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.

US Mòd Prescribed Songs for Men and Women

Two classic Scottish Gaelic songs — Gillean Ghleann Dail for men and A Fhleasgaich Òig as Ceanalta for women — were chosen as prescribed songs for the Gold Medal competition at the U.S. National Mòd this September. These are both highly popular songs that have been recorded by several artists, including Arthur Cormack, Flora MacNeill and Maggie MacInnes.

The men’s prescribed song, Gillean Ghleann Dàil (“Lads of Glendale”) was composed by Iain Dubh MacLeòid, known as Iain Dubh Dhòmhnaill nan Òran (Black Iain son of Donald of the Songs). The song is a warning to the young men of Glendale on the West Coast of Skye about the hardships of life at sea in the 19th century. Iain’s brother Niall MacLeòid is a famous 19th century Gaelic Bàrd or poet, best known for his collection Clàrsach an Doire (1893), which may contain some songs by Iain Dubh. The works the father and both sons are featured in “The Glendale Bards,” edited by Meg Bateman and Ann Loughran (Birlinn, 2014).

Download a PDF copy of the song at mod-2017-mens-prescribed.

Here’s a recording of Scottish Mòd Gold Medalist Darren MacLean singing the song. More recordings may be found on Tobar an Dualchais.

The women’s prescribed song, A Fhleasgaich Òig as Ceanalta (“O Young and Gentle Lad”) allegedly was composed by one Ceit NicFhionghain of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. Our version has the object of her affection being a MacPhàil from Mull, though there are several different but closely related versions.

Download a PDF copy of the song at mod-2017-womens-prescribed.

Here’s a YouTube video of the Gaelic group Cliar performing the song:

We hope you enjoy these songs, and we hope to hear many people singing them at the U.S. National Mòd, Sept. 23!

30th US Mòd to Feature First ACGA Fèis

choir

This year will be the 30th Anniversary of the U.S. National Mòd or Mòd Naiseanta Aimeireagaidh, an event born in Alexandria, Virginia in 1988, when An Comunn Gàidhealach Ameireaganach launched what was then called Mòd Virginia at the Virginia Scottish Games.

The event will take place over four days this year, from the evening of Thursday, Sept. 21 through Sunday, Sept. 24, at Ligonier, Pennsylvania.

We’ve grown from small beginnings, adding competitions over the years and expanding to cover Scottish Gaelic language arts such as poetry, storytelling and drama as well as song. And we’re still growing. This year we will be adding special competitions to mark our 30th anniversary. Most important, we’re adding an entire new event that broadens focus on Gaelic culture beyond language arts alone and competitions: the First ACGA Fèis.

What is a Fèis, and how is it different from a Mòd? Both feature Gaelic song and music. Both provide opportunities to develop skills in the Gaelic arts. But while mòdan or mòds feature competitions, fèisean do not. A fèis includes classes and workshops, rather than competitions. By adding a fèis to our Mòd, we can open doors to those who want to learn about Gaelic culture, learn to play a tune, or sing a song, without entering a competition.

In Scotland, the Fèis movement got its start in the 1980s. Today there are 47 local fèisean throughout Scotland, focused on local needs and providing infor- mal education.

The First Annual ACGA Fèis will be held all day Friday, Sept. 22, at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, which has been home to the U.S. National Mòd since 1995. That means participants will be able to arrive Thursday night, Sept. 21, for dinner and an opening event at the Village. We’re still planning our day-long program for Friday, but it will certainly include presentations on Gaelic tradition, song and instrumental workshops.

Keep an eye out for more information about this year’s adjudicator, online registration, and the Fèis and Mòd program, soon. ACGA members receive an electronic newletter, An Cuairtear Ceòlmhor.

Report from 29th U.S. National Mòd

gilles
Adjudicator Anne Lorne Gilles

The US Mòd was held on the last weekend of September, and we welcomed Anne Lorn Gillies, our adjudicator, as well as the Mòd gold medalists, DI Brown and Catriona MacNeil.  We had competitions in poetry, storytelling, unison singing, choir, and our biggest competition, the US Gold Medal.

stage
The 2016 Mòd Stage at the Ligonier Highland Games

About the choir: a local choir has been established in Ohio, called the Ohio Gaelic Choir, and they have visited the Mòd many times before. While they didn’t have another choir to compete with them, they performed two songs for the Mòd, and they received adjudication, encouragement, and advice from Anne.  Many people who heard them said they have really advanced through the years!

choir
Ohio Gaelic Choir

In the primary competition for the Mòd, at the end, Anne Alexander, who is also heavily involved in the Ohio choir, won the prize for the highest marks in the prescribed song category (one of the requisite competitions for the Gold Medal) and, finally, the Gold Medal itself.  James Ruff, from New York, the two prizes as well, for the men.  Congratulations to them both!

winners

The Mòd chair, Michael Mackay, said, “This is our 29th Mòd, and everyone who participated in the Mod exemplifies US learners – they are dedicated to the culture and language of the Gaels.  The competitors come here, not just for the chance to win prizes, but to advance and strengthen their Gaelic and without them, the Mòd would not be nearly as good as it is.  Anne Gillies has given them this advancement and strengthening to a very high standard, and we are much indebted to her.  We are also indebted to An Comunn Gaidhealach for the support they give us each year.

We can’t wait until the 30th Mòd!