Well, that’s the Mod over for another year. Did I explain what the Mod is? It seems more people know about the Welsh Eisteddfod than a Gaelic Mod. There should really be an accent on top of the o in Mod, but I haven’t got one on my keyboard (though I could always find one). A Mod is a gathering and celebration of the Gaelic language, music and culture. Gaelic( GAH-lick – GAY-lick is Irish) is not the language of the whole of Scotland but of the northwest of Scotland and the Western Isles, so even lowlanders haven’t always heard of a Mod. Some of the highland and island towns hold their own local Mod throughout the year, but the “Big Mod” or Royal National Mod is always held in October, hosted by a different town each year. Since I have been with the choir we have had the RNM in Thurso in the far north, Stornoway in the outer western isle of Lewis, Dunoon, quite far south on the west coast, but with many highland connections, and this year Paisley, which is not far from Glasgow. Next year is Inverness’s turn to host the Big Mod. In 2015 we’ll be in Oban; Stornoway again in 2016; followed by Lochaber, an area rather than a town, but centred in Fort William, in 2017.
This year in Paisley we sang in two competitions, the first one being the Puirt a beul( Poorshta bayl), “sung” dance music in highland timings for strathspey, jig and reel! Usually the words are a bit nonsensical, What will I do if I lose my horse? or a well known one about different thicknesses of porridge. This time we sang about a fellow called Frazer dancing with 20 maids, and another about having a pound of white soap, and wondering what to do with it when leaving home tomorrow. There were fourteen choirs in this competition, and we came sixth! It was quite encouraging for the next competition, the big prize being the Lovat and Tullibardine Shield. We really didn’t expect to win – and we didn’t – but we were very disappointed to be last. I should have said we came 10th and let you think there were still 14 choirs, but sadly we were 10th of ten choirs! I suppose someone has to be last, but why us?
Govan Gaelic choir deserved their win, I thought. Their “own choice” song was magnificent, and their rendering of the prescribed song very soulful. We watched the remainder of the competition on a screen in a marquee outside. Govan was far from being the favourite to win, and I think their conductor was still in shock that evening when we attended the Winners’ Concert.
The usual logo of the Gaelic community, An Comunn Gaidhealach, adorns the stage, with three vertical banners to each side. This is the Carloway Gaelic Choir from the west side of Lewis in the Western Isles, singing in the Rural Choirs Competition. They all have a connection to Carloway even if they don’t live there now, and they practise through Skype! Three of the members are father, son and daughter!
Tarbert Loch Fyne also sing in the rural choirs competition. Their conductor is wife of a cousin of mine, who you can’t see! He’s hidden by the man second from the right!
I haven’t any pictures of our competitions, but we were up on that stage for our competition too! On the second evening a group of us went to the Winners Concert. This covered all the competitions held over the week by adults. This group from Dingwall includes the conductor of the Dingwall choir (2nd left).
Next morning, the final morning, the choirs all gathered in the Town Hall for a communal sing, a tradition of the Mod! The singers were in the gallery while those who were just “listeners” sat downstairs. I heard someone say afterwards that it was like listening to the angels in the heavens! By this time the stage curtains were closed and the conductors of the winning choirs were invited to conduct the big sing. As well as the competition songs, there were several choir favourites. You can get a glimpse of the decor here. Pity about the gantry with all the lighting on it! That would all be removed later.
Here’s one looking across the gallery. Not everyone is on their feet here so I suspect this was one of the rural choirs’ songs. Isn’t that arcade above, quite something! So was the ceiling!
At last the final song was sung, the speeches made – An Comunn thanking Paisley for their great welcome and hospitality; Paisley officials thanking An Comunn for bringing the Mod to Paisley; the Mod flag passed to a representative of the Inverness council, our hosts next year, and soon it was all over. Soup and sandwiches were served downstairs; farewells said to friends from other choirs, and soon the hall was emptying as everyone started on homeward journeys.
Talk again soon.