Monday, 29 October 2012

Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail 2012 ann an Dun Omhain (2012 Royal National Mod at Dunoon)

Melvich Gaelic Choir have just been at the Royal National Mòd, which took place in Dunoon from the 12th -20th October. The week saw mixed fortunes with some outstanding individual performances. The choir itself placed 5th in the Rural Choirs Puirt-a-beul, and 4th in the Lorn Shield comp. Despite this, a fantastic week was had by all, topped off by Robert Robertson winning the Men's Silver Pendant, Cairistìona Stone winning the Ladies Traditional Gold Medal, and Coilich a Chinn a Tuath (joint male choir with Lairg) winning the Men's Choral Singing comp. Click here for a full list of the Mod Results, and see below for a list of Melvich's results (where known), as well as the highlights of the week from some members of the choir.

Mary Lamont Traditional Gold Medal Final
Christine Stone 1st

Silver Pendant Final
Robert Robertson 1st

Choral Singing Men
Coilich a' Chinn a Tuath 1st

Rural Choirs - The Lorn Shield
Còisir Ghàidhlig Mhealbhaich 4th

Rural Puirt-a-Beul
Còisir Ghàidhlig Mhealbhaich 5th

Traditional Qualifying (Men)
Neil MacRitchie
Raymond Bremner

Puirt-a-Beul Solo
Raymond Bremner 4th

Qualifying Competition for Gold Medal (Men)
Alasdair Gray 4th
Colin George Morrison

Solo Singing -Skye or Sutherland Song
Mikie Henderson

Singing in Tradition Style (Girls 16-18yrs)
Rebecca MacDonald 2nd

Traditional Learners
Celia McDougall 3rd

Duet Singing
Celia McDougall and Juliane Lingner
Raymond Bremner and Riona Whyte


Cairistìona with her awards for her Trad success
Finding a family in Dunoon
By Roy Kirk

This was my fist year with the Melvich Gaelic Choir. It was also my first time at the Royal National Mod. It has been a year of learning, finding confidence and a rich journey in finding a family.

This was the culmination of over 9 months of practise with the Melvich Gaelic Choir. Further practise both with the Men’s Choir (the Cocks of the North) ensured that any latent musical talent and Gaelic expertise was suitably stretched. It was therefore with some trepidation that I made my way over on the ferry from Gourock on a sunny Monday evening with my wife Elizabeth.

We arrived to a warm welcome as soon as we crossed the entrance to Hafton Castle. The main living room was obviously the focus point for a group of well relaxed members soaking up the atmosphere. I asked about room keys and was told there are no room keys. It is a great reflexion of the trust and support of the group that it was taken as granted that we were all in this together. It became evident that in the provision of food, cooking and cleaning there was a feeling of everyone pitching in.

We soon settled in and listened to some of our individual participants practising. There is something special about singing without musical accompaniment. There were a range of young voices both male and female and other more experienced voices. All of it created a great atmosphere. We were also able to go along and support some of the group as they performed in their contests.

Our practising continued both for the Melvich and male choirs. There was some edge but again I was impressed with the feeling that we were all in this together. It struck me then and grew as the week progressed that the feeling was one of a real dynamic family group. No-one was too pushy and all were willing to talk and discuss whatever subject you cared to raise. As the choir performances approached there was some tension in that we all wanted to give of our best. I think there was a general feeling that as long as our conductor (young Raymond) felt we had given of our best we would have acquitted ourselves well.

Thursday morning came and it was an early start with a practise at 8:00 am before heading into town to perform our first piece. It is a strange feeling walking in with the choir. It made me feel both proud and humbled to be there and happy to be experiencing this with this group of people. Happy with our first performance (surely the adjudicators mistook our marks!). We returned to resume the practise for the afternoon session for the two more difficult pieces. The rehearsal of both pieces in the room in the primary school was good and finally going on stage at the Queen’s hall was upon us. I felt we did our best but there is no doubt that in such a big hall it is difficult to make the song carry. It was good to hear some of the other songs. There is also a special feeling when the audience sings some marvellous Gaelic songs.

We recovered to Hafton and after a short break the men were practising again. We were all a bit nervous on the set piece (there is a particularly interesting bass line). Graham was particularly helpful in joining the Three Basses (from Melvich).

Friday morning saw us back up at the primary school practising. We were on last and it was nerve wracking waiting to go into the High Kirk. It did come together on the day and both the set piece and our own choice went really well. When we heard the marks we were delighted that not only had we won but with a very high music mark. It seemed a fitting culmination of the MOD that we got to sign these pieces at the televised evening concert. These remain great experiences and ones to savour with a group of people that demonstrated that family is all around us and the depth of goodness in human nature is just waiting to be tapped.

We needed to leave early on the Saturday and missed the massed choirs. I know that this would have also been a great experience. I look forward to doing it all again next year and enjoying the wonderful experience of the company of friends.

Dunoon 2012
by Juliane Lingner

A week ago I was standing in Dunoon singing along with the massed choirs - the sun shining down on us.
My second National Mod. Neither a complete newbie anymore, nor a veteran -yet.

Singing a duet in competition was ... something else. Being so much more exposed than in the choir. Not enough voices to hide any mistakes or nervous quavers... But very satisfying to be able to say: we did it, we got through the whole song and we did well. I sincerely thank my 'partner in crime' for doing the nudging that was needed to make me go up on that stage. It is an experience I will not forget.
As a foreigner I know how difficult it is to keep two languages alive day to day. Nice to think that I do my tiny little bit to keep Gaelic on the go. It is a beautiful language that sits so well with the landscape and the people.
But the real reason I will go back again (and again) is that there simply is nothing that compares to singing in a large group.Voices blending together, creating an image, weaving a tapestry of sound that goes beyond words or languages.
See you next year!

Coilich a' chinn a tuath. Sgiath Mhuile agus Idhe.
By Ed Boyter
Coilich a' chinn a tuath competed at the Royal National Mod in Dunoon this year, in the mens choral singing competition, the prize being the Mull and Iona Shield. For those who don't know, Coilich a' chinn a tuath (Cocks of the North) is a choir consisting of men from the Melvich and Lairg Gaelic choirs. Seventeen of us sang in this years competition.

So, there we were, 9am practice before competition in the High Kirk. At that point not one of us had any expectation of success, although we were as relaxed as could be expected. Whilst waiting for our turn to go before the judges some of us even played a bit of football (booted a ball around a gym, really). I suppose it gave us a few moments of abandon. There had been so much thought and effort leading to this. All of those journeys to Helmsdale to practice in the hall of antlers, the great many hours of learning by the Melvich and Lairg men, had brought us here to the point of performance. Then it was time ...

We lined up and sang. Firstly the competition set piece, Tuireadh nan Treun (Lament for the Brave). This was a very challenging piece that we were really put to the test with, but there, on the day it came together wonderfully. Everything connected perfectly around a very sensitive and delicate setting. It was a piece that left us very exposed, but we held it well. I could tell by the reaction of the audience, a deep sigh followed immediately by strong applause, that the rendition was good. Next was the song of our own choice, Am Ministear 's am Bàillidh (The minister and the Baillie). The song had been suggested by Raymond, and it was well suggested as it felt every bit perfect in contrast to the slow tearful lament that was the set piece. Johns conducting gave the song more dynamics than had ever been applied in practice, but it was working. The choir was attentive to detail and tight in delivery. A strong finish to the song was met by a very positive reaction from the audience. We had been the last choir to sing, so we took our seats and awaited the results.

After a long wait the adjudicators gave their comments, amongst which there were hints that we had got something right. Anticipation was running high. Then the moment of truth ... the results ... 354, 360, 351, 365, 366, then a big score, Glasgow Gaelic musical Association 371. The next few seconds felt like minutes ... Coilich a' chinn a tuath ... Gaelic 184, Music 190. It took a long second for it to compute ... 374. A great cheer arose from our corner of the kirk. We had won!!! The Mull and Iona Shield is in the keeping of Coilich a' chinn a tuath for the second consecutive year. In addition, we won both the Cor Meibion Bro Glyndwr Trophy and Martin MacKay Memorial Prize for the highest marks in music. Our conductor, John, was presented with the Hector Russel Dirk. All in all an excellent result.
Coilich a Chinn a Tuath with their awards
In the evening we performed our songs at the televised winners concert in the Queens Hall. We were lucky enough to share a practice room with the winners of the womens choral competition, Atòmaig Pìseag, and we got to hear them sing their songs at very close quarters (we were crammed in there like sardines!). Our concert performance was very different to that of the day ... all the instalations, lighting, television cameras, and Mary Ann Kennedy announcing. Our performance was fair enough. I just wish that it had been the days rendition which had been filmed, as that was something quite special.
We were all delighted. I still am. It's nice to win a prize, but better to experience the camaraderie that is borne of a choir of great folk, the amazing music that is learned, and the connection to the deep culture which it sprouts from. It is that which is most valuable.
The Ramblings of a Mòd Veteran
By Pat Kieran

From a Moder of ten years standing this was the most gelling of all for MGC. Everyone who could do summat did do it turning it into a week long food music poetry storytelling firelighting ceilidh. All ages and abilities mixed and bounced off each other.
We melted into a big family and the younger ones could express themselves in their own way and the older ones could spag or read.
Much of the natural flow of the week was made possible by all the unique spaces of Hafton Castle.
It allowed the chefs to be chefs the singers to be singers and one or two of the members to demonstrate the advantages of a depraved childhood at the snooker and table football tables. All at the same time!! If only we could find a Hafton for every Mod.
But the musical highlight for me was reducing a good proportion of the assembled congregation to floods with our delivery of John's sensitive interpretation of the mens' set piece. When we stopped singing and the church erupted I wondered how our own groupies were making so much noise. But to get the highest choir music mark ever!
I felt really happy for John as he was SO nervous. Thanks John and keep on doing it. Here's to the hat trick!

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