Gaelic Choir - Aberfeldy & District Gaelic Choir
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21st October 2012

Winners at the National Mod, Dunoon 2012

Aberfeldy & Distric Gaelic Choir has returned triumphant from the Royal National Mod in Dunoon!

After achieving a commendable 5th place in the Puirt-a-Beul competition in the morning, we went on to win the Margrat Duncan Memorial Trophy.

Robin Watson's report follows below...

The Choir singing at the televised Prizewinners Concert in the Queen's Hall, Dunoon

We travelled through to Dunoon more in hope than expectation. A mere 3 years since the Choir’s reincarnation we were heading through to compete in our first National Mod since 2009. Having won the Puirt-a-Beul competition in the Provincial Mod on our home patch of Aberfeldy earlier in the year, spirits were reasonably high, but a disappointing performance later in the year at the Mull Mod had rather dented our morale. Helped by our loyal and trusted mentors, Norman and Diana Beedie, the Choir put in a huge collective effort during September and the first weeks of October to raise our game for the ‘Big One.’

Since the heady days of the 1988, when the Choir won their first and only Lovat & Tullibardine Shield – the top honour, our only National Mod success had come in the Puirt-a-Beul Competition in 1999. History was not on our side.

During the last two weeks of rehearsals it became clear to all of us that something was shifting. New focus and confidence emerged and the sound was starting to come. Worryingly though, the last rehearsal before we headed for Dunoon was a real ‘stormer’ - tradition dictates that a winning performance on the day is always preceded by a lousy final rehearsal.

Our first competition on the Friday was the Puirt, where we were on eleventh out of 16 Choirs. We delivered our best performance to date and went off feeling pretty happy. Realistically, our greatest expectation ought to have been for a mid-table result – that would have been truly momentous. Remember; for around half of the choir, this was our very first appearance at a National Mod.

We were absolutely stunned to be awarded a prize for 5th place – only 3 points behind this year’s Lovat & Tullibardine Shield winners Dingwall, and a mere 2 points behind the mighty Glasgow Gaelic for music – heady stuff. We were faring well amongst some pretty hot company. May Brown received a tumultuous reception from the assembled audience when she went up to collect the prize. Perhaps this wasn’t going to be such a bad day after all?

Somehow we managed to scrape ourselves off the ceiling and re-group for the important afternoon session, where we were first off in the Margrat Duncan Trophy competition – last won by our Choir way back in 1980. The acoustics in St John’s Church suited us really well and we put in a barnstorming performance of the challenging prescribed piece, Suibhal a' Choire – just as well, as the composer, Neil Huston, was one of the musical adjudicators! This was followed by a spine-tingling rendition of our own choice, Soraidh.

Nobody had dared to hope… but a couple of hours later, we were declared winners, by an astonishing 9 points. As if that wasn’t enough, we also were also awarded first place for music and also for Gaelic. The frustration of almost 20 years erupted with a spontaneous outpouring of joy and emotion. The women weren’t the only ones to cry!

L-R: The Margrat Duncan Memorial Trophy, the Staffinders Quaich (for the highest marks in Music), the John McNicol Memorial Trophy (highest marks in Gaelic), and the An Comunn Silver Baton awarded to the winning conductor - May Brown

The high jinx were to be put on hold, as we had to perform in front of the BBC ALBA TV cameras later that evening at the Mod Winners Concert. Amazingly, we peaked once more and put in a real ‘belter’ of a performance. The Basses even got their run in this time... well, some of them did! The Choir got to see themselves on the telly a few hours later in the pub – warts and all… unforgiving, these cameras! The reception we received from all other Choirs was truly heart-warming and humbling. The spirit and camaraderie of the Mod was there for all of us to see.

Laden down with silverware, we finally headed back to celebrate at the Hotel with the Dingwall Gaelic Choir and for a Ceilidh which will live long in the memory. How lucky are we to have the talented and inspirational May Brown as our Musical Director? How lucky also to have the patience and guile of Mary Stewart to guide us through the intricacies and subtleties of the Gaelic language? To these two and to Norman and Diane Beedie, we owe the lot… all the rest of us do is turn up and sing!

The next day we marched proudly into town for the Massed Choirs sing-along. Bathed in warm autumn sunshine, we sang our way through some of the great Standards of the Gaelic Choir repertoire. We’re clearly not biased, but the highlight of the morning was undoubtedly our own May Brown taking to the stage / ‘fish box’ as Competition-winning Conductor, to lead the assembled voices through Siubhal a' Choire – a very proud moment for us all.

Make no mistake - Aberfeldy & District Gaelic Choir are back!


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The jubilant Choir, with trophies, back at the hotel after winning the Margrat Duncan competition


May Brown conducting the Massed Choirs in Dunoon, Saturday morning 20th October 2012

(Picture: June Riddell)

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