MacPhail: Highland music sees powerful renaissance

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As Mòd Glaschu 2019 gets into full swing, it is pertinent that it comes at a time when Highland music across the country, and in Glasgow in particular, is seeing a powerful renaissance.

Never in my lifetime or for many generations preceding it has the music of the Highlands and Islands been as strong as it is now and An Comunn Gàidhealach can be proud to have played a vital role in this.

With its unmatched concentration of Gaels and their descendants, Glasgow is known as Baile Mòr Nan Gaidheal (the city of the Gaels) and it is no accident it is there where this musical re-awakening is most prevalent.

The Mòd and Glasgow have both played important parts in my own musical voyage. It was at the Govan Town Halls in 1990 that, aged 11, I first competed at a National Mòd and I was delighted and surprised when I came second in the under-18 accordion competition.

It was also in Glasgow that I studied music at the RSAMD and where Skipinnish was formed. It was in the Islay Inn, the Park Bar, and at the many association ceilidhs, concerts and dances that we cut our teeth and learned our trade.

The management, proprietors and staff of these two Glasgow pubs and the chairpersons, secretaries, treasurers and committee members of the island associations can hold much credit for any success that has come our way since and we are very grateful to them for the support they gave and still give us.

These Highland watering holes and many members of these committees will be playing a big part in Mòd Glaschu 2019.

Looking back on the timeline of Mòds and to my own musical beginnings, I find it hard to comprehend the scale of change. I could never have envisioned that, in 2019, Skipinnish would play to full houses at both the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and the Barrowland Ballroom within seven weeks. Similarly, I would never have foreseen that a venue the size of the Barrowland Ballroom would be the venue for the final Mòd concert, as it will be this Friday when Skerryvore and Trail West take that famous stage.

As I have written about in other articles, there is a long way to go yet for our culture, and most importantly it is essential the language of the Gael follows the music in its resurrection. Highland music without the language from which it is derived is a ghost and will not endure.

However, despite the long, hard and yet exciting road ahead, Gaels should rejoice for what has been achieved to date and An Comunn Gàidhealach should take a bow for its vital part in how far our music has come since a time when it was on the brink of oblivion.

At the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow, on Friday October 18, when 2,000 people are dancing to Skerryvore playing Nighean na cailliche crotaiche crùbaich, and joining with Trail West singing A’ Pheigi a’ Ghraidh, there will be a powerful sense of hope for the future of the Mòd and the future of the Gael.