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I was talking to a friend on this site about music sessions.We take pub sessions for granted here.Find a nice pub,with a nice landlord,tell a few friends and away you go.Also the music is almost entirely played without any written music,or the odd occasion when it is used for prompting rather than constant reading.My friend was saying that all the music played in his session was read.

On average we have about twenty to thirty musicians at the George near London Bridge.We never know who is turning up and we have a great mixture of music.It is a lovely pub and forms part of the London tour of pubs.

WE were recently recorded by an American film crew for a programme in the States .Did anyone see it?

What are your sessions like?

Regards

Alan

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We have an organized session called the "Fiddlers' Tour." See info at:

 

http://www.fiddlerstour.com/default_ft.aspx

 

and

 

http://www.timesunion.com/communities/fiddle/

 

I don't go very often. Unfortunately, music stands have become the norm there. Once I suggested a tune and one of the regulars said "What page?" It seems the Portland Collection is their bible. As you might expect, it all sounds like a junior high school orchestra, with everyone's noses buried in the books and nobody listening to each other.

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Hallo David,

Your reply is as depressing as my friends.These are not sessions they are music practice nights.

The excitement of a session is that you never know who is going to turn up from jazz musicians to one girl at our session turning up with a group singing Outer Mongolian throat warbling songs( I was annoyed she sang the one I was going to sing).

Where is the sessions I have always longed to visit in America,brass,woodwind,fiddles banjo`s etc,please do not tell me they don`t exist.

Alan

Edited by Alan Day
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We have a half dozen or so sessions each week within 20 minutes of my house that all seem pretty much the same. Most are held at pubs and written music is seldom seen.

 

The ones I'm most familiar with include the Thursday night sessions at the Harp in North Amherst where there is usually about 12-18 musicians with a good mix of instruments (heavy on the fiddles, a couple of 4-string banjos, a mando, 2 or 3 concertinas, a button accordion, some whistles, flute or two, a set of pipes...). As you can surmise, it's an Irish session, mainly fast tunes though there may be a drinking song or two during the evening. Nice atmosphere except that the others tend to clap after we finish a set (which is annoying so we tend to string out our medleys as long as possible before coming up for a breather).

 

The Pint in Greenfield (Sunday evening Irish sessions) is a more relaxed pub with better food, booths, more open (can move chairs and tables around, kids are usually there, card and board games are common...) - AND they have a piano! Actually, one of the biggest plusses is that if you play, you get to drink for free all night. They also make their own root beer and ginger beer which are really awesome.

 

This session can start out pretty slow around 6 with a half dozen musicians playing at a canter but by 7:30 there can be nearer to 20 really trotting away. By 9:00 there are 25+ musicians really cranking it out. Fiddles predominate with flutes second (one evening I counted 7 flute players!), whistles, etc.... usually 2 pipers. Virtually all jigs and reels and no songs.

 

My favorite session is at David Kaynor's on Monday nights. Pretty mixed bag of tunes (no singing) which I'd loosely classify as "northern" or "New England" traditional. Mostly contra stuff, French Canadian, a bit of Irish, some Southern (that's made it's way into contradom), the occasional Swedish or Finish piece. Lots of variety with hornpipes, waltzes, marches/processionals, schottisches and rag or two. Tunes here are at a more manageable pace, usually played separately with reality checks (how did that bit go?) and socializing between. Some tunes are slow-shared/taught. Some folk bring sheet music though it's more for reference and rarely played from. This is a smallish session with 8 to 15 people, fiddle heavy, a flute, whistle, recorder or two, guitar, mando, sometimes a clarinet player (or two!), maybe a banjo and a concertina or two. Oh - and piano, of course!

 

There are also regular French Canadian sessions, Swedish, a couple of Old-Timey, and several more Irish sessions.... I guess I live in a music-rich community!

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Around here ( Washington DC area), sessions are widely varied. I go to one every Weds night in a friend's house that can veer off into just about any musical genre. It usually starts with contra dance music (the infamous Portland Collection is a reference), but can detour to bluegrass, old time, Scottish, Irish, pop standards, Django jazz, English country dance, klezmer, you name it. Some of that is pretty bizarre on Anglo concertina, you can be sure.

 

I've been to music stand jams, but they don't seem to be common.

There's a local Irish session that I understand is pretty rigid, which is why I haven't gone; I really like the variety and the unpredictability of the jams I attend regularly.

 

Pub sessions are difficult. Very few venues tolerate freelancing musicians of any sort. This is a constant problem for Morris groups; pub stops are hard to arrange, and we've been thrown out of many when someone pulls out a squeezebox and starts honking. As far as I know, there's one pub in downtown Washington that has regular sessions, and one in the Maryland suburbs that does a monthly Scottish and a monthly Irish session.

 

Here in surburban Va, we don't really have many pubs.

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I have a bakers dozen (13) of irish sessions to choose from all within about 15 mins to half and hour drive away. In saying that I usually only attend 2 a week and the same ones at that. We have the same group of people each week which makes it small and friendly with plenty of craic between tunes. No dots are ever used although they are given to anyone at a later date if someone needs them for a new tune.

We have 1 guitar backer who also does about 2/3 songs, 3 fiddles, 2 flutes/whistles, 2 boxes, 1 tenor banjo, 1 bodhran/whistle players and coming along nicely a concertina :) We are also in a *nice* pub.

Some of the sessions around here which I haven't included but would amount to the same number again are purely folk music. It seems that these two genres just don't mix very well. They don't openly say so but you just know that neither are welcome at each of their kind.

 

The ones I don't attend but keep meaning too are run on similar lines but with a continuous flow of people coming and going. I just don't have the time to *break* into a new session but maybe someday.

 

The only drawback of meeting up with the same people is the tendancy for the same old tunes being brought out. So the challenge is to introduce new ones as often as possible so the rest don't become stale and overplayed.

 

 

Sharron

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I can probably go to about three ITM sessions a week that I know about in the Maryland area. Maybe they would be better called Traditional Music Sessions although they are mostly Irish. They are a lot of fun with or without sheet music. Some are in homes, two in a coffee house and one in a pub. It is a real mix, some have no sheet music, the others are a mix. Since I can’t remember how a lot of the tunes start and I can’t read music, it is nice to have folks who read music around (hum a few bars for me). The public sessions are open but not promoted heavily. The folks that come to these also play contra and old time so their concentration on learning tunes is not 100% toward ITM. This leads to a lot of that mix showing up in the tunes played. There are pure ITM sessions in the area with excellent musicians, but it will be awhile before I venture forth up to that level.

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Mostly here the Irish sessions are separated from the English ones it is not really liked if one type of music starts to dominate,ie Irish in an English session or visa versa.It would probably be politely pointed out where the Irish sessions were or where there was a good English session.I think however if a superb group of musicians turned up they would be appreciated whatever they played.

When I played the trumpet years ago I could not play any tunes without music,I realised when playing for Morris Dancing it would be stupid to set up a music stand outside a pub certainly if it was windy,so I decided then to play by ear.It has only been since I have been playing in a duet style on anglo, that I am using music again.I then memorise the lot and play from memory.I also use it as a guide to remember how a tune goes then disregard it.

Regards

Alan

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There's one real session out near me, and apparently it's quite ideal. It's open, friendly, and the regulars are there to have fun. When I've talked to people in othe parts of the country (US), I am often told of local sessions that get "too political" or become clashes of egos --- strange, because trad music is supposed to be a relatively ego-less genre of music.

 

At our session there's no written music, tho nobody is religious about sheet music being the devil. The regulars have their own band, but they don't treat the session as a gig; everyone is encouraged to play. There are some loud instruments there, including 1 or 2 full-blown 120-bass piano accordions (and yes, they play the basses,) but people don't blast away in their own bubble.

 

I'm also going to a house session now, which is a wonderful way for newbies to catch up with a normal session. You can work on your own nucleus of tunes, teach each other tunes by ear, and all free of the stresses of having an audience listening in, save for a cat.

 

Caj

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Around here ( Washington DC area), sessions are widely varied. I go to one every Weds night in a friend's house that can veer off into just about any musical genre. It usually starts with contra dance music (the infamous Portland Collection is a reference), but can detour to bluegrass, old time, Scottish, Irish, pop standards, Django jazz, English country dance, klezmer, you name it. Some of that is pretty bizarre on Anglo concertina, you can be sure.

 

I've been to music stand jams, but they don't seem to be common.

There's a local Irish session that I understand is pretty rigid, which is why I haven't gone; I really like the variety and the unpredictability of the jams I attend regularly.

 

Pub sessions are difficult. Very few venues tolerate freelancing musicians of any sort. This is a constant problem for Morris groups; pub stops are hard to arrange, and we've been thrown out of many when someone pulls out a squeezebox and starts honking. As far as I know, there's one pub in downtown Washington that has regular sessions, and one in the Maryland suburbs that does a monthly Scottish and a monthly Irish session.

 

Here in surburban Va, we don't really have many pubs.

Well there are quite a few Irish Session in and around DC and Baltimore (one pub in Baltimore has sessions no less than 3 nights of the week, a Monday Slow session, a Tuesday Session, and two sessions on Thursday (Slow Session from 8-9:15, regular session from 9:30 on)).

 

If by rigid you mean that the Irish Sessions are pretty dogmatic about sticking to Irish Tunes played in Irish style... well yeah, thats what makes it an Irish Session, would expect the same of a Blue Grass, Old Time or other style session. I recognize that many people love playing all sorts of music on their instruments, but others love a particular style of music and wouldn't be interested in going to a session where you were as likely to hear tunes from other genres.

 

--

Bill

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I recognize that many people love playing all sorts of music on their instruments, but others love a particular style of music and wouldn't be interested in going to a session where you were as likely to hear tunes from other genres.

My point of view, and possibly only mine, is that if you go to sessions where only one type of music is played (or worse still it would appear one type of music at one speed) you will miss out on the wealth of other music that you coul play.

 

I tend to stick to English tunes because I'm English but if I hear somethong nice from somewhere else I try to learn it.

Edited by Lester Bailey
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I think Lester that when you say you would miss out on other music you could *play* if you went to for eg. an irish session, well yes you would.

 

But it doesn't stop anyone playing what they want elsewhere either at home or at another session within the genre that you wish to participate.

 

I am english too but I am only 99.9% interested in irish music because that is what I like to play. So for me it comes down to only so much time to learn tunes, and to be exposed to new ones to learn at a session. So if i went to a *multi-genre* session the tunes I would play would only be a small percentage and the tunes I would pick up from that session I couldn't play anywhere else that I go.

So back again to going to the *type* of session applicable to your taste in music. We have lots of different types of sessions catering for all tastes where I come from, so if you want a mixed type then no problem , that is what you would go to.

 

Me, I spend a lot of time on my music and learning new tunes, I need somewhere to play them. Hence the irish session.

 

Sharron

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Well Alan i'll tell you a little story of why.

 

My daughter has played classical since knee high to a donkey, piano/clarinet/saxaphone/flute/cello. You name it she can play it. My husband and I have never played any music even down to a recorder/triangle at school. Anyhow she took me to a concert a few years ago in aid of some charity and it was all classical except for one girl who finished playing her piece then launched herself into a set of jigs/reels ? don't know. I had never even realised it existed as my daughter always had classical/jazz/blues, etc. playing in the house.

Well she was going off to university in a year or so and I was so blown away by the music I thought I would give it a try straight away, in fact the next day :blink:

Please remember I bought a couple of books and cds to learn from, I just wanted to *play* the music on a fiddle like this girl, I even *rented* my first fiddle. I didn't know an *irish* session existed until after my hubbie and I trailed around our new found hobby in *folk* clubs, etc. We just happened to talk to a lady who mentioned an *irish* session and off we went. I know I am a bit naive but I didn't know music was played outside of the home except for public paid performance/concerts. I lead a very sheltered life :lol: Well everything just fell into place when we were there, we just looked at each other and said ''this is what we have been looking for''. So that is the beginning, how it will end I don't know but I know it IS the IRISH stuff that lights my fire.

So have tried different instruments and stuck with the fiddle and now the concertina. Hubbie is playing B/C box and flute. And long may it reign.

 

Sharron

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There are various sessions around Doncaster and concertinas (mainly english plus my anglo) are in evidence.

Sessions are important venues for the public to see concertinas being played and to ask questions about the contents of their loft - and also for musicians (and beginners) to be encouraged to play concertina and to play along with them.

Probably due to my influence, Northumbrian seems to be quite a favorite tradition, closely followed by English country dance tunes.

See you (and your concertina) at -

Three Horseshoes, North Bridge, Doncaster on a Monday

The George and Dragon, West Haddlesey on a Wednesday

Star, Moss on a Thursday (proper Irish)

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There is a session here in Oregon, USA, where I live, mostly bluegrass and old country and western favorites from the past. We do a lot of old time American folk tunes, as well. It is wonderfully informal, with usually 4-5 fiddles, an equal nunber of mandolins and banjos, the occasional hammered dulcimer, a rotating number of guitars, 2 or 3 piano accordions and one guy who's just learning the three row button box, and me with my 20-b anglo. One fella stands in the center of the ring with a homemade stand-up bass to keep us all honest.

Probably the best musician among us is an older man (70-75?) who is disgustingly facile on nearly anything with strings.

Some do bring sheet music, but the rest of us tend to just recklessly dive in and see what kind of mischief we can cause...

I'm learning to fit my little 'tina into the mostly bluegrass music; the European antecedents of which allow me to follow along with some degree of euphony.

It's good fun in a small town.

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My point of view, and possibly only mine, is that if you go to sessions where only one type of music is played (or worse still it would appear one type of music at one speed) you will miss out on the wealth of other music that you coul play.

 

I tend to stick to English tunes because I'm English but if I hear somethong nice from somewhere else I try to learn it.

Lester, I understand your view, and I respect it, and I think there propbably is room in the world for what I guess we can call fusion sessions for lack of a better term.

 

That being said, I think you underestimate the importance of sessions for carrying on various traditional music forms (well at least Irish Music, but I suspect much the same coudl be said of other forms, even if their sessions take place in the homes of the music lovers as opposed to a pub). As a person who has only been playing the box for a year (and making pretty decent progress on it if I do say so myself) I find that the sessions I attend, both to listen and to play has had a major impact in helping me improve. While I listen to lots of different styles of music, it would be impossible to learn let alone master more than two or three forms in the amount of time I have to dedicate to music. I don't want to be a casual browser of Irish Traditional music who knows how to play 20-30 tunes (my current range) and then move on to say 20-30 bluegrass tunes on a banjo and then another 20-30 tunes in yet another genre... Further, even in such a narrow category as irish traditional music, there is such a variety of styles and tunes as I think it will keep me happy exploring it for many years. My accordion teacher knows upwards of 3000 tunes, I would like to think that 500 or so would be a reasonable goal for me to learn in the next 5 years or so and if I get that many I might consider exploring other areas... but Irish music is my first real love in music. I am far more interested in learning how to play it on other instruments (like the concertina) than I am in learning how to play other musical styles. While I don't want to sound like a session snob, I suspect that many participants in many fine sessions feel the same way about their session; its not that we think that Irish Trad or Blue Grass, or Old Time is better than other forms, but it is what we love, and what we want to play.

 

--

Bill

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