Registration Open for 20th Annual Gaelic Song and Language Week

BeinnSeanairThey say time flies, but it’s still hard to believe we will be gathering in North Carolina this July for the 20th Grandfather Mountain Gaelic Song and Language Week, held from July 9 to 13 in Banner Elk, just before the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games July 12-15.

Every year since 1998, An Comunn Gàidhealach Ameireaganach has held a week of classes taught by some of the finest Gaelic singers from Scotland and Nova Scotia, and some of the finest Gaelic language teachers from Scotland, Canada and the United States.

This year we will welcome Margaret Bennett, folklorist, Gaelic singer and teacher, and we’ll welcome back Catrìona Parsons and Jamie MacDonald. We look forward to spending a week with them at Lees MacRae College in Banner Elk, in the mountains of North Carolina.

Lodgings are provided at the college’s “Virginia” dormitory, with check-in the afternoon of Sunday, July 8. Meals are provided through the college, though students may opt to eat off-campus in Banner Elk or other nearby towns as well (see the registration form).

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The week is an unparalleled opportunity to dive deep into Scottish Gaelic song and language, with classes at three levels for learners ranging from absolute beginners to fluent speakers. Students can mix and match classes and teachers and subjects as they please.

The week also features special events such as sessions on Highland folklore, movies in Gaelic, hiking and evening cèilidhs and song sessions. We hold a popular silent auction. In recent years we’ve had sessions on dance, types of songs and songs from specific islands and regions.

The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games — now celebrating their 63rd year — follow the event. The Grandfather Mountain games feature the North Carolina Provincial Mòd, a competition in Scottish Gaelic song judged by our Song and Language Week instructors.

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We hope you’ll join us! Tiugainn leinn! For more information, go to the Events section this website and the Grandfather Mountain GSLW page. To register, click here.

First ‘Oidhche nam Bàrd’ Celebrates Scottish Gaelic Poetry

ACGA director, and Gaelic poet, Barbara Lynn Rice, shares a poem at Oidhche nam Bàrd.
ACGA director Barbara Lynn Rice shares a poem at Oidhche nam Bàrd.

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.

 

‘S e Nollaig a th’ ann! Students release Gaelic Christmas song

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.

Click here to learn more about the Gaelic-medium education program at Greenfaulds High School.

Christine Primrose to hold Scottish Gaelic Song Workshop in NYC Dec. 13

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Scottish Gaelic learners and fans of Gaelic song in the New York area will have a unique opportunity to meet and study with one of the leading exponents of Gaelic song in Scotland this December, Christine Primrose. The New York Caledonian Club will present a workshop with Primrose on Wednesday, Dec. 13, from 7-9 pm, at Studios 353 (353 West 48th Street, Manhattan, 2nd floor) near Times Square in New York City. Admission is $40 for ACGA and NYCC members, and $45 for non-members.

Primrose, who was born and brought up in Carloway, on the Island of Lewis, has been singing for as long as she can remember.  “Singing was an ordinary thing to do,” she said in an interview with ACGA board member Liam Ó Caiside in 2002. “My father’s uncle was always making me sing because he was a singer himself. He’d call me into his shed, saying, “Dè na h-òrain a-nis a tha thu ‘g ionnsachadh?” Which songs are you learning now?”

Her first album, Àite mo Ghaoil, was released in 1982. Primrose is credited with “breaking the mould” that had Gaelic singers performing largely for Gaelic-speaking audiences by taking her songs to audiences in folk clubs and concert halls far from the Hebrides.

Since the 1980s, she has travelled the world singing and teaching, blazing a path that many other Gaelic singers have followed, touring the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland and Europe. She is Head of Gaelic Song at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Scotland’s Gaelic College on the Isle of Skye, where she teaches short courses and full-time classes on the BA (Hons) Gaelic & Traditional Music Program. She has won many awards for her singing, amongst them Gaelic Singer of the Year at the Traditional Music Awards in 2009.

Primrose also has been an instructor at ACGA’s Grandfather Mountain Scottish Gaelic Song and Language Week in Banner Elk, North Carolina, most recently in 2014. This year, Primrose was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame.

This fall Primrose and Temple Records released Gràdh is Gonadh – Guth ag aithris (Love and Loss – a Lone Voice), an hour of unaccompanied Gaelic singing “delivered with the clarity and emotional expression of a true and very natural virtuoso,” as the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame said in a statement. Scottish Gaelic writer Angus Peter Campbell called it “a masterpiece, every note and every syllable here is a note of grace.”

Speakers, learners and friends of Gaelic in New York are fortunate the New York Caledonian Club, which offers Gaelic language classes, will present this unique opportunity to meet and learn from Primrose. Attendees may register and pay via PayPal through the www.nycaledonian.org website, or checks may be sent to: Attn: Christine Primrose Workshop, New York Caledonian Club, PO Box 4542, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163-4542.

For more information, call 212-662-1083 or e-mail Barbara.Rice@nycaledonian.org.

 

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.