Last year, James Ruff won the men’s gold medal for Gaelic song at the U.S. National Mòd. This year, he will return to Ligonier, Pennsylvania, to lead a special harp workshop at the inaugural ACGA Fèis, a one-day program of workshops in Scottish Gaelic culture.
Ruff will lead a workshop Sept. 22 on the role of the clàrsach, the wire-strung harp, in Scottish Gaelic and Irish tradition. The workshop will combine a discussion of the clàrsach in Gaelic culture and songs from the harping tradition, as well as technical advice on ornamentation and technique suitable for wire-strung and nylon-strung harps alike.
“We’re delighted to welcome James to our first ACGA Fèis and back to the U.S. National Mòd,” Liam Ó Caiside, a member of the Mòd and Fèis committee, said.
“James’s workshop is particularly appropriate for this inaugural educational event about Gaelic culture. The harp is perhaps the oldest instrument associated with the Gaels of Scotland and Ireland. This special workshop will offer insights to harp players and those who simply have an interest in Gaelic tradition alike,” he said.
Since 2005, Ruff has researched and performed Scottish Gaelic songs accompanied by the wire harp. He has performed at festivals and music series such as Boston Early Music Festival Fringe, Gotham Early Music Scene Midtown Concerts in New York, Beacon Hill Concerts in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, Stone Church Arts Concert Series in Bellows Falls, Vermont, and the Vassar College Concert Series in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Ruff has studied Scottish Gaelic song with Kenna Campbell, Mary Ann Kennedy and Christine Primrose, and early harp techniques with noted Irish harpist Siobhan Armstrong. He has spent two summers studying at the Scoil na gClàirseach Harp School in Kilkenny, Ireland. He enjoyed a month researching & studying early Gaelic Song in Edinburgh and Glasgow in 2012, funded by a grant from Vassar College.
In 2016, he won First Place/Men’s Division and Highest Overall Score in Gaelic Song at both the North Carolina Provincial Gaelic Mòd and the U.S. National Gaelic Mòd. He was also a finalist in the Silver Pendant Gaelic Song Competition at the 2009 Royal National Mòd in Oban, Scotland.
The ACGA Fèis is a day-long series of workshops on Gaelic song, language, music and culture preceding the U.S. National Mòd. The Fèis is a non-competitive event focused on learning and instruction. The Mòd is a series of competitions in Gaelic language arts, including song, poetry and storytelling.
In addition to Ruff’s harp workshop, the Fèis will feature workshops on Gaelic song by Margaret Stewart and Murdo “Wasp” MacDonald, both of Lewis. Stewart and MacDonald will judge the US National Mòd competitions. The Fèis will also feature a “Cèilidh 101” session that will teach tunes to musicians of all types, and other special events.
Check back here for more information on registration, lodging and costs for the Fèis and the Mòd. The events will begin Thursday, Sept. 21, and run through Sunday, Sept. 24.