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#37 Ptarmigan

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 04:41 AM

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.


Indeed hjc, I guess it's all about how you communicate with those you may see as being offenders.

There certainly are numerous tactful options, between telling a stranger to F ..Off because it's a private session, to just sitting & suffering in silence.

Thankfully, most of us remember our manners! ;)

Cheers
Dick

#38 Ptarmigan

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 04:55 AM

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.

Cheers,

Fer


Funny thing Fergus, but have you noticed how those "irish music star" types, only seem to know those obscure tunes in sets of 4 or 5 tunes at a time & because they know you are really enjoying them so much, they just have to play them 5 or 6 times each? ;)

If you watch that sort of musician very closely, you will see they usually have their eyes closed & are only ever listening to their own playing.

In fact, if you all got up & left during one of their long performances, they'd never notice! They probably wouldn't even care anyway, that you had left.

I usually try to follow ALL of those self abuse performances with something like, "now lets play a few we all know"! Sometimes they get the message, but usually not! :(

Cheers
Dick

#39 Chris Timson

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 06:01 AM

Is it snobbery to avoid playing in a session with three bodhrans and four guitars? Az has it right: it can take days and weeks to learn a tricky tune properly and to feel comfortable with it. There might be some snobbery in ITM circles but to me it’s perfectly understandable and acceptable. I believe in being inclusive but only up to a point. Why should somebody who has given his life to music be expected to tolerate insensitive bollicks? The old guys didn’t and they were quite right. Anybody who thinks it was all sunshine and light back in the old days isn’t copping on to a lot of the sub-text.

I have some sympathy with this. The point about bodhrans has particular reasonance. The way the bodhran is played for Irish music fits it like a glove, but is totally wrong and cuts right across the native rhythms of English music. My heart always drops when I se a bodhran player arrive in the room. There are a few players who have rethought the bodhran and recreated their playing style to fit in with English music (the result is not unlike English tambourine playing in rhythm if not in sound), but most haven't and they can wreak havoc in an English session as they obliviously bash out their triplets...

having said all this I come back to my earlier distinction between session ettiquette and snobbery. What you describe I would regard as violations of ettiquette. As the leader of the local English session if such occur in my session I regard it as my job to sort them out before they have a negative impact, and I try to do this as sensitively as possible. I want to keep people playing, not drive them away resentful. Snobbery in sessions I take to be the exclusion of other players for reasons not linked to violations of session ettiquette; for instance rejection of new players simply on the grounds that they are outsiders, or to play tunes fast in order to exclude slower players and to build up your own ego. That is reprehensible, however you colour it.

Sessions are at their most joyous when the participants are playing together to make the best music they can. It does not require everyone to be of the same skill level, but it does require everyone to be listening and responsive to everyone else.

Chris

PS I don't personally regard playing tunes fast as particularly praiseworthy in any tradition, but that is a separate discussion and relates to my beliefs about the links or otherwise between traditional music and traditional dance.

Edited by Chris Timson, 09 March 2009 - 06:20 AM.


#40 Fergus_fiddler

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 06:15 AM


Funny thing Fergus, but have you noticed how those "irish music star" types, only seem to know those obscure tunes in sets of 4 or 5 tunes at a time & because they know you are really enjoying them so much, they just have to play them 5 or 6 times each? ;)

If you watch that sort of musician very closely, you will see they usually have their eyes closed & are only ever listening to their own playing.

In fact, if you all got up & left during one of their long performances, they'd never notice! They probably wouldn't even care anyway, that you had left.

I usually try to follow ALL of those self abuse performances with something like, "now lets play a few we all know"! Sometimes they get the message, but usually not! :(

Cheers
Dick


I know what you mean, Dick... We'we tried that several times. But the problem is that there're a lot of *rs* lickers among the teen beginners, brainwashed enough to think that everything that comes from Ireland is magical & that any 'star' coming from there is little less that a fleadh champion: And they encourage the bad behaviour :angry:

So, sometimes the only available choice is to pack & go home :(

Of course, doesn't always happen. And I found that, when you arrive to a certain point of your learning curve, the only way to improve your playing is go to sessions, hear, ask & learn :)

Cheers,

Fer

#41 yankeeclipper

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 08:03 AM

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


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.

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.


David: methinks you confuse "snobbishness" with instruction by family and well-meaning players. The people you cite were trying to improve you, not shut you out.

#42 bill_mchale

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 08:39 AM

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?


Dick,
Generally, the only seats in the session that are reserved are those for the leaders of the session... well and the piano player if we have one :). Otherwise, you sit where you want to. The only exception is if one of the heavy hitters (not counting the session leaders) from the Baltimore/Washington ITM scene comes in. In that situation, we almost always make room near the session leader for them. I often then retire to the bar to listen because while the music will be spectacular, it often is above me. And mind you, I don't mind this at all.. in fact I often stay late those nights :).

--
Bill

#43 bill_mchale

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 08:59 AM

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.

Cheers,

Fer


Funny thing Fergus, but have you noticed how those "irish music star" types, only seem to know those obscure tunes in sets of 4 or 5 tunes at a time & because they know you are really enjoying them so much, they just have to play them 5 or 6 times each? ;)


Actually, as long as the "irish music star" doesn't spend the whole night playing the obscure tunes, I quite enjoy a set or two like this... and having them play the tunes 5 or 6 times is great because it makes it easier to learn the tunes and get a bit of an idea of the ornamentation.

Of course what I don't enjoy is when the "star" spends their whole time playing the obscure tunes. Thats great in a concert setting, not so much fun when no one in the place knows the tunes. That happened one year in the Catskills. A couple of the leaders of an intermediate session had a love fest trading tunes that hardly anyone knew. When you have 50-60 musicians sitting around waiting to play and listening all evening to 7 or 8 play... well that is not a whole bunch of fun.

In contrast though, I find a lot of the real stars in Irish Music to be very gracious; when they play in sessions where they know the skill levels are mixed, (by design), they will throw in some of the old standards so that everyone gets a chance to play :).

--
Bill

#44 pauwac

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 09:06 AM

Here is my way of approaching a session: I ask permission, I don't take a seat near the stars, I play only the tunes I know well, I tend to play these more at the beginning and end of the session (the middle seems to be when the high speed reels take over), I listen hard, and I have a beer or two. The advice I would give anyone is: know your tunes well, have fun playing them, and get used to just sitting and listening when you don't know the tune well enough to play along or the tempo is too fast.

#45 michael sam wild

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 09:11 AM

I'm finding this a great discussion - loads of experience being focussed on the session scene.

As I said on the other thread I find 'Irish' sessions more prone to flash and intolerance but not all. When I was a lad they were very laid back and when I went to Ireland I could always find a very tolerant session in a pub or a kitchen or a local CCE branch.

I think recent developments remid me of the 'Old Bull and the Young Bull 'joke.

'English Sessions' I find more inclusive and tolerant although when we ran our music pubs in Sheffield there was a degree of exclusiveness amongst some of the young students who played largely 'Franglonavian' music. Newcomers just went away and left them to it.

I think the melodeon in C thing in East Anglia was an introduction that could be overcome if others joined in in C. I think it was a revivalist thing like tunes in flat keys etc in Ireland trying to ring the changes, go back a bit and be a bit exclusive.
____________________________

After leaving the pub trade in the early 'Noughties', bed at 4 am! and music every night and lots of egos I got fed up with thrash sessions and have stayed at home following Sheffield United, doing my allotment and working' happily and focussd' on the Anglo for quite a while. Just recently I got together in the kitchen with a mate, Mike Lydiat a guitarist and O'Carolan specialist, to work on some tunes and we decided to start a session such as we remembered from the 'old days' I was hankering after the back room session in an old pub, the sort I went to in the 1950s in Manchester's Irish community and later in the 60s and 70s in Sheffield where revivalists and emigrant workers came together . Those sessions tended to drift in the 90s into flash sessions that put a lot of people off.

Anyway, what I fancy is 'Four in a Bar' a few old boys in a backroom round cast iron tables and a hard floor with good acoustics, playing what they like, amidst bar room chat and the occasional sign of approbation, with no 'Shussh.... and not expected to pull in and entertain a crowd to justify payment. To be Musical Wallpaper is OK as long as you can hear yourselves


We thought long and hard and decided Sunday lunchtime as in the days of licensing where pubs opened strictly at 12 noon and shut at about 2.30 . When all day opening came in people drifted in from about 1 to 5pm and it fragmented.

Coincidentally we found that all the problems with English pubs favoured us. People are going out less, getting up later, no smoking, cheap beer at home etc etc. Mike went on a walkabout and wrote some letters to landlords and then e-mails. We found that three pubs that used to be great session pubs had gone through the 'Irish Theme Pub' 'Scream' Karaoke etc and were now searching for trade and a more sustainable trade. They were appreciative of our offer to play for nothing ( and so not keen to have to entertain the horde). The pub we decided on, The York,( famous for ABC in the 80s) had recently had a lot of trouble with yobbish behaviour and was looking for a new identity and a return to older values. The snug was still in place ( although the discrete back door I remember as a young man in the 60s is boarded up for security reason, and the door to the main pub with it's louvered screens had gone, where you keep an eye out for wives, husbands and cops)and still had its lovely Victorian tiled floors where the carpets had been removed (the walls were still a horrible purple with black borders!) I still remember old ladies doing tap and step dancing after a fewe Stout in the old days)

To cut a long story short - we arranged a prompt 1-3pm session at The York in Broomhill, put up one notice on the wall and put the word out to a few old sessioners and their e-mail groups, that there would be a 'Traditional Music' session, all welcome to come and play and listen. On Sunday 8th, yesterday' about 25 people turned up of mixed ages, some who had their kids and grandkids. We all fitted into the snug ( no door nowadays) and spilled out into an open area where we left buggies and music cases.

We kicked off with an introduction of who we were and our temerity at starting off this thing, a welcome and brief mutial introductions and gossip from quite a few old friends who weren't getting out much anymore. There wqs a brief explanation of the 'groundrules' . There would be a 'chairperson' who acted an MC, 'Sheffield Rules' of 3 times through and two or more tunes at a time for now, communal tunes would be put to the musicians before a tune kicked off, and if anyone wanted to bring in duplicated sheets they'd be welcomed.

If anyone had an unfamiliar tune or party piece they would be left to play it without too much busking or distraction and we would assume that over the weeks it would become part of the repertoire with people going home and practicing it.

The 'chair' would call on singers or soloists or they would make themselves known and fitted in . A ratio of 3:1 tunes to songs were decided and we were to be very tolerant of solos and songs. So 'Trad' was stretched !!!


The general context was that some locals came in, although not too many after the recent shakeup, so we didn't feel we were imposing. Some youngsters sneered and walked out, some said can we bring a guitar etc. The 18 year old barmaid was from Norwich and said she loved folk music. A couple of old Irish men said 'that was nice', and there were quite few young couples and friends who had young kids who came in for a Sunday lunch and sat in another area and chatted and read papers whilst the kids jigged around and banged things.

The parents would have been young clubbers or ravers who now had to get up early but wanted a social life and a drink . I went over and explained that, as long as the kids didn't run riot ,we would enjoy their presence and the Landlord confirmed that. 'It's not going to have a ' fun house ballpark' but we would like young families for lunch,( which was at reasonable prices a key feature for a young family)

My own sons couldn't come but said they'd like to bring the kids to hear Grandad play and Mike, my mate had his Son and Daughter in Law and 4 grandkids who jigged along in Mum's arms . We hope we can instil respect from youngsters (and not the unsisciplined scrum I used to dread when the middle class 'Social worker mixed morris teams' used to bring their kids into our pubs and let them run riot and unattended, bringing in their own beer, crisps and food and leaving disposable nappies (diapers) in the Ladies' loo- the parents that is not the kids!)

At half time the Landlord brought in some trays of Blackcurrent jam butties ( dripping were an option for the carnivores ) and said a few nice words. We'd brought in more than they'd taken for days and the barmaid was run off her feet but happy. ach attendee had supped a bit and a lot had a meal.


At 3 pm I had to go home to take our old dog George out ( 19 year old Border Collie cross) We announced that 'The Thought Police' now accepted that anything went after 3pm threw it open to 'Brown Eyed Girl' Django and Greenday numbers. Most people drifted off and we said 'Goodbye and thanks and see you in a month.' We handed out some flyers and said we'd take down e-mail details next time - but bring a few friends.. At the moment the motto is ' Softly-softly--".


We had a chat with Richard the Landlord and said we'd stick to once a month but if anyone else wanted to play on other Sundays we were OK with that as long as it didn't take over . We also agreed a St Patrick's Night do but said that some of the lead musicians would expect some paymenmt. Quite a few people at the bar said they'sdenjoyed it and would come again.



Obviously there was the novelty effect and it could fizzle but it felt fine and gave me a buzz and we all went home in good spirits; and Mike and I had a lot of phone calls to say 'T hanks and we're looking forward to the next one'.

(I must do an Ethnomusicology' thesis on participant observation! at my age 0f 69. )

Call me 'Old Fashioned' but aren't there some communal values that never cease to apply

Yours, fingered crossed
Mike



YORK TAVERN, BROOMHILL, SHEFFIELD, SUNDAY APRIL 19 2009 1-3PM

.

Edited by michael sam wild, 10 March 2009 - 06:39 AM.


#46 Chris Timson

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 09:51 AM

Sounds like my sort of session, that. Nice one!

Chris

#47 yankeeclipper

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 10:38 AM

Mike - a lovely account of traditional music sessions done in a traditional way. Good on you! :)

As our local pubs have been pre-empted by rigidly exclusive ITMers, our neighborhood has been doing monthly home music sessions for several years now. We take in turns to host, and anyone willing to sing a song, play a tune or just listen is welcomed. Music ranges from ITM to Scottish to ragtime, classical, klezmer, pop folk or whatever, and we do a lot of singing (probably 3 songs for every instrumental). Instruments include guitar, fiddle, harmonica, concertina, pennywhistle, piano, clarinet, oboe, mandolin, spoons, whatever (no bodhrans yet!). Attendance runs about 15-18 people, and the crowd is inclusive and mellow. Playing skills range from professionals to the rankest amateurs, and everyone has a good time enjoying each others' offerings.

#48 David Levine

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 11:09 AM

As our local pubs have been pre-empted by rigidly exclusive ITMers...


Our local pubs, too, and delighted to have it so. ;-)

You'd probably not feel that way if you played ITM. Would you complain if they were rigidly exclusive reggae musicians? Why are your pants in such a twist about ITM?

#49 yankeeclipper

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 12:13 PM

You'd probably not feel that way if you played ITM...Why are your pants in such a twist about ITM?

Not about Irish traditional music, much of which I play and enjoy. Just about the arrogance of small cadres of ITM addicts who take over a pub, act as if they own it, and inflict loud, incessant and mindlessly repetitive reel-to-reel wallpaper ITM on other patrons. A bit of variety - song, slow air or solo, maybe even an occasional tune from elsewhere than Ireland, and maybe a rest once in a while for patrons who might enjoy a word with friends - would make these inconsiderate yahoos easier to take. Irish traditional music includes a lot more than reels and jigs, but you wouldn't know it to hear some of these people.

I have enjoyed many a pub session in Ireland and Scotland, and quite a few fine sessions here in the States. But the mere fact that this discussion is happening suggests that the public (yes, "pubs" are public houses, not private practice halls!) behaviors of some ITM fans could use improvement.

Edited by yankeeclipper, 09 March 2009 - 12:16 PM.


#50 bill_mchale

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 12:58 PM

I think there are different issues going on in this thread. Certainly some of the complaints seem to revolve around a session either being open or closed with respect to the musical genres it allows. I think to a certain extent this dividing line is built around the sorts of musicians we have here. In essence, I would say there are two types; the first type is the musical generalist. They like all types of music (or maybe genres of acoustic music in this case) and therefore they want the sessions to be open to all types of music. The other type is the music specialist (in fairness I have to admit I am one), they might enjoy listening to other types of music, but when push comes to shove, they want to play their chosen genre of music. The problem is that both sides might have legitimate arguments over whether a session should be open or closed to multiple genres of music.

Now the basic problem is that right now, ITM is far and away the most popular genre in many locations... enough so that the musical generalists will likely tire of hearing of it. If you get an equal number of ITM specialist and generalists in the same session, it is my guess that over time the ITM specialists will take over the session. Not out of meaness.. but simply because the generalists will over time, get tired of hearing 50-60% of the tunes be ITM. Once some starts to leave the session an even higher percentage will be ITM... and next thing you know you have an ITM session.

--
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#51 Azalin

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 01:06 PM

Wow Bill what you're saying makes lots of sense. In the ideal world, one town would have different sessions for the generalists and the specialists, and you wouldn't have to mix them. In real life, it's often not the case, and I find that it takes only one generalist to ruin the life of many specialists, but it takes many specialists to ruin the life of one generlist. It's a bit unfair :-)

#52 bill_mchale

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 01:17 PM

You'd probably not feel that way if you played ITM...Why are your pants in such a twist about ITM?

Not about Irish traditional music, much of which I play and enjoy. Just about the arrogance of small cadres of ITM addicts who take over a pub, act as if they own it, and inflict loud, incessant and mindlessly repetitive reel-to-reel wallpaper ITM on other patrons. A bit of variety - song, slow air or solo, maybe even an occasional tune from elsewhere than Ireland, and maybe a rest once in a while for patrons who might enjoy a word with friends - would make these inconsiderate yahoos easier to take. Irish traditional music includes a lot more than reels and jigs, but you wouldn't know it to hear some of these people.


You know, I am rather curious, if these ITM addicts are really as overbearing as you make them out to be, then why is the pub manager allowing it? Surely, if the patrons didn't appreciate it, you think the pub would either receive complaints or a loss of business. As it is, at most pub sessions that I have attended, most patrons listen to us when they feel like it and happily ignore us and continue on with their conversations when they don't (Sometimes in fact the non musicians get really annoying.. I have been to more than one session where patrons felt no problem at all standing 2 feet from the musicians shouting to each other over the music... even though the pub wasn't in the least crowded at the time).

In general, I think slow airs are not common in sessions simply because they are meant to be solos and sessions really are thought of as social music. As for the songs.. well other than Sean Nos Singing, a lot of it isn't really ITM, and generally not many (in my experience) are willing to have the spotlight on them when they do a Sean Nos or other singing (outside of singing sessions).

I have enjoyed many a pub session in Ireland and Scotland, and quite a few fine sessions here in the States. But the mere fact that this discussion is happening suggests that the public (yes, "pubs" are public houses, not private practice halls!) behaviors of some ITM fans could use improvement.


Actually, I would respectfully disagree with the idea that the discussion somehow shows that there is a problem with some ITM fans. Every situation involving individuals will look different from different observers. While you might despise a particular session, others might in fact love that very same session. Again, I think ultimately a session is owned by the regulars in that session and if in a pub, by the manager of the pub. If the regulars like the way the session is going and the pub manager has no complaints, then I think we have no right to complain about the session; and that is true whether it is an Irish, Old Time, English or mixed genre session.

Of course, sessions change over time. That might be the other problem. What might be a mixed session last year might be dedicated to a particular genre this year... naturally if it use to be one way and now is another way... well, I can see being upset by it. But ultimately it is up to the regulars to decide what a session is.

--
Bill

#53 bill_mchale

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 01:30 PM

Wow Bill what you're saying makes lots of sense. In the ideal world, one town would have different sessions for the generalists and the specialists, and you wouldn't have to mix them. In real life, it's often not the case, and I find that it takes only one generalist to ruin the life of many specialists, but it takes many specialists to ruin the life of one generlist. It's a bit unfair :-)


LOL.. actually I think it depends on the type of session. Yeah, at a genre dedicated session, a single generalist can make a nuisance of themselves much more quickly than a single specialist can at a generalist session. That being said, a single generalist can rarely permanently change the nature of the session. In that regard, the specialists generally have the edge simply because generalists will start off being more tolerant of diversity early on.. and next thing you know, a group of specialists have become regular and the process of morphing from a generalist session to a specialist session has begun. In contrast, generalists (in this sense, people who want to play multiples types of music at a given session.. not people who play lots of music but are willing to stick to a single genre for a given session) are rarely tolerated for very long.

--
Bill

#54 Ptarmigan

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 01:55 PM

I have been to more than one session where patrons felt no problem at all standing 2 feet from the musicians, shouting to each other over the music... even though the pub wasn't in the least crowded at the time).

Bill, I think that's par for the course, in any session you'll get that from disinterested punters who regard a session as just rather animated background music.

In general, I think slow airs are not common in sessions simply because they are meant to be solos and sessions really are thought of as social music. As for the songs.. well other than Sean Nos Singing, a lot of it isn't really ITM, and generally not many (in my experience) are willing to have the spotlight on them when they do a Sean Nos or other singing (outside of singing sessions).

I must say, we always try to play as much variety as possible at our local sessions, because despite some popular opinion, there's a lot more to ITM than just jigs & reels. So it's a rare night indeed up here, when we don't hear at least one slow air played & as for Traditional Songs, the nine counties of Ulster are a wonderful area for finding many brilliant Trad Irish Songs. So we usually get one or two during the course of a night.
Now I'm not talking about the Ballads here, nor the Indian like warbling of the Sean Nos Singer.

The wonderful thing about an odd air or song is that the musicians charge back to the music with renewed vigour after the wee rest.

Variety is the spice of life ... & no mistake! ;)

Cheers
Dick




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