Harper James Ruff to teach at ACGA Fèis

James Ruff with Anne Lorne Gillies at the 2016 US National Mòd.
James Ruff with Anne Lorne Gillies at the 2016 US National Mòd.

Last year, James Ruff won the men’s gold medal for Gaelic song at the U.S. National Mòd. This year, he will return to Ligonier, Pennsylvania, to lead a special harp workshop at the inaugural ACGA Fèis, a one-day program of workshops in Scottish Gaelic culture.

Ruff will lead a workshop Sept. 22 on the role of the clàrsach, the wire-strung harp, in Scottish Gaelic and Irish tradition. The workshop will combine a discussion of the clàrsach in Gaelic culture and songs from the harping tradition, as well as technical advice on ornamentation and technique suitable for wire-strung and nylon-strung harps alike.

“We’re delighted to welcome James to our first ACGA Fèis and back to the U.S. National Mòd,” Liam Ó Caiside, a member of the Mòd and Fèis committee, said.

“James’s workshop is particularly appropriate for this inaugural educational event about Gaelic culture. The harp is perhaps the oldest instrument associated with the Gaels of Scotland and Ireland. This special workshop will offer insights to harp players and those who simply have an interest in Gaelic tradition alike,” he said.

Since 2005, Ruff has researched and performed Scottish Gaelic songs accompanied by the wire harp.  He has performed at festivals and music series such as Boston Early Music Festival Fringe, Gotham Early Music Scene Midtown Concerts in New York, Beacon Hill Concerts in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, Stone Church Arts Concert Series in Bellows Falls, Vermont, and the Vassar College Concert Series in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Ruff has studied Scottish Gaelic song with Kenna Campbell, Mary Ann Kennedy and Christine Primrose, and early harp techniques with noted Irish harpist Siobhan Armstrong.  He has spent two summers studying at the Scoil na gClàirseach Harp School in Kilkenny, Ireland.  He enjoyed a month researching & studying early Gaelic Song in Edinburgh and Glasgow in 2012, funded by a grant from Vassar College.

In 2016, he won First Place/Men’s Division and Highest Overall Score in Gaelic Song at both the North Carolina Provincial Gaelic Mòd and the U.S. National Gaelic Mòd. He was also a finalist in the Silver Pendant Gaelic Song Competition at the 2009 Royal National Mòd in Oban, Scotland.

The ACGA Fèis is a day-long series of workshops on Gaelic song, language, music and culture preceding the U.S. National Mòd. The Fèis is a non-competitive event focused on learning and instruction. The Mòd is a series of competitions in Gaelic language arts, including song, poetry and storytelling.

In addition to Ruff’s harp workshop, the Fèis will feature workshops on Gaelic song by Margaret Stewart and Murdo “Wasp” MacDonald, both of Lewis. Stewart and MacDonald will judge the US National Mòd competitions. The Fèis will also feature a “Cèilidh 101” session that will teach tunes to musicians of all types, and other special events.

Check back here for more information on registration, lodging and costs for the Fèis and the Mòd. The events will begin Thursday, Sept. 21, and run through Sunday, Sept. 24.

Margaret Stewart, Murdo ‘Wasp’ MacDonald to Adjudicate 30th Annual US Gaelic Mòd

Famed Scottish singers Maighread Stiùbhart (Margaret Stewart) and Murchadh Dòmhnallach (Murdo “Wasp” MacDonald) will be adjudicators at the 30th annual U.S. National Mòd, a three-day festival of Scottish Gaelic song, poetry, storytelling and music this Sept. 22-24 in Ligonier, Pennsylvania.

Margaret Stewart, photo courtesy Euphoria Photography
Margaret Stewart, photo courtesy Euphoria Photography

This is the first time in several years that the Mòd will feature two adjudicators, and An Comunn Gàidhealach Ameireaganach is delighted to welcome Margaret and Murdo to the event for the first time. They will also be featured at the first ACGA Fèis, held Friday, Sept. 22.

Both Margaret and Murdo hail from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland’s Western Isles, and Scottish Gaelic is their first language. Margaret was brought up in Coll Uarach (Upper Coll), to the north of the town of Stornoway. Murdo is from Siadar a’ Chladaich, on the west coast of Lewis.

“We couldn’t have found a better duo to join us for the 30th annual U.S. Mòd and our first ACGA Fèis,” said Michael Mackay, chair of the event. “Margaret and Murdo both bring us a deep, rich background in Scottish Gaelic song, language and music that is literally unmatched.”

Murdo "Wasp" MacDonald
Murdo “Wasp” MacDonald

Both Margaret and Murdo have won top awards at the Royal National Mòd in Scotland. Murdo won the gold medal for traditional or sean-nòs singing in 1989 and Margaret the women’s gold medal in 1993. Margaret has performed around the world and has recorded three highly acclaimed albums, and collaborated on many more, particularly with Gaelic singer and piper Allan MacDonald.

In 2008 she was voted “Gaelic Singer of the Year” at the Scots Trad Music Awards and in 2011 was appointed “Musician in Residence” at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Scotland’s Gaelic College on the Isle of Skye. She has adjudicated competitions at the Royal National Mod in Scotland.

Murdo is best known for his singing, but he is also a highly regarded melodeon player. Both his parents were fine singers and he learned many songs from them as well as others in his community. His father and uncle both played the accordion and he began to learn at age seven.

He won the Traditional Gold Medal at Scotland’s national Mòd in 1989, and his sean-nòs or old-style singing has gained acclaim in Scotland and abroad. He has led workshops in song and music at home on Lewis and elsewhere, recently focusing on the bards of Siadar a’ Chladaich.

In addition to judging the Mòd’s poetry, storytelling and song competitions, Margaret and Murdo will both present workshops during the ACGA Fèis. That will give Gaelic enthusiasts even more opportunity to learn from them and interact with them during the long Mòd weekend.

The US National Mòd, launched in Virginia in 1988, features competitions in Gaelic language arts, starting Friday evening, Sept. 22, and running all day Saturday, Sept. 23. The Fèis on Friday will feature workshops on Gaelic song, culture and instrumental music.

More details on the program for the twinned events, and registration, will be available shortly on this website and at https://usmod.wordpress.com. Contact US National Mòd Registrar Liam Cassidy at willbcassidy@gmail.com to reserve a space or for more information.

$100,000 endowment to benefit Gaelic teaching, education in Nova Scotia

A $100,000 endowment fund supporting Gaelic culture and teaching will be announced today in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Neil and Marianne Joy MacLean Estate Gift to Saint Francis Xavier University will promote and develop proficient Gaelic teachers and help advance Scottish Gaelic language and culture in Nova Scotia, the university announced on its Facebook page.

The estate gift will support Gaelic educators through the StFX Bachelor of Education program. The official announcement will be made during the milling frolic at the Art Gallery in Halifax.

Classroom at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Gaelic has been taught at StFX since 1890.
Classroom at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Gaelic has been taught at StFX since 1890. Photo: StFX.

The MacLeans shared a great love for the Gaelic language and music, StFX said. Mr. MacLean especially loved Milling Frolics and concerts that involved his musically talented nieces, the “MacLean Sisters.”

In addition for their love of Celtic Music, travel and other cultures, the MacLeans shared an undying passion for scholarship and helping others learn, StFX said.

Their mutual love of Gaelic is now embodied in the spirit of giving and scholarships.

Cuach na Cloinne – Football Brings Gaelic Kids Together

Highland Council Convenor Bill Lobban and the winning team Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce, Dùn Èideann (Parkside Gaelic School, Edinburgh).
Highland Council Convenor Bill Lobban and the winning team Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce, Dùn Èideann (Parkside Gaelic School, Edinburgh).

A national football (soccer) competition in Scotland is bringing Gaelic-speaking and Gaelic-learning children from across the country together, helping them to make new friends and demonstrating that Gaelic is spoken beyond their local communities.

The Cuach na Cloinne (Children’s Quaich or Cup) competition is held entirely in Scottish Gaelic.  This year, a record 62 teams participated in the, representing 33 schools. Regional competitions were held over several weeks in the Highlands, Hebrides and Glasgow.

Edinburgh’s Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce came out on top this year, emerging victorious from a match against runners-up Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Inbhir Nis (Inverness) May 30. The game was played at Inverness’s Caledonian Thistle F C Stadium.

“Many congratulations go to Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce,”  Highland Council Convenor Councillor Bill Lobban said in a statement (available in English / Gàidhlig).

Cuach na Cloinne 2017 was funded by Comhairle na Gàidhealtachd and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (The Highland Council and Western Isles Council) along with Bòrd na Gàidhlig and organized by Comunn na Gàidhlig.

Cuach na Cloinne “has created an opportunity for young people from schools across Scotland who attend Gaelic Medium Education to meet and compete against each other and combines their Gaelic linguistic and footballing skills,” Lobban said.

“It is particularly pleasing to hear the youngsters taking part in the competition communicating so naturally with each other in Gaelic,” David Boag, director of language planning and community developments at Bòrd na Gàidhlig, said in the statement.

This year, Bòrd na Gàidhlig sponsored a new trophy, Sàr Neach Cleachdaidh na Gàidhlig, presented to the individual player who, in the view of the referees, made the most use of the Gaelic language throughout the event.

The winner of the award was Murdo Shaw, from Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Loch Abair (Lochaber).

Nach math a rinn iad uile?

 

 

Where’s Your Gaelic-Learning Community?

Where can we find Gaelic-learning communities? Help us map them.
Where can we find Gaelic-learning communities? Help us map them.

In recent months, ACGA has been taking a closer look at what we’re calling “Gaelic-Learning Communities.” There may not be many Gaelic-speaking communities in North America, outside Eastern Canada, but Gaelic-learning communities may be found everywhere. Do you belong to one of these communities?

It’s good to first recognize what they are. To date, “Gaelic-learning community” has principally been used to refer to Gaelic learners as a whole, i.e. “the Gaelic-learning community of Scotland,” the overall number of people learning Gaelic in Scotland.

We’ve got a new definition:

  1. A community of Scottish Gaelic learners living in a particular place or region, such as New York, Toronto, Seattle or Dallas.
  2. An online or virtual community of Gaelic learners, connected via the Internet.

A Gaelic-learning community is not an official class, though it may include a study group and formal classes. It may be focused on other activities involving the language, from social evenings to group outings. It may consist of people living close to each other who take an online course and meet only occasionally. In short, the Gaelic-learning community is a network of people who want to learn Scottish Gaelic.

Gaelic learners need interaction with other learners and speakers. Many ACGA members have expressed a strong desire to join a “community” of Gaelic learners and speakers, both local, national and international. That’s often why they come to ACGA, seeking that a doorway to that community.

 There’s obviously a need to better connect local Gaelic Learning Communities and individuals throughout North America. ACGA’s Membership and Outreach Committee was tasked by the Board of Directors with surveying teachers and study groups known to ACGA as a first step in identifying Gaelic-Learning Communities or “GLCs” and determining how ACGA could assist them. The initial survey will soon be available on this website. We’ve already followed up with surveys sent to individual Gaelic learners.

Eventually, the survey results will help ACGA create and publish a new list of Gaelic-Learning Communities. The first step though, is identifying where those communities are. Some major metropolitan areas, naturally, have stronger GLCs – New York, Toronto, Seattle, Washington DC, Baltimore, Denver. But we’ve heard from people who want to start communities in Oklahoma City, rural North Carolina and the Southwest.

How can you help? You can help us “map” the Gaelic Learning Communities of North America. If you belong to such a group, or would like to form one, let us know. We will eventually change our Classes and Distance Learning page to a Gaelic Learning Communities page, with more information where to find a GLC, what they do, and how to start one, if you’ve got a couple of people and the required misneachd!

Write to ACGA Board Member Liam Cassidy with questions or information at willbcassidy@gmail.com.