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The Royal National Mòd 2021 returned this week with a rich programme of celebratory cultural events.
Coming from Inverness, this year’s festival was made up of a combination of concerts and competitions in front of live audiences, as well as a dynamic schedule of online performances being broadcast throughout the week.
A pop-up family ceilidh, a fun run, shinty practice and football competitions were part of it too.
A number of Covid safety measures were in place to keep audiences and performers safe, from face masks to track and trace check-ins, as the nine-day festival launched in style with the Opening Mòd Concert at Empire Theatre, featuring unforgettable performances from young folk collective Staran, West Highland outfit Glenfinnan Cèilidh Band and legendary Gaelic singer Margaret Stewart.
At the start of this week it was The Mòd Mini Fèis that helped start the post-Covid comeback celebrations with a free music, crafts and games event for Gaelic Primary School children at Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Inbhir Nis.
Popular TV presenter Linda Macleod took her Leugh is Seinn le Linda sessions online for five-year-olds and under and a selection of highlights from Monday’s children’s competitions were broadcast on Facebook for viewers keen to spot the stars of tomorrow.
It was not just the youngsters having all the fun – North Uist singer Janice Simpson led a Gaelic singing session online for all ages and levels of Gaelic ability.
And Tuesday debuted the premiere of Lauren MacColl’s new work An Ear / East, a piece inspired by the coasts and waters around Inverness and the Black Isle, where the fiddler and composer was born and raised. Performances from Mairearad Green, Anna Massie and Rachel Newton featured as well as songs from Arthur Cormack and Emma MacLeod.
The sound of young voices filled the air as the junior competitions got under way on Monday and Tuesday. Youngsters performed a selection of Gaelic material set by an esteemed panel of judges competing for the girls Silver Pendant and the boys Silver Kilt Pin. Later in the day, 13- to 15-year-olds who travelled from as far as Lewis and Mull were in competition for the girls Traditional Silver Pendant and boys Traditional Silver Kilt Pin, singing their own choice of heartfelt Gaelic songs.
Highlights of the Royal Mòd 2021 celebration included major competitions An Comunn Gàidhealach Gold Medal final and the Traditional Gold Medal.
There was also plenty of action for sports fans with Mòd Shinty Cup competitions – the Women’s Mòd Cup and Men’s Mòd Cup, as well as The Mòd Football Cup all taking place.
The free Mòd Shinty Cup at Bught Park saw Inverness and Alba Women go head to head in the Women’s Mòd Cup. later Inverness and Strathglass took to the pitch for the Men’s Mòd Cup to battle it out for The Aviemore Trophy.
The free Mòd Football Cup was at Inverness Royal Academy withLoch Ness FC and Glasgow Island competing for the Mòd Cup.
Youngsters also got the chance to take part in the free Gaelic Medium Shinty Coaching Session at Bught Park for under 14s, run by Gaelic speaking coaches from Ioamain Cholmcille and Inverness Shinty Club. The session was followed by the Cruinneachadh nan Caman, a shinty competition with a Gaelic flavour for Inverness children.
Earlier in the week gig lovers got a treat at the festival’s special Our Language, Our Music concert billing an all-star line-up of guest musicians.
Notable fiddle player Duncan Chisholm, award-winning multi instrumentalist Mairearad Green, Isle of Lewis piper and flautist James Duncan Mackenzie and the amazing Cànan’s Ar Cèol House Band got toes tapping at Eden Court’s Empire Theatre. A host of up and coming musical talent from young Gaelic musicians also took to the stage for the first time.
Other events taken place so far include Disathairne A’ Mhòd, a compilation of the best performances submitted online, a Gaelic fun-run at Canal Parks beside the Rugby Club, an evening of traditional music with musical trio Marloch at The Botanic House and a free family-friendly Pop-Up Ceilidh at Falcon Square.
James Graham, chief executive officer of An Comunn Gàidhealach, said it was amazing to see everyone come together, especially after going so long without live music.
And chairman of The Highland Council’s Gaelic Committee, Councillor Calum Munro said it was fantastic to be part of the celebrations of Gaelic music, sport and culture.
‘The Mòd has a huge offering to a wide audience of all ages to share in the joy and experience of celebrating the Gaelic language. I encourage people to support the event and check out the Mòd programme at ancomunn.co.uk,’ he added.
And Shona MacLennan, Ceannard, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, said: ‘The Opening Mòd Concert provided the perfect curtain raiser for many parts of the Gaelic world to come together in celebration of music, sport and culture. The Royal National Mòd offers a huge range of activities which will engage people in Gaelic culture, as well as opportunities to use the language in fun and lively ways. The aim of the National Gaelic Language Plan is to see more people use Gaelic more often and in more situations and the week’s programme will certainly help achieve that.”
The Royal National Mòd 2021 ends this Saturday with a free Massed Choirs Event in Northern Meeting Park at 10.30am.
The prestigious festival, founded in 1891, is supported by Bòrd na Gàidhlig, The Highland Council, EventScotland, The Scottish Government, HIE, Caledonian MacBrayne, The Inverness Common Good Fund and SQA.
To see the full programme for this year’s Royal National Mòd go to www.ancomunn.co.uk.
Tickets are available from Eden Court box office www.eden-court.co.uk.
BBC ALBA has also been covering Mòd 2021 and is being aired on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal throughout the week. BBC Naidheachdan is also broadcasting latest updates from the festival.