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.

 

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

Primrose photo

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.

 

Briathrachas nan Cèilidhean: Cèilidh Talk!

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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.”

These phrases will come in handy at the ACGA Fèis and US National Mòd Sept. 21-24.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Baltimore-DC area Gaelic Learning Groups plan June 5 Picnic

CarderockTwo East Coast Gaelic Learning Communities plan to meet up on Sunday, June 4, from 1-5 pm, for a picnic and Gaelic hike at Carderock Recreation Area just outside Washington, D.C.

Gàidhlig Photomac, a group of Gaelic learners in the DC-Northern Virginia-Southern Maryland area, will join with Sgoil Ghàidhlig Bhaile an Taigh Mhòir, the Baltimore Gaelic School, for càirdeas, ceòl, cluichean agus coiseachd (fun, music, games and walking).

The outing will start at 1 pm (try to get there a bit early), with a short class and a game, followed by the hike (which should be an easy one). We’ll learn appropriate Gaelic phrases and vocabulary on the way, and return for our picnic by about 3 pm.

This is the first joint event sponsored by the two groups, and a sign of growing interest in linking Gaelic Learning Communities throughout North America in social activities as well as language learning.

ACGA recently completed an initial survey on Gaelic Learning Communities and is looking for ways to actively support and encourage them and connect them.

For information on the picnic, visit Sgoil Ghàidhlig Bhaile an Taigh Mhòir’s Facebook page, or the Meetup page of Gàidhlig Photomac.

— Liam Ó Caiside