Cynthian Knight, a Gaelic learner, singer, and ACGA member from Northern Virginia, is the winner of the first Scottish Gaelic mòd held in New York City in more than a century. She competed with eight other singers for the honor of being named New York City Tartan Week Mòd Champion, helping to secure a firm foothold for Scottish Gaelic in New York City’s Tartan Week celebrations.
“I sang the song ‘O Luaidh’ and it is a song about longing for love, and it feels so warm to me, it feels like home and community,” Knight said in an interview with NYCTW social media host Iona MacGowan. “I tried to think about that when performing and just enjoy the moment of getting to share a beautiful song.”
The New York City Tartan Week (NYCTW) Mòd is the first of several new Gaelic singing competitions and cultural events that we at ACGA hope to see established in coming months and to grow in coming years. ACGA board of directors member Adam Dahmer is planning a Kentucky Commonwealth Mòd this June and discussions are under way for a possible “Mid-Atlantic Mòd” this summer.
The New York event, organized by the NYC National Tartan Day Committee and Scotland’s An Comunn Gàidhealach, drew competitors not just from New York City but Virginia, Utah, and Scotland. The mòd also drew an audience that included Gaelic speakers living in New York, such as long-time ACGA member Sarah MacDonald, and visitors from Scotland.
The mòd underscored that New York City is home to a living Gaelic community of learners and native speakers. The New York Caledonian Club, which provided a cash prize for the mòd winner, offers Scottish Gaelic classes. Other supporters included cotland Shop, Belhaven, NHSCOT, The Scottish Government, Scottish Business Network, New York Genealogical & Biographical Society, and Compliant Global.
ACGA president Liam Ó Caiside adjudicated the competition alongside Cathy Muriel Carey, a native of Lewis now living in New Jersey.
“This inaugural New York City Tartan Week Mòd was a great success, and the organizers should be commended for making the vital connection between Tartan Week and the Scottish Gaelic language and culture,” Ó Caiside said.
“I was impressed by the all the competitors, and especially by two competitors who had never sung a Gaelic song in public before,” he said. “In fact, they just started learning when they heard about this Mòd, four weeks before the event!
“Everyone who participated in the Mòd should proud of what they’ve done and helped build here,” he said. “I hope the New York Mòd has a strong future, and that we’ll be here for the 50th New York City Tartan Week anniversary.”
This year was the 25th anniversary of the New York City Tartan Week. Prior to this event, the last Gaelic Mòd known to be held in New York City was organized in 1897, only five years after the first Mòd was held in Scotland.
The NYCTW Mòd was hosted by Royal National Mòd Gold Medalist and BBC Alba SpeakGaelic presenter Joy Dunlop, a familiar face to many who have attended ACGA’s Grandfather Mountain Gaelic Song and Language Week and the US National Mòd.
Dunlop also led a series of workshops the day before the mòd, and took part in several Tartan Week events throughout New York City. A BBC Alba crew was on hand to record the Mòd for a documentary that will air sometime this fall.
Those workshops were followed by a Tartan Week reception Wednesday. Competitors gathered in a private room on the second floor of the Tailor Public House for the competitions on Thursday morning.
“The competitors met very high standards in Gaelic, music, and performance,” Ó Caiside said. “We had a difficult time choosing the champion, with three competitors very close together. Cynthian’s performance was clearly the best but everyone did very well, with some Royal National Mòd-quality performances.”
More Mòds, More Gaelic
Plans for other mòds are under way. The North Carolina Mòd will be held in conjunction with the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Saturday, July 8. This year’s Royal National Mòd in Scotland will take place in Paisley, near Glasgow, from Oct. 13-21. Entries are open now at www.ancomunn.co.uk.
ACGA’s US National Mòd will be held online via Zoom Nov. 11 and 12, with Lyle and Kerry Kennedy, both Royal National Mòd Gold Medalists and residents of Oban, as adjudicators. More information will be available soon.