History of the Assocation

The following are extracts from Minutes of AGMs to give a flavour of what the Association do.  With the advent of information technology it is getting much easier to communicate with each other.  If anyone would like more information on anything please feel free to get in touch with the Association through our website.

The earliest Minute is of a General Meeting of the Association of Gaelic Choirs held in The Highlanders’ Institute, Glasgow, on Saturday, 22nd January 1949, when the following choirs were represented – Ayr, Campbeltown, Glasgow Gaelic, Govan, Greenock, Glasgow Islay and Uist and Barra, although there was a reference in this to a previous Meeting held on Saturday, 3rd April 1948 (of which there is no record)

Letters from Lochgilphead Gaelic Choir, London Choir and Stornoway Choir were read. Lochgilphead Choir felt the expenses involved in membership were too great for them.  London Choir did not wish to apply for membership, and Stornoway Choir regretted that they were unable to send a representative to this meeting.  It was noted that Tarbert Choir had decided to join the Association. 

There was a brief discussion of the reply received from An Comunn Gaidhealach to a letter containing recommendations put forward by the Association, and it was agreed that the steps taken by An Comunn marked a very satisfactory  beginning to the activities of the Association.  The Chairman (Mr. Robert N. MacCormick) commented on the cordial way in which An Comunn had welcomed the recommendations, and it was agreed not to pursue the question of the Gaelic Test further at the moment. 

The rest of the meeting dealt with the proposed Constitution, elected Officebearers and a Committee, set the annual subscription at One Guinea, not Two Guineas, and raised the question of a joint Concert. 

The Second AGM was held in the Highlanders’ Institute, Glasgow, on Saturday, 26th November 1949, which was attended by representatives from Ayr, Dunoon, Glasgow Islay, Glasgow Gaelic, Govan, Greenock and Stirling Gaelic Choirs.

Mr. Ian M. Millar made reference to one or two concessions which the Association had already been successful in securing for all choirs competing at the Mod.  One was the upward levelling of prize money awarded in the Male Voices, Ladies Voices and Puirt-a-Beul competitions.  Another was that irrespective of when the morning competition sessions ended, an interval of at least 1½  hours be allowed for lunch.  Again, where songs had several verses to the same setting the actual verses to be sung must be indicated when music was issued.  An Comunn had intimated that the Gaelic and Music Adjudicators would be separated, in response to a request by the Association, but actually  at the Mod this had not been done.  Mr. Millar reported he had put forward a Notice of Motion to increase the prize money in the Lovat & Tullibardine competition, but as at least three choirs were unwilling to support the motion, it had to be withdrawn.

Letters were read from various choirs which did not find it convenient to join the Association meantime (Edinburgh, Caberfeidh Dingwall and Beauly).  Regret was expressed that Edinburgh had not joined and it was agreed that they be approached by a small deputation to discuss the Association.

It was moved by Mr. Donald McIsaac (Ayr)  that Junior Choirs be asked to join the Association and this motion was seconded by Mr. McConochie and the President and Secretary were asked to do what they could in the matter.

It was also agreed to approach Kinloch and Carradale Choirs to reconsider their decisions to delay membership meantime. 

Inverness Mod – Mr. McCormick (Glasgow Gaelic) pointed out that the Mod & Music Committee had no authority to rescind a decision taken by the Executive Council of An Comunn.  Mr. McConochie moved that the Association protest to An Comunn and ask for an explanation of the action of the Mod & Music Committee in failing to carry out the decision of the Executive Council and request that the undertaking given the Association be adhered to.

Notices of Motion
Mr. McConochie proposed that in the case of Mod Music, An Comunn be asked to print the verses between the lines of music.

Mr. McConochie included in his proposal that An Comunn be asked to print Junior solo, duet and choral pieces in one booklet, providing the expense was not too great, and make a small charge for the booklet.

The proposal from The Glasgow Gaelic Musical Association that An Comunn be asked to increase the number of choristers in choirs competing at the Mod was deferred for further consideration.
In reply to a letter received from Newtonmore Choir in connection with the Gaelic Test, Mr. McCormick proposed that a letter be sent advising Newtonmore that it had been found that the test was generally adjusted to the stage obtained by the particular learner. 

Third AGM  held in the Highlanders’ Institute, Glasgow,  Saturday,  25th November 1950
It was thought that Edinburgh Choir would join the Association, but the Secretary had informed the Association they did not intend to do so at present.

A discussion took place re separation of Adjudicators for the Senior Choral Competitions.  It was pointed out that Adjudicators should have a copy of choir pieces some time before competitions and a Gaelic interpreter should give Music Adjudicators the interpretation of the songs, but his interpretation to have a bearing on the final music marks.  This to be for all four Senior Choral competitions.

An Comunn to stipulate the number of and said verses which are to be sung in all Choral competitions.

It was also decided that in future where any difficulties or uncertainties arose over songs for the Annual Mod that Conductors of Choirs should meet the Committee of the Association and these matters discussed and an official note sent to An Comunn.

A discussion also arose regarding the dividing of the Choirs entering for the Lovat & Tullibardine Shield competition as it was thought that some of the choirs would never have any chance of lifting the coveted prize, but that if another Trophy  is to be competed for then there could be A and B classes, with the more experienced  choirs in Class A and the smaller, less experienced, in Class B, with different test pieces set for each class.  It was decided Mr. Millar would take this up with the Mod & Music Committee and then report back to the Committee of the Association, and then, if necessary, a joint meeting of the two Committees could be arranged and the matter discussed.

Mr. Millar said all music for the 1951 Mod would be delivered to An Comunn by 31st December 1950.

Mr. Millar asked members if in the event of An Comunn not holding the Massed Choirs Concert in 1951 that the Association take this up.  This was agreed and the Secretary instructed to make enquiries re a date for the St. Andrews Hall on a Friday in December preferably.

Fourth AGM - 1951      
An Comunn in reply to letter from the Secretary asking that Adjudicators be separated for all Senior Choral competitions, regretted that although this had been granted for the Lovat & Tullibardine competition, it could not be done for any other choral competition owing to the limited amount of time at their disposal.  After discussion it was agreed to send a further note stressing again the Association’s point that Adjudicators be separated for all Senior Choral Competitions with Gaelic Advisers for Music Adjudicators.

Re New Choral Competition – letters were read from choirs regarding the possibility of a new competition for choirs outwith the Lovat & Tullibardine, notice of which had been sent to all choirs in the Association.  After discussion it was agreed to circulate all choirs with the rules as previous to stand, except that rule 3 be amended to read “that choirs should have 25% Gaelic speakers”.  Choirs to be asked  whether they will enter new competition ;  if suitable replies are received, a letter to be sent to An Comunn stating possible number of entries.

Fifth AGM - 1952
No word from An Comunn regarding the new Choral Competition, but understood this had been adopted at a Mod & Music Committee meeting. 

Separation of Adjudicators – thought it had been stated at a Mod & Music Committee meeting that there was no room for separation in Oban, but a motion be put to An Comunn that they reconsider this.

Massed Choirs Concert in St. Andrew’s Hall in May/June to be billed as “Coronation Concert” and all profits go to the Central Fund of An Comunn.

Sixth AGM - 20th February 1954
An Comunn be asked for choral books Coisir a’ Mhoid, Book II (especially sol-fa) for seniors, and Coisir a’ Chloinne for juniors be reprinted and that the new form of the National Anthem be included in these reprints as well as in the new Mod Booklet.

Separation of Adjudicators – a letter giving An Comunn’s reply to further communications from the Association was read to the meeting.  After discussion, the Secretary was instructed to write to An Comunn again, pressing for separation of adjudicators in all choral competitions, with provision of an adviser to give music adjudicators the meaning of the words.  Also to make special mention of the fact that the question of integrity of the adjudicators does not arise.

There had been a very substantial increase in funds during the last session through a Home Service and an Overseas broadcast Coronation Ceilidh recorded in March 1953, in which the Glasgow area members of the Association were asked to take part by Mr. Hugh MacPhee.  There were also two subsequent overseas transmissions of these recordings.

Special General Meeting 23rd June 1956
Letter of Resignation from Secretary Mr. Tom Crawford, together with an explanation of the causes contributing to the lapse in the Association’s activities over the past two years.  It was agreed that a Committee be formed to carry on the work of the Association until the AGM in November.

AGM - 30th November 1957
One of the Rules is that choirs must sing in the key as written on Mod Music, and this rule had not been adhered to at Inverness Mod in the Margrat Duncan competition.  After discussion it was proposed that An Comunn be asked to alter this rule to allow choirs to take their songs half a tone only up or down from the prescribed key, but that no further deviation from the prescribed key be allowed. 

Gaelic Test members were not checked before competing in the Margrat Duncan competition, and also the absence of an enumerator with the adjudicators resulted in an incorrect mark being announced.  It was agreed to approach An Comunn on these matters and to ask that the Margrat Duncan competition be run under the same surveillance as the Lovat & Tullibardine.

The cost of Mod Choral Music was discussed and members assured that the Association was doing its best to get this reduced.

Ordeal of choirs sitting on platform during Friday Night Concerts.  Little can be done apart from providing tea for choirs during the interval between concerts.

AGM - 8th November 1958
It was pointed out that one of the Adjudicators at the Glasgow Mod had made a public reference to the fact that he had deducted marks for changing of time values.  As these time values had been altered to suit the gaelic words, it was agreed that An Comunn be asked to make certain that Adjudicators are conversant with this ruling, namely that Gaelic stress takes precedence over note values.  Also that Adjudicators are informed of any discrepancies between the sol-fa and staff in the choral music.

Letters were read from choirs regarding the hopeless accommodation position for Dundee Mod.  The delegates present gave their opinions and it was evident that the meeting was of one mind.  A strongly worded letter of protest to be sent to An Comunn about the choice of Dundee for a Mod;  it being the considered opinion of the meeting that An Comunn should have investigated the accommodation position fully before taking the Mod to Dundee.  What did An Comunn intend to do to remedy this situation?  Secondly, if choirs secured accommodation in Perth, Carnoustie or any of the outlying towns, would they subsidise the choirs for the extra expense incurred travelling to and from Dundee.  Thirdly, assuming that choirs were prepared to stay in the outlying towns would An Comunn re-arrange their programme for Friday to allow choirs time to travel to and from their hotels.

AGM - 14th November 1959
No progress from An Comunn regarding cheaper choral music.

As a result of a deputation from the Association meeting with the Mod & Music Committee re Dundee Mod, this had resulted in a 2.30pm start at the Friday afternoon competitions, and an 8.00pm start for the Concert, thus allowing choirs time to travel to and from their hotels during the two mealtimes.

Raise with An Comunn the question of separation of Gaelic and Music Adjudicators, and that this be done at all choral competitions.  Also to request a more explicit adjudication from both Gaelic and Music Adjudicators, it being pointed out that a translation of the pieces by the judges was of no great interest to the choirs as all choirs were fully conversant with the pieces, having sung them for months beforehand. 

A suggestion made that the L&T and Margrat Duncan Competitions be made into a series similar to the series for the Mod Gold Medal, so that instead of choirs winning these competitions, they enter for the series which would include, eg the puirt-a-beul, the ladies and then the finals, the marks in each competition to be accumulative and the winners of the trophies to be the choirs with most marks in all the competitions in the series.  No decision was taken on this because of a number of snags which were pointed out.

Winners of the Gaelic Trophy in the Margrat Duncan Competition were not allowed to sing in the final Concert, whilst the winners of the Competition were, and usually sang the two test pieces.  It was agreed to request An Comunn that the winners of the Gaelic Trophy in the Margrat Duncan Competition be allowed to sing one of the test pieces at the Mod Final Concert.

The Ruling from An Comunn on the Margrat Duncan Competition was considered satisfactory  (wording taken from Cte. Meeting of  29th April 1960)  which gave the following as applying to both the Margrat Duncan and Lovat & Tullibardine Competitions : “The overall winner in each of the competitions concerned have their choice of the two prescribed songs (in each competition) and the remaining song (in each competition) is sung by the respective winners of the Gaelic trophies”.

...and so after 10 years, the Association had helped negotiate some ground rules for choirs competing at the National Mod.

The following pages detail just a fraction of some of the discussions which took place over the years, for example

In 1962 it was decided that Junior Choirs would not be admitted as members, but should any Junior Choir have any point which it wanted the Association to deal with, it would do so without fee or subscription. 

In 1964 it was agreed to enquire from the ruling bodies of the Welsh National Eisteddfod and Irish Feis their system of marking..

In 1966 the Secretary to write to An Comunn and ask if they would co-opt two members of the Association to the Mod & Music Committee.

In 1967 this was agreed.  General dissatisfaction was expressed with regard to the number of corrections being made to music, and also to the time it took An Comunn to issue choral music.  Following visits to the Eisteddfod and Irish Feis, reports were circulated to choirs and they were asked for their comments which, it is hoped will induce new and improved ideas to raise the standard of the Mod as a Festival.

In 1968 the Secretary reported that not a single choir had commented on the reports issued.  Mr. Miller stated that unless there was action on the part of the choirs and the committee, then the visits were a waste of time and money.  Following discussion it was noted that several choirs did not know of the reports, and the Secretary was asked to circulate them again for comments by a specific date.

An Comunn had asked the Association to invite three persons knowledgeable in music to serve on the Music Sub-Committee.  These would be in addition to the two representatives on the Mod Music Committee and the following were appointed – Mr. McConochie, Mr. McWhirter and Mr. Sangster with (Reserve) Mr. Clavey.

In 1969 there were many complaints regarding adjudicators, adjudications, stewarding and method of giving out Competition marks, and it was suggested that a permanent Committee be set up for the running of the Mod Programme in order to improve efficiency. 

Eisteddfod & Irish Feis Reports – Agreed that a meeting be convened and the matter fully discussed.

Following the 1969 AGM there are no records of any further Meetings
until the AGM in January 1976, although this refers to a Minute of the Annual General Meeting 1974, again of which there is no record.

In 1976  An Comunn replied to various complaints regarding matters which had caused concern at the 1975 and previous Mods.  The many points submitted, while agreed, had not been acted upon, and little attempt at implementation of corrections made, with glaring errors in competition marking and additions again appearing, resulting in a situation where months elapsed after presenting the first prize in the Ladies Choral Competition to Oban Gaelic Choir, when in fact this trophy had been won by Greenock Gaelic Choir.

AGM 1977 - The Chairman referred to the proposed Review of the National Mod.  The points to be reviewed could be condensed to organisation, duration and content of the Mod, and he proposed that a committee meeting be held to draw up proposals to submit to An Comunn for their meeting on 6th May. 

Gaelic Testing – to put forward the proposal that, having passed a choir test once, no further test would be necessary for choir purposes.  Any further test would be for an upgrading.

It was also proposed and agreed to ask each choir, at its AGM, to appoint two members as representatives to the Association of Choirs.

The Association went into abeyance from this time until March 1999

Meeting held in Perth on 6th March 1999
The Meeting was called by Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir in the hope that there was sufficient interest in re-establishing the former Association of Gaelic Choirs which became dormant in the 1970s.  Some 45 senior choirs were invited to the meeting and a total of around 100 choir members were present representing 26 choirs. 

The formal business of the meeting was to re-constitute the Association, amend the original constitution and then elect a committee.  The AGM to be held in November.

AGM 1999 - The new Constitution was adopted.
The Choirs Association are now represented on the Mod Committee and also on the Mod Music Committee.  The new Gaelic Testing system suspended for a year, and agreed that the Bronze cards should count towards the relevant Choir quota.

AGM 2000 - In order to register the Association as a charity, the Inland Revenue had suggested three changes to the Constitution, and these were unanimously agreed.

AGM 2002 - held in Chieftain Hotel, Inverness 
Morag MacNeill was thanked for her tremendous effort in ensuring that the Songbook was ready in time for Largs Mod.  It is hoped that a second songbook can be compiled including some of the more modern arrangements.

AGM 2004 - Morag MacNeill resigned as President, after leading the work of producing the first Ceol nan Coisir Songbook.  There was shown to be no demand however, for a second Songbook.  During the year the Committee have been looking into setting up a website which would allow choirs some input as well as having links to other relevant websites.  The spreading of information has been one of the strong points of the Association. There was feedback from Perth Mod and a great deal of discussion regarding accommodation for Western Isles Mod.  Mary Ellen Stewart, representing An Comunn, said there is a suggestion that a boat may be available and a decision on this will be made by the end of the year.  It was agreed that a letter be sent out to An Comunn, the Tourist Board, the Mod Company and the Local Enterprise Company, expressing concerns regarding lack of accommodation for choirs.

AGM 2005 - It was agreed that the Western Isles Mod had been a great success for those choirs who had been able to find accommodation, and choirs are also having difficulty getting booked up for Dunoon Mod.

The website is now being constructed.  In the past year An Comunn had been asked to provide prescribed music via Sibelius.  It was agreed that to have the music in electronic form would greatly assist Conductors and those involved in making tapes and CDs of the music.

One of the reasons for the Association is to act as “one voice”, or “aon fhonn” for Choirs, in relation to issues that arise.  These words are part of the new logo of the Association, which Christine Morrison, President (Lothian GC) was responsible for designing this session.

Public Liability Insurance has been causing concern for some choirs as more venues now insist that choirs have their own, which can be expensive, but the Association were able to find out this can be arranged on an individual basis through organisations such as Making Music or The National Association of Choirs.

AGM 2006 - Christine Morrison is moving to Lewis and has had to step down as President.  Kenneth Thomson elected President. 

The whole question of mod accommodation was discussed when it was agreed that requested requirements could only be achievable in such as Glasgow and Edinburgh, but that places should be sought that would be best possible.  Calum Iain Macleod of An Comunn put forward a suggestion that a “Think Tank” be established to come up with proposals.

Thanks to Christine Morrison and Les Bathgate (affiliated to Stirling Gaelic Choir) the website is up and running and some good discussions have taken place via the forum.  Choirs have been making use of the “forthcoming events” page. 

There was a very successful Masterclass held in the RSAMD in Glasgow in May which was well attended and greatly enjoyed by the participants. 

AGM 2007 - Choir Numbers - choirs had been canvassed about whether the current maximum number for Mod choirs should remain at 30.  Overwhelmingly, the feedback was to retain the status quo and no further action will be taken.

Rules – “Prescribed pieces may be sung if necessary a semitone higher or lower than the set key”.  Adjudicators to be advised of this prior to Mod 2008.

Proof Reading – Errors in Music – next year’s male voice piece has many errors in sol-fa which could have been picked up with additional proof reading, which the Association has offered to assist with.

Sibelius – Music for Mod 2008 will be available on Sibelius from Christmas 2007.

Mod Music Committee – no formal response from the Mod Music Committee to our request to have a representative from the Association on the Committee. 

Ceol nan Coisir Songbooks have been reprinted.

Rural Choirs’ Lorn Shield and Sheriff McMaster competitions running concurrently was successful, although the venue was too small.  The same problem arose with the Friday competitions leading to the L&T starting very late, and suggestions were made to ballot the Puirt and then fit in the Male Voice and Ladies in a separate hall, or ballot the Male Voice & Ladies and then fit them in to the Puirt because of the composite choirs.

Doreen Sweeney asked for the children’s two part choral competitions to be in the same venue and have two sets of Adjudicators as it would be simpler to change the adjudicators than choirs.

AGM 2008
The disappointment for the year was the fact that the planned Masterclass in May did not take place due to a lack of interest from member choirs. 

John Morrison, new Chief Executive of An Comunn, attended the AGM and introduced Katie Murray from ULPAN who explained the listening and speaking method which puts emphasis on pronunciation so everybody can attain a greater level of fluency.  John Morrison said Bord na Gaidhlig wanted to introduce CLI to the Association to provide support and language learning, if required by the choirs, and that this would be provided at no cost to choirs.  It was agreed this seems very worthwhile in principle and we should put information together for circulation to member choirs to find out how many choirs would be interested.

Bank Card – Suggested that choirs should get a credit card and when booking accommodation pay by this method which gives some guarantee of getting money back if the hotel goes into liquidation.

AGM 2009 - Mod Music Committee – The Association has reached a compromise whereby we have co-opted Joy Dunlop, Gaelic Development Officer, who attends and minutes their meetings, on to our Committee to provide conduit, and this was agreed.

Sibelius – Prescribed pieces are now available in this format by email or CD at a cost of £35 per piece.

Choir Conductors Succession Planning – Kenneth said there have been a few choirs having difficulty getting a Conductor and asked if there is a way the Association can provide support to people who might like to “give it a bash”.  He felt advertising the post is not the way and suggested training for people who might be interested could be provided by the Association.  He is happy to help in any way he can, and Kirsten Grant and Ronnie Murray would also like to help. 

Ulpan Course – Joy Dunlop reported that CLI have contacted all the choirs, and most who have replied wanted a “taster” course.  Choirs have not heard any more and she will pursue this with An Comunn.