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Reel-to-reel Domination


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When I lived in the Highlands, music in pub sessions and home ceilidhs ran the gamut from Celtic reels, jigs, slow airs and songs to folk, bluegrass, C&W, jazz, even klezmer, and with plenty of singing along the way. But here in the Upper Midwest, pub sessions seem to be dominated by non-stop Irish reels, to the virtual exclusion of anything else. I can take about 15 minutes of reel-to-reel before boredom sets in. <_<

 

Anyone else encounter this reel-to-reel problem? :blink:

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When I lived in the Highlands, music in pub sessions and home ceilidhs ran the gamut from Celtic reels, jigs, slow airs and songs to folk, bluegrass, C&W, jazz, even klezmer, and with plenty of singing along the way. But here in the Upper Midwest, pub sessions seem to be dominated by non-stop Irish reels, to the virtual exclusion of anything else. I can take about 15 minutes of reel-to-reel before boredom sets in. <_<

 

Anyone else encounter this reel-to-reel problem? :blink:

 

 

I feel your pain. "My" session at Stone's Public House is on whole very balanced. Now I don't know how they would react to me pulling out my bluegrass banjo :ph34r: , but there is a fair mix of jigs, hornpipes, slides, polkas and the occational slow air. I'm called on to sing perhaps four times in an evening and if someone else walks in who is known to sing, they are encouraged/badgered until they give in.

 

There can be some lively reels strung together in the early to middle part of an evening before ale and strong cider have had their way with the more ebullient amongst our members. Then slower and at times less steady comes into it's own.

 

My great joy is that not unlike Forest Gump and his box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get or who will walk in the door and change the flow. If you are ever in the Boston area, let me know. I assure you an interesting Tuesday evening.

Edited by Mark Evans
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When I lived in the Highlands, music in pub sessions and home ceilidhs ran the gamut from Celtic reels, jigs, slow airs and songs to folk, bluegrass, C&W, jazz, even klezmer, and with plenty of singing along the way. But here in the Upper Midwest, pub sessions seem to be dominated by non-stop Irish reels, to the virtual exclusion of anything else. I can take about 15 minutes of reel-to-reel before boredom sets in. <_<

 

Anyone else encounter this reel-to-reel problem? :blink:

 

 

At the celtic festivals I have attended, and at some of the open "jam" sessions I have been privy to watch, I have noticed the same tendency for reels to take prominence. Sometimes, when you get a group together who don't know each other well, there will only be a few songs everybody knows.

 

At one festival I attended I stopped to watch the "Sessions Tent", they were all playing the same tune, which is to be expected. I went and got a draft, wandered to another tent to watch some dancers, finished my pint, used the facilties, wandered back to the sessiosn tent and low and behold the same tune was droning out of the session tent in infinite monotony.

 

Rarely have I actaully heard ballads sung, and at one "Celtic" festival I attended there was even a greatful dead cover band.

 

It may be due to the burping factor, its difficult to sap a pint and sing gracefully, juggling belches between verses.

 

Side Note: It seems to me performers who actaully have a real "Celtic" heritage, usually visiting the states from thier homelands, think anything they play is "Celtic", even if its stright up rock n roll with an accent.

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I was in Indianapolis last night, and the tune mix was great. Reels were at most 40 or 50 percent. The best and most reliable session in all of Indiana, worth a side trip!

 

Ken

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At the local session here I'd say jigs and hornpipes predominate, then reels, but we also play airs, waltzes, polkas, set dances, and have the occasional song. The key is usually D,G, Am, A Dorian, A major, F, Dm, Gm, or Bb. I've also heard C#m and Eb used for songs.

 

At old time sessions the only form is the reel time breakdown. These are usually restricted to two keys as well.

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In the event that any of you by chance find yourself in the Northeast US, try to take n one of our friday evening sessions at the Press Room in Portsmouth NH. We have a total mix, as Ken Coles can attest to, of reels,jigs, ballads, slip jigs, lyrics, drinking songs, waltzes, shanties. We usually have two or three concertinas, English and Anglo, a banjp, octave mandolins, fiddles, bodhrans, bones, guitars, et al.

 

Sessions start at 4:30 and run till 9:00. If you know you're coming, let me know and I'll try to save you a seat -- Tom

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If you know you're coming, let me know and I'll try to save you a seat -- Tom

Tom, I may take you up on that. I seem to be getting to that part of the world around twice per year visiting my mother-in-law who lives in Exeter NH. I guess that Portsmouth would be about a 40 drive? Sounds like a fine session.

 

Hooves, you say:

 

At one festival I attended I stopped to watch the "Sessions Tent", they were all playing the same tune, which is to be expected. I went and got a draft, wandered to another tent to watch some dancers, finished my pint, used the facilties, wandered back to the sessiosn tent and low and behold the same tune was droning out of the session tent in infinite monotony.

 

I've been peeved by the opposite at Irish sessions where musicians play two times through a tune only. If you are trying to learn something by ear at a session then 7 or 8 times is much better. Even if you know the tune, there is so much that can be done with how you play it that each time through is different, But I've been given the evil eye at many an Irish session for playing too many times through, that is until I figured out how to be polite in such situations... when in Rome you know.

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At our session in Boulder, I'd guess that jigs are 50% of what we play, reels 35%. We usually have several songs during the evening.

There can be some lively reels strung together in the early to middle part of an evening before ale and strong cider have had their way with the more ebullient amongst our members. Then slower and at times less steady comes into it's own.

Ha! It's quite the opposite here. When our session begins 7-ish, it's usually only us, ah, "mature" players in attendance, and our pace is relaxed. At 9 pm or later we often have an influx of 20-somethings who can rip through the reels, leaving the rest of us in the dust ... and I haven't noticed the alcohol slowing anyone down. :lol:

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At 9 pm or later we often have an influx of 20-somethings who can rip through the reels, leaving the rest of us in the dust ...

And where's the musical pleasure in that? That's why I've given up on Irish music sessions, in England, at any rate. Treating tunes as an excuse for competitive speed diddling ought to be a hanging offense IMHO ("proportion? Of course I've got a sense of proportion").

 

Come to an English music session for great tunes with sensible names at playable speeds!

 

Chris

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Reels are the favorite at our session all right, but we balance them out with jigs, slip jigs and hornpipes. We also play the odd barndance, planxty or waltz. Since a few of us play for sets from time to time the occasional polka or slide might rear it's head. Our barman (who just won the singing competition at the MidWest Fleadh in St. Louis) sings one or two songs from behind the bar when asked. I think a lot of it has to do with your own musical background and who comes to the session.

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Ha! It's quite the opposite here. When our session begins 7-ish, it's usually only us, ah, "mature" players in attendance, and our pace is relaxed. At 9 pm or later we often have an influx of 20-somethings who can rip through the reels, leaving the rest of us in the dust ... and I haven't noticed the alcohol slowing anyone down. :lol:

 

Yes, I've listened to the cuts from your site. There's no dust on the shelf for sure. Fine playing and a great mix of textures and tune combinations. I guess most of us in attendence at Stone's are perhaps a bit long in the tooth.

 

We have one mother and son combination (fiddlers) that are a delight to behold. I've noticed in the last two weeks that she is absolutely transported when her son is there. He hears a tune once, maybe twice through and he has at it like it's been under his fingers for years. The lad I've observed holds mum to more relaxed tempi for she can fly like greased lightening. Often the whole family is in attendence, dad smiling and conversational and daughter reading and on occation dancing. It's remarkable.

 

My Dominique actually was not on the road and came along two weeks ago spent the evening with a pot of tea and knitting. It felt good to have her there sharing a secret communion I share with these folks. They really wanted her to sing. Perhaps next time she will.

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In the event that any of you by chance find yourself in the Northeast US, try to take n one of our friday evening sessions at the Press Room in Portsmouth NH. We have a total mix, as Ken Coles can attest to, of reels,jigs, ballads, slip jigs, lyrics, drinking songs, waltzes, shanties. We usually have two or three concertinas, English and Anglo, a banjp, octave mandolins, fiddles, bodhrans, bones, guitars, et al.

 

Sessions start at 4:30 and run till 9:00. If you know you're coming, let me know and I'll try to save you a seat -- Tom

 

Amen, it is the greatest session I've known, and one of the things I miss most about my brief time living in New England. I've been trying to figure out how I can get there sometime this summer but have not found a way, as I'm going to California for a long visit with the aging folks through much of the season.

 

One of these days!

 

Ken

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At 9 pm or later we often have an influx of 20-somethings who can rip through the reels, leaving the rest of us in the dust ...

And where's the musical pleasure in that? That's why I've given up on Irish music sessions, in England, at any rate. Treating tunes as an excuse for competitive speed diddling ought to be a hanging offense IMHO ("proportion? Of course I've got a sense of proportion").

 

Come to an English music session for great tunes with sensible names at playable speeds!

 

Chris

We had an Irish session in Houston that was like that...wall to wall reels played at bluegrass tempo, in monoculture Irish. But we changed the situation, by starting an 'English' session, which two years on has been highly successful. Once folks know what the session is, they get it right away....the 'it' being that although the core of tunes we play are English, we play a lot of Irish, Scottish, old time American and French too. And sing. Great relaxing evenings, moderate tempo with lots of conversation. I highly recommend that route to anyone starting a session, else you be overwhelmed with Bothy Band clones and Celtic Twilight zombies.

 

In my memory Irish music as played in west Clare...in roadside places like Gleason's for example rather than the more commercial venues...was also relaxed and more ecumenical; thoroughly enjoyable. The tempo of the old gentlemen like Junior Creehan was slower and more natural than the hot, highly orchestrated CDs of twentysomethings. Somehow, the idea that Irish music is to be enjoyed and is not a competition or a race often doesn't translate over here unless one has a high percentage of transplants, which we don't have here in Texas. The 'English' route stops those rapid fire doldrums from starting, because new folk have to ask someone what the heck an 'English' session is, therby learning of the desired etiquette and mix.

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And where's the musical pleasure in that? That's why I've given up on Irish music sessions, in England, at any rate. Treating tunes as an excuse for competitive speed diddling ought to be a hanging offense IMHO ("proportion? Of course I've got a sense of proportion").

 

Amen to that. I've been playing at a small, non-Irish session for years, and we tended to be speed demons. Then a new participant started showing up, and she showed us how we were turning the tunes into a musical blur.

 

We play a lot of tunes much slower now, and they sound much better.

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But we changed the situation, by starting an 'English' session, which two years on has been highly successful. Once folks know what the session is, they get it right away....the 'it' being that although the core of tunes we play are English, we play a lot of Irish, Scottish, old time American and French too. And sing. Great relaxing evenings, moderate tempo with lots of conversation.

Sounds like I'd find a real home from home in Houston!

 

In my memory Irish music as played in west Clare...in roadside places like Gleason's for example rather than the more commercial venues...was also relaxed and more ecumenical; thoroughly enjoyable.

This was why I was careful to specify Irish sessions in England. I once went to a lovely session in a pub behind the Four Courts in Dublin that was every bit as easy going and open and enjoyable as any I've ever been to, and despite being in Ireland (or perhaps because?) it was emphatically not monocultural. And there was dancing going on elsewhere in the same pub. I've spieled on elsewhere about the relationships between music, dance and sessions, so I'm not going to repeat that particular rant ...

 

Chris

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We had an Irish session in Houston that was like that...wall to wall reels played at bluegrass tempo, in monoculture Irish.

 

Ah Dan, now ya went an' done it :( . An easy target bluegrass because it has become so popular and too many folks are playing it which I guess is good. Unfortunately a goodly number of newcomers have taken to the banjo which is bad. One banjo to a room... please :blink: !

 

Bluegrass, should and does in it's best tradition (early Monroe, Flat & Scruggs, the Stanleys) remain well grounded in a dance tempo (clogging) which is spritely but not outrageous. At least with my chums when we have reached a place where the counter play between the bass and guitar on the strong beats and the mandolin and banjo on the off beats takes on the chug-a-chug of a locomotive on a long distance run, nirvana and enlightenment has indeed been achieved. B)

Edited by Mark Evans
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