Scottish Gaelic song, poetry, and storytelling were well represented at the US National Mòd this month, as An Comunn Gàidhealach Ameireaga (ACGA) held its 32nd Mòd Nov. 13-14. The two-day event brought together nearly 30 participants and attendees for six competitions and two workshops.

This was the second year the Mòd was held virtually, through Zoom, with 27 registrants. Altogether, 13 competitors gave 28 individual performances, including 14 Gaelic songs. The competitors ranged from new Gaelic students to fluent speakers, and the quality of the performances was high, according to the 2021 Mòd adjudicators.

Joy Dunlop and Angus G. MacLeod were the adjudicators for this year’s event. Both are former Gold Medal winners from Scotland’s Royal National Mòd, held annually by An Comunn Gàidhealach (ACG), the organization that served as a model for ACGA. Dunlop and MacLeod each offered song workshops as part of the two-day US National Mòd.

The role of adjudicator requires more than judging a competition — adjudicators must give advice and commentary on every performance. ACGA is very grateful for the work put into the 2021 Mòd by Dunlop and MacLeod, as well as all of the competitors!

This year’s competitions included poetry recitation — featuring the work of ACG Bàrd Sandaidh Jones NicDhòmhnaill — and original poetry submitted to the Mòd; storytelling and sight-reading of Gaelic prose; and two song competitions, one for beginners who have never competed and a general song competition for those who have competed in Mòds before.

For the second year, ACGA used a new “grading” system for the Mòd competitions. Rather than awarding first, second, or third place awards for each competition, competitors were graded as “Ri Moladh: Commended,” “Air Leth Math: Highly Commended,” and “Sònraichte: Exceptional.”

“With this grading system, competitors are competing against themselves, instead of against each other,” said Liam Ó Caiside, Mòd registrar and ACGA president. “Many potential singers are intimidated or just dislike the idea of competing, but this system, which was introduced by ACG at its 2020 Virtual Royal National Mòd, helps reduce that tension.”

Five competitors received the top grade of Sònraichte, including Adam Dahmer, Róisín Newton, Jamie MacDonald, Cathleen MacKay, and Hilary Rosado. Nine competitions were graded as “Air Leth Math,” and 14 competitions were graded “Ri Moladh.”

“Everyone who is learning Scottish Gaelic and Gaelic songs or stories and poems deserves to be praised, which is what ‘ri moladh’ means,” Ó Caiside said.

Traditionally, ACGA has given special awards to competitors at the US National Mòd, a tradition that went into abeyance after 2017 but was revived this year. The three special awards granted in 2021 were:

  • Duais Dhòmhnaill F. MhicDhomhnaill (The Donald F. MacDonald Award) for best overall male singer: Adam Dahmer.
  • Duais Mharietta Nic Leòid (The Marietta MacLeod Award) for best overall female singer: Eve Gordon.
  • Duais Iain Mhic Mhurchaidh (The John MacRae Award) for best original poem: Jamie MacDonald.

More of the traditional awards will be revived next year.