Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Caithness & Sutherland Provincial Mòd, Am Blàran Odhar, June 1st 2013

The view was so good we all forgot to take photos of people....

This blog post is courtesy of our illustrious choir conductor, Raymond Bremner!

"The Caithness and Sutherland Provincial Mòd - the only provincial Mòd that imitates the National by being hosted in a different venue each year throughout the biggest provincial area in Scotland - covering the entire geographic area of the North of Scotland. We don't have a lot of hardened Mòd goers coming to our provincial Mòd who travel and attend the other more well-known Mòds in other areas of Scotland but what we do have is a great atmosphere, created by a lot of hard work undertaken by a close-knit community here in our home area.

The provincial Mòd at the weekend was all the more poignant given that we had so much of our local talent on show - both youth and adult. From Fèis to Choir, from soloists, instrumentalists to choral and group participation. We had the lot.

For me, I really look forward to Bettyhill every time. I remember when I first sat in the bay-windowed north room of the Bettyhill Hotel which now hosts diners - with characters like the late Willie Barra and Jessie Cameron together with Rona Lightfoot who was adjudicating at this years provincial. We would sit there singing and laughing until 5am with the sun going down for a brief minute and the sunlight never fading. There has even been times where some of the choir members have gone beach-walking at that time of the morning before going to bed! You have to experience it to believe it!

Another great thing about our Mòd here is that the junior and senior competitions are all still on the same day creating a great atmosphere - we need to encourage the adults to attend the junior competitions more and the juniors also to attend the adult competitions more - for inspiration to both camps - the Eisteddfod does this so much better by having those "intermediate" areas that bridge the divide that we see so often at our own National Level. Seeing the juniors is an inspiration - especially when you arrive and see them all playing football on the field in their kilts! That hasn't changed since the days when James Graham and his mate James MacRae were doing the same at Bettyhill - with Willie Barra having to sort James MacRae's tie before he went into competition! As we know, James Graham went onto win the major Junior awards that year at National level (1996!) and then finally to win the Gold Medal, carving a well-deserved career at the same time. Finlay MacKay, Golspie is another Gold Medallist from our area, Philip Todd a silver medallist and Christine Stone our current Traditional Gold Medallist - we have quite a boast from our Provincial area!

What's so important is that we continue to build on this past - and this year we saw that in no small measure. The up-and-coming Mikie Henderson who's taking on the challenge of learning the language to compete for the Silver - whether this year or next, we don't care, we just want him to keep going with the language to get that silver card and represent our area at National Level - which he did so well on Saturday!

Then, from the Western Isles, but claimed as our own, we have Neil MacRitchie, from Carloway. Committed to Melvich Gaelic Choir before his own village choir got under way, he has stuck with us and is now getting right back into the way of singing in Gaelic. We're delighted that we can boast a traditional song competition in our area and with the new cup that has been going for three years now with the revered name of Willie MacDonald (Barra) being commemorated both for his contribution to Gaelic and, in particular, Caithness, being the very first Traditional Gold Medallist at the Royal National Mòd in Stirling 1971, anyone who has their name engraved on that trophy can consider themselves honoured. Rona Lightfoot's short, blunt and very sweet adjudication to Neil - "Traditional Gold Medal - here you come!".

We also have other wonderful voices - Ed Boyter and his lovely partner Mel Hayes - who both sang in the Skye and Sutherland Bard Competition, with Ed himself winning. It's Mel's own fault that he won - if she hadn't brought him to her first choir practice, he wouldn't be in the choir to this day and would not be gracing a stage never mind singing solo at a Mòd - we're delighted that Mel came along those months ago, and that Ed decided to continue! Both sang wonderfully and with conviction - we know the practice that they put in as well! Eileen - with a lovely top soprano voice - how well she and Mel coped with the challenge of so much singing, colds and all - and still making a lovely contribution on the day. Ann Boag, who chaired the competition, stated that she wouldn't like to be the adjudicators - that the competition was fantastic - and very difficult. But how wonderful it was to hear each being announced with thunderous applause from their choir buddies, and again after they finished - wolf whistles and all!!!! It's a modern age folks - get with it - encourage it and accept it - the pomp of yester-year is gone - long live the modern age of the Mòd with the excitement it brings! Then there is the one and only - K-O-O-O-O-O-O-G-A! With the presence of a one-man choir! The grandson of the well-known heavy-weight Highland Games Chieftain at the Mey Games, Charlie Simpson. Descendent of the owners of the island of Stroma, he took to the stage, convinced he would forget his words in the last verse, and didn't! Whilst all of them might have been nervous, none forgot their words or stalled! We were a very proud choir for their contribution and their first Provincial Mòd singing solo will not be forgotten - they all go to Inverness in 3 weeks time and then to the National - gur math thèid leibh uile!

Our choir took to the stage in the afternoon - if we could get through An Dubh Ghleannach with any completion at all I would be happy - as usual, the choir turned up trumps! Not the best performance (well c'mon, we just managed it on the day with everyone not having to look at their words - not bad for June!!!!!). Puirt was better - more balanced, and we liked the decision of the adjudicators!

Our ladies were outstanding - nuff said!

Biadh, ceòl 's òl, craic 's comhradh - wonderful stuff in the evening - but who on earth decided not to have a bar at the final concert this year - thanks Mikie for taking us back to Bettyhill and saving the evening by allowing us to get the refreshments for Strathy Hall. There is a balance to be had - both for juniors and seniors - crisps and bottles of juice are not that for a tenor and bass section of a choir until midnight, unless of course, we're told to prepare before hand haha! :D

Hats off to Bettyhill Committee - another great Mòd and another great time in your company! Looking forward to the next one already! Well done everyone!"


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