The premiere Scottish Gaelic song event of the Midwest — Mòd nan Lochan Mòra or The Great Lakes Mòd — returns to Akron, Ohio, June 8-10.
This year’s adjudicator will be Seumas Greumach (James Graham) of Sutherland, Scotland, winner of the men’s Bonn Òr a’ Chomuinn or Gold Medal at the Royal National Mòd. James has been an instructor at ACGA’s Grandfather Mountain Gaelic Song and Language Week and a guest at the ACGA US National Mòd.
Mòd events will include singing competitions, storytelling, poetry recitations, and a workshop. This year we have some exciting events, including an all new competition — a Folk Band Challenge. You don’t need to already have a folk group; any singer or musician can learn the prescribed piece and we will randomly select groups to compete together.
Kids are especially welcome to come take part in the Mòd. We have a competition for Youth age 14-17, and one for children 13 and under.
They 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).
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.
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.
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.
Going to a cèilidh? You may want to learn or brush up on these phrases, selected and recorded by Fèisean nan Gàidheal.
This vocabulary list teaches you to say where you or someone else is from in Gaelic, how to welcome people, and how to talk about the music that’s being played or songs being sung. And there are some very important incidental phrases thrown in as well.
You’ll especially want to know “Tha na taighean beaga ri taobh an stèids.”