Monday, December 15, 2014

Royal Scottish National Mòd • Inverness • 2014

The view from Inverness Castle, which is actually
just the town hall and court house. Still pretty cool.
The official invitation came late last year, though we had heard rumors before then that Guth nan Eilean, The Gaelic choir in Victoria, BC was going to travel to Inverness to the Royal Scottish National Mòd to compete in 2014. It turns out they needed some more male voices, and more fluent speakers. With Doug and I, they got both whilst using up just one of the hotel rooms in their reservation block. We've known many of the members of the choir since 1997 when they formed, and Doug's hometown is Victoria, so it seemed like a very natural fit.

The first major task was taking our Gaelic assessment tests over Skype. I had taken one of these tests back in 1997 when I went to my first Mòd (also in Inverness that year) so wasn't too nervous about it. With the eight hour time difference, we wound up scheduling our Skype calls for midnight and 1:00am. Luckily, we're both night owls. The test consisted of a conversation with a native speaker that was being listened to by a third party, who in our case was the talented young singer Seumas Greumach. He was marking off the required skills while we chatted. Within an hour after finishing up, we got the e-mails informing us that we had both gotten gold card, the highest grade.
One of many selfie-with-castle shots from the trip.

Guth nan Eilean arranged three Saturday rehearsals over the Summer so that we could attend. We always stay with Doug's Mum when we go over to visit, and I think she was happy about the extra time with us. The rehearsals were plenty of fun and it was great spending some time with whole group.

We met up in Inverness on Monday, October 13th when we checked into the Thistle Hotel. Doug and I had decided not to enter any competitions on our own, and in retrospect I think that was a mistake. We would have met more people and probably had an easier time locating the nightlife if we had!

Outside Eden Court before our first
competitions. Spiffy!
Rehearsals started the next day. I had felt that telltale tickle in the back of my throat the night before we left Seattle, so I had already gone through my cold and was mostly recovered. Doug, however, was in full throes of it, as was his fellow bass, Alex. We were all nervous about the illnesses, but what was there to do but soldier on?

We were entered into two competitions, the puirt-a-beul, and the Margaret Duncan. The puirt-a-beul competition was at 9:00am on the Friday, so that was an early start, but everyone made it in plenty of time. All choirs big and small participate in that competition, so when our group - with me pretending to be a tenor and two poorly basses - finished in the middle of the pack, I was quite happy.

The second competition, I had thought we were better prepared for, but the judges did not agree. We came in dead last in the Margaret Duncan. Our Gaelic coach, Anne Riley, though could certainly hold her head high - our Gaelic score was 96/100, but our music score was only 92/100. I don't think of us has having lost anything, though, but only as having gained. We have renewed, stronger ties with the community in Victoria, wonderful shared memories, and ambitions for the future.

The view from the bass section looking up at the
conductors and the glitterati of the Gaelic world.
The last event of the Mòd is the massed choir, which in Inverness is held on the esplanade of the Castle. It was a glorious, sunny afternoon and the sound of hundreds of voices lifted in Gaelic song is something everyone should hear.

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