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Session Snobbery!


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#19 Ptarmigan

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 03:40 PM

But I certainly wouldn't criticize some players for their ability to play fast.


Funny you should say that David, cause we were joined last Friday night by a Belfast Fiddler who, when I asked about Belfast Sessions, mentioned one of his favourites which is a regular for John McSherry & Donal O'Connor. Now those two can fly like the wind & they have the expertise & some to spare, to do it comfortably, so if I found myself in a session with those guys I'd quite happily put the machine away & just listen. I certainly wouldn't want them to slow down to my level & cramp their style. ;)

Cheers
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#20 Pgidley

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 04:12 PM

Here in Hamilton (about a half hour from Toronto) we're lucky to have a few Irish sessions going on. When I first started playing the fiddle, the session I attended was very eclectic. A bit of everything was played, Irish, Canadian, English, American, even Gypsy. I was lucky enough to be able to find out what I really liked, and that was Irish music.

So, eventually as I focused more on Irish style playing I was invited to the local Irish session. I'd come out and listen mostly and be invited to play the few tunes I knew. All well and good, and very welcoming. There was a good guitarist that helped lead that session and he sang a few song through most nights. My playing style and repertoire advanced over the years, to the point where I was a bit sick of playing the same tunes at this session. Around the same time, two more guitarists started attending regularly, and the focus began to shift from tunes to songs, to the point where "brown eyed girl" was acceptable material.

The piper from the session (Nick Brown), my girlfriend (C#/D box player Karli Strohschein) and myself decided to start up another session in town at an old favourite microbrew pub where we'd gigged a few times. We are staunch in our focus on Irish tunes, as the three of us put in a great deal of time learning tunes, especially finding tunes which aren't common at the big Toronto sessions. People appreciate this and drive good distances to attend. We're open to any playing level, and we tend not to play extremely fast. Those with a deep appreciation for the music, even if they haven't been playing for ages, are more than welcome by us, and we make efforts to invite people from other sessions who are clearly focused on the old-school style.

However last Wednesday, a guitarist and piano accordion player apparently from the old session (which has since fizzled out) plopped themselves down and cut in with some pub song. They didn't invite themselves, and took no time to get a feel for what we were all about. We let them finish, politely explained what the session was all about, encouraged them to listen and ask questions, but to refrain from songs or from attempting accompaniment. They understood and were fine with it. We directed them to another folk night which had started up and were grateful.

All it takes is to have a clear focus and stay away from the free-for-alls.

PS Robin and Paul, I'd love to come out to your session and have a listen. I'll leave the instruments at home though!

Edited by Pgidley, 08 March 2009 - 04:17 PM.


#21 Pgidley

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 04:16 PM

woops

Edited by Pgidley, 08 March 2009 - 04:17 PM.


#22 yankeeclipper

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 04:59 PM

... a growing number of latter day reel-to-reel speed merchants wrap themselves in such a noble word as "traditional," when their unfriendliness and haste are more reflective of today's industrial world. Fortunately, so far, such behavior is far from universal.


Is this sour grapes?


Not at all. I stated that those who exercise snobbery and competition in their music sessions, shutting out less skilled players, have every right to do so on their own private turf. And I certainly agree with many here that courtesy demands that a player get a sense of what might be appropriate, and what not, before joining in.

I'm just pointing out that snobbery is not "traditional" among the people who invented the music. ;)

Edited by yankeeclipper, 08 March 2009 - 05:09 PM.


#23 Guest_Peter Laban_*

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 05:12 PM

I'm just pointing out that snobbery is not "traditional" among the people who invented the music. wink.gif


As David pointed out, and in my own experience, the old guys took no prisoners where bad players were concerned.

#24 hjcjones

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 05:13 PM

I'm just pointing out that snobbery is not "traditional" among the people who invented the music. ;)

Is that really true? Were they really so different from us today? I suspect that there were the same egos then as there are now, just as there were those who were willing to welcome anyone, just as now.

#25 yankeeclipper

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 05:44 PM

There will always be some who excuse their own behavior by attributing it to others. In my experience living amongst native Gaelic speakers for three years, they are remarkably hospitable, tolerant, generous, courteous, unhurried and egalitarian people to whom snobbishness and haste are strangers. :)

#26 bill_mchale

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 05:57 PM

... a growing number of latter day reel-to-reel speed merchants wrap themselves in such a noble word as "traditional," when their unfriendliness and haste are more reflective of today's industrial world. Fortunately, so far, such behavior is far from universal.


Is this sour grapes?


Not at all. I stated that those who exercise snobbery and competition in their music sessions, shutting out less skilled players, have every right to do so on their own private turf. And I certainly agree with many here that courtesy demands that a player get a sense of what might be appropriate, and what not, before joining in.

I'm just pointing out that snobbery is not "traditional" among the people who invented the music. ;)


I think we need to define private turf here... After all, I don't think we can necessarily assume that a session in a pub is a completely open thing. I mean generally, the regulars in most session will welcome others to sit down and play, but lets not forget that when push comes to shove, the session really does belong to the regulars who attend that session week after week, year after year.

--
Bill

#27 Azalin

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 05:57 PM

However last Wednesday, a guitarist and piano accordion player apparently from the old session (which has since fizzled out) plopped themselves down and cut in with some pub song. They didn't invite themselves, and took no time to get a feel for what we were all about. We let them finish, politely explained what the session was all about, encouraged them to listen and ask questions, but to refrain from songs or from attempting accompaniment. They understood and were fine with it. We directed them to another folk night which had started up and were grateful.


Nicely done. It's fortunate that these two people understood without taking it the wrong way. It takes spectacular skills to explain to people like this what your session is all about, and why they can't do everything they want. Many sessions died out around town here because the leaders dared not keep the disrespectful people out... the session gets invaded and then the good players stop coming... and the session spirals to its death...

#28 Fergus_fiddler

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 05:59 PM

There will always be some who excuse their own behavior by attributing it to others. In my experience living amongst native Gaelic speakers for three years, they are remarkably hospitable, tolerant, generous, courteous, unhurried and egalitarian people to whom snobbishness and haste are strangers. :)


Yes, there must be something about speaking gaelic than makes you a saint :rolleyes: For god sake, please; try not to be arquetypical. There're twats all around the globe.

And what's that about 'snobbery is not "traditional" among the people who invented the music'? As everybody knows, they were born with a genetic protection against snobbery.

Please, try not to idealise things. For the sake of fairness.

Cheers,

Fer

#29 Alan Day

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 06:18 PM

When I went over to Southern Ireland a few years ago my tour also took in Willie Clancy music festival.During that week on tour I found numerous sessions and musical events. I cannot play Irish music and only played English music on my Anglo.I was treated with great respect and kindness,the musicians suddenly going quite when I started playing and enjoyed (I think) the music I was offering.I made a number of friends and I met with no snobbish attitude at all.
At The George we have many musicians turning up to play,the evening is mainly devoted to French and Breton music ,but there are no restrictions if someone launches into Irish music or any other music for that matter. No strict rules apply
I can understand the point raised about what you are trying to achieve as far as music standards are concerned.We are all trying to raise our own standards, but with respect a session is not the place to start getting Humpty Dumpty over someone drowning you out. Up on stage is where you show people what you are trying to achieve.A session consists of players of all abilities they are there to enjoy themselves making music and OK they may not be up to your standard,but they may be in a few years.If you are that concerned take them aside and give them advice,not a bollocking.The young Lady reminds me of someone I know who even with a new tune nobody has heard before,you see her bow going at frantic speed.I made a point of going close to her when she was playing just to see what she was doing, the answer was absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the tune.The good girl played so softly however she looked the part,that was good enough for me.
Al

#30 hjcjones

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 06:19 PM

It seems to me there is a fine line between "snobbishness" and defending standards, and where a particular action falls is likely to depend on whether or not you are the person it is directed against.

I am reminded of the several long and apparently irreconcilable discussions taking place on Mudcat about standards in folk music, between those who believe that the important thing is for people to participate if they wish to, and those who believe that if you are going to perform in public you have a duty to learn and understand the material and master at least the basics of singing or playing your instrument.

#31 Fergus_fiddler

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 06:40 PM

I am reminded of the several long and apparently irreconcilable discussions taking place on Mudcat about standards in folk music, between those who believe that the important thing is for people to participate if they wish to, and those who believe that if you are going to perform in public you have a duty to learn and understand the material and master at least the basics of singing or playing your instrument.


Exactly. And at the end of the day, is a matter of balance. From the original session that began almost 15 years ago, only 3 of the original remain: Myself, at the fiddle - I still don't dare to play the 'tina at a session - and two irishmen - fine uilleann piper & bodhraner -. We've talked a lot about the subject, and agree that screws the session in the same way both 'Johnny Djembe' and the ocassional 'irish music star' to whom you invite to play to YOUR session and finishes up playing all the bloody repertoire of his/her hometown: alone, of course; because nobody can play tunes they don't know.

That actitude is, to me, what snobbery means. And disrespect to an already stablished session.

Cheers,

Fer

#32 yankeeclipper

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 07:23 PM

Yes, there must be something about speaking gaelic than makes you a saint :rolleyes: For god sake, please; try not to be arquetypical. There're twats all around the globe.

And what's that about 'snobbery is not "traditional" among the people who invented the music'? As everybody knows, they were born with a genetic protection against snobbery.

Please, try not to idealise things. For the sake of fairness.

Cheers,

Fer

I'm speaking realistically, from first-hand experience, of a traditional culture with which you are apparently not well acquainted, despite some familiarity with their "trad." Not all peoples are alike, Fer, and different cultures have different characteristics and behavior patterns, as well as different music. We should be glad for that, and not pretend they all come from some global PC cookie cutter.

#33 david_boveri

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 03:10 AM

I'm just pointing out that snobbery is not "traditional" among the people who invented the music. wink.gif


As David pointed out, and in my own experience, the old guys took no prisoners where bad players were concerned.


i agree. think of mike rafferty--he would try to play the tin whistle, and his uncle would take it from him and tell him he was giong to ruin it. how do you ruin a tin whistle by playing badly?

my great grandpa loved music. my grandma's cousin (his niece) once told me that she saw someone play for him. they asked him what they thought of this girl, and he said, "she can play, but she is a bad player." when my uncle played for him as a child, they again asked him what he thought, and he said, "the flute's too big for him." this was a compliment.

all the stories i have heard from past generations go pretty much like this: you were handed an instrument, and expected to play right. you were told you were playing wrong until it was right. they were not very nice about it. if you had a teacher, they taught the same way, except that they would play for you and then tell you that you were wrong, instead of just telling you you were wrong. my grandma learned how to play by just playing--she heard her mother playing, and later on mimicked it later on. my grandma's cousin's lessons consisted of this: her father bought a fiddle, and said learn how to play. no one in the house played the fiddle, only the concertina.

this is also how i was taught (and i'm a youngin', at 22!). i was told, "you're playing too fast." or "slow down now" or "there's some notes missing." nobody really ever taught me to play, i had to figure it out. i was lucky enough to ask a lot of questions, and for these i got answers. i also have had brief exposures with good teachers.

i know that tommy potts (fiddle player) really hated this old attitude. i read once that he couldnt stand that people he knew would tell him he was playing it wrong if it wasnt note for note the same as everyone else.

so sure, snobbishness might be a new thing, but please dont appraise the "tradition" as saintly! it is far from it. perhaps if they are not snobbish now, it is because they are more modern in their attitude, or they dont know you well enough to tell you that you are doing it wrong.

#34 Ptarmigan

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 04:18 AM

I think we need to define private turf here... After all, I don't think we can necessarily assume that a session in a pub is a completely open thing. I mean generally, the regulars in most session will welcome others to sit down and play, but lets not forget that when push comes to shove, the session really does belong to the regulars who attend that session week after week, year after year.

--
Bill


Mmmm Bill, how about that old problem of who sits where?

i.e. Do your regular players all have their own seats, so any newcomers must wait till the regulars are seated, before they join in?

Or is it a case of first come, first served?

Cheers
Dick

#35 Ptarmigan

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 04:28 AM

However last Wednesday, a guitarist and piano accordion player apparently from the old session (which has since fizzled out) plopped themselves down and cut in with some pub song. They didn't invite themselves, and took no time to get a feel for what we were all about. We let them finish, politely explained what the session was all about, encouraged them to listen and ask questions, but to refrain from songs or from attempting accompaniment. They understood and were fine with it. We directed them to another folk night which had started up and were grateful.

All it takes is to have a clear focus and stay away from the free-for-alls.


Mmmm that reminds me of the time one of our Bodhran players decided to spice up the sessions rhythm section & brought along a Tambourine thingy attached to a foot peddle! :wacko: :o

Needless to say, by the end of the session, the musicians were about ready to string him up, but because he's such a nice guy they bit their lip. However, after he left, they swore there'd be a mass walk out if he ever brought the contraption back again.

So during the week I called round to him at work & had a quiet word with him. It was a little awkward & I don't think he's ever forgotten the chat, but at least he didn't shoot the messenger! :P

Cheers
Dick

#36 Ptarmigan

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 04:37 AM

When I went over to Southern Ireland a few years ago my tour also took in Willie Clancy music festival.During that week on tour I found numerous sessions and musical events. I cannot play Irish music and only played English music on my Anglo.I was treated with great respect and kindness,the musicians suddenly going quite when I started playing and enjoyed (I think) the music I was offering.I made a number of friends and I met with no snobbish attitude at all.

Al

Reminds me of a festival I went to a few years back, where I saw a man playing an English Concertina in the street. As you know they're as common as Hen's Teeth over here.

Anyway, I often wondered afterwards, if he was playing there through choice or because he didn't know any of the Irish tunes at the numerous sessions, or perhaps because nobody would let him join in! ;)

I suspect though, he just enjoyed playing in the street.

Cheers
Dick




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