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.