottish Gaelic Visiting Lectureship at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
The first lectureship of its kind in the United States is the result of a two-year campaign by the Scottish Gaelic Foundation of the USA / Urras Gàidhlig nan Stàitean Aonaichte.
The organization, also known as Gaelic USA, is a 501c3 tax exempt public charity working to reclaim and revitalize the language and heritage of the Scottish Highlands in America, and to build bridges between communities of all sorts, including organizations promoting Scottish Gaelic on a grass-roots level and academia.
“‘S e euchd mhór agus dhoirbh a bh’ ann gu toirt gu buil, ach se comharra dòchais is cliù a th’ ann aig an aon am a thaobh àrdachadh agus leasachadh na Gàidhlig aig ìre oifigeil anns na Stàitean,” Michael Newton, the secretary of Gaelic USA, said in a statement. (“This is a great accomplishment that was difficult to bring to fruition, and it is a mark of hope and respect at the same time for the elevation and development of Gàidhlig at an official level in the United States” — ed.).
Newton also thanked An Comunn Gàidhealach Ameireaganach / The American Scottish Gaelic Society for its financial assistance in establishing Gaelic USA.
Last July, Scottish Heritage USA, a separate organization, agreed to fund the entire amount necessary to support the 2018-19 visiting lectureship, the first position of its kind in an American university. “The Carolinas were home to the largest Gaelic-speaking communities outside of Scotland for generations and people of Highland ancestry still make up a large segment of the region’s population,” Rev. Dr. Douglas Kelly, president of Scottish Heritage USA, said at the time. “This is an ideal time to foster scholarship about the Gaelic legacy of the Carolinas and North America as a whole in the academy.”
Falzett is a fluent Scottish Gaelic speaker, as well as a singer and bagpiper. He has performed in a range of venues, from village halls to national broadcast media, in Scotland and Canada. He is a sessional lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Prince Edward Island, Canada, where he has just finished teaching “Introduction to Folklore” and “Scottish Heritage and Culture.”
He also held a previous lecturer appointment in the Department of Celtic Studies, St. Francis Xavier University, in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where he taught courses on the folklore and ethnology of the Gaelic communities of Scotland, Ireland and Canada, as well as Scottish Gaelic.
For the past three years, Falzett’s research has focused on the legacy of the Scottish Gaelic immigrant community on Prince Edward Island. His goal is to create models for re-engaging this community with its cultural heritage at a grass-roots level using archived recordings of some of the last Scottish Gaelic tradition-bearers recorded by his doctoral supervisor, Dr. John Shaw, as well as the late Professor Gordon MacLennan.
A fluent Scottish Gaelic speaker as well as a singer and bagpiper, Falzett has presented and performed in a range of venues, from village halls to national broadcast media, in Scotland and Canada. As an active folklorist and musician, he especially values opportunities to share the Scottish Gaelic language and its music with others. He believes that language and music have the power to break down barriers and bring people together.
At the University of North Carolina, Falzett will begin the visiting lectureship by teaching two folklore classes through the English Department using Scottish Gaelic content material. Gaelic USA is planning events throughout the year to promote the lectureship.
For more on the lectureship and Gaelic USA’s plans for Scottish Gaelic Studies in the United States, visit the group’s website: gaelicusa.org.
To Falzett, Gaelic USA and the University of North Carolina, mealaibh ur naidheachd.
— Liam Ó Caiside, with thanks to Tiber Falzett, Michael Newton and Gaelic USA for use of the photograph and other information.
Everyone, practically everywhere, has heard of Robert Burns and Burns’ Night, but what about Scotland’s Gaelic poets?
They got their due and their own night Jan. 27, when 20 people gathered to celebrate centuries of poets and Gaelic poetry and share poems and songs at Oidhche nam Bàrd in Alexandria, Virginia.
Gàidhlig Photomac, the Scottish Gaelic Learning Community in the Washington, D.C., area, organized the special event, held just a few nights after Robert Burns’ big evening Jan. 25. The venue was the snug Fitzgerald room at Daniel O’Connell’s Irish restaurant.
“We felt it was time the contribution of Scottish Gaelic poets to Scotland and, in fact, the world at large, was recognized,” Liam Cassidy, a co-organizer of Gàidhlig Photomac, said.
The evening combined poetry and song with a brief Gaelic class, dinner and drinks, music and a toast to the bards (all of them).
“Many people are drawn to Gaelic by its songs, and the link between poetry and song in Gaelic is strong,” Cassidy said. “We’ve wanted to do something to celebrate and introduce Gaelic poetry to learners for a long time, and this seemed a good way to go about it.”
The evening’s program featured five Gaelic poets from different eras: Lachlann Mòr MacMhuirich from the medieval period, Mòr Chaimbeul from the 1570s, Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir from the 18th century, Màiri Mhòr nan Òran from the 19th century, and finally, the great 20th century Gaelic poet Somhairle MacGilleathain.
The poems were read in Gaelic and in English translation and copies and information on the poets were shared with attendees.
After the “formal” reading, the informal sharing of poems and songs began. Out of the 20 attendees, nine volunteered to read or sing favorite pieces they brought with them. “We were pleased with the turnout, but amazed by the number of people who wanted to share poems,” Cassidy said.
Oidhche nam Bàrd drew long-time members of the D.C.-area Gaelic community but also new people, including a family with ties to Lochaber, an Irish-language student, and a few people experiencing Gaelic for the first time. The event was the first this year for Gàidhlig Photomac, which publicized the night through Meetup and Facebook.
While most of the attendees were locals living in Northern Virginia, D.C., or Maryland, three came from New York City and one from Richmond, Virginia. The New Yorkers all enjoyed local hospitality.
There was no charge for the event itself. Attendees covered their own tabs. “The fact that the restaurant did not charge for the room meant a lot to us,” Cassidy said. “That helped us make this a free event.”
Gàidhlig Photomac plans to make Oidhche nam Bàrd an annual event, and hopes other Gaelic Learning Communities will host their own events celebrating Gaelic poets and poetry. “The model would be an easy one to follow, even for small groups,” Cassidy said.
A Scottish Gaelic Christmas song performed by a high school rock band is spreading not just throughout Scotland but worldwide.
“‘S e Nollaig a th’ ann! (It’s Christmas!”) was recorded by Làn Chomais, a Gaelic rock band from Greenfaulds High School, and released Dec. 7.
Làn Chomais (which means full of ability or power), recorded the song with the backing voices of 1,000 students from Gaelic language programs at schools across North Lanarkshire.
“This experience has been awesome and has given us an amazing opportunity to promote the Gaelic profile of North Lanarkshire while working at a professional level with hugely inspiring musicians,” said Emily Robertson, the band’s lead singer.
“We have been searching for a way to make people more aware of the fact that Gaelic is alive and well in our area,” said Kevin Rogers, a Gaelic teacher at the high school, located in Cumbernauld, northeast of Glasgow.
“We’re Gaels like anybody else who speaks the language and is involved in the culture,” he explains in the YouTube video.
‘S e Nollaig a th’ ann! is available to download on iTunes, Amazon, Google, and Spotify.