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Sessions In A Changing Ireland


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It's all about expectation, I remember being in Doolin during the early 80s, not bothering to go into O Connor's long at night (it was the tourist trap then as it is now). A young american guy asked me why I hadn't joined the musicians playing, I replied they were doing a job and didn't really like people to join (been there tried that), he nearly hit me for breaking the illusion of what seemed to him' a pretty spontaneous music 'seisiun' '.

 

It's fine, people still have quiet places to play for their own enjoyment, well away from the tourist trail or houses to meet for a few tunes and a few verses of a song.

 

The upshot of this discussion seems to be that anyone not living in Ireland who plays Irish traditional music should just forget about visiting Ireland (you'll just be dismissed as a tourist) and, instead, just enjoy your own local sessions (since you'll only find tourist-trap pseudo-sessions in Ireland anyway). This is actually valuable advice since a trip to Ireland can be very expensive and time-consuming. It's made me rethink a planned trip to Ireland. Why should I travel across the ocean with my daughters, who are good enough to play in any session anywhere, when they can have a more authentic and valuable experience in sessions right here at home? If some Irish players visit, perhaps we'll go hear them, so long as the venue is good and the cost reasonable. Of course, they're always welcome to sit in on an actual session here when they visit.

 

Jeff Myers

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Guest Peter Laban
The upshot of this discussion seems to be that anyone not living in Ireland who plays Irish traditional music should just forget about visiting Ireland (you'll just be dismissed as a tourist) and, instead, just enjoy your own local sessions (since you'll only find tourist-trap pseudo-sessions in Ireland anyway).

Jeff Myers

 

Ooooh getting touchy are we?

 

You read a lot that wasn't said or implied.

 

When you visit a country you're not living in or are from on a holiday what are you if not a tourist? Nobody implied you'd be dismissed for that reason alone.

 

I don't think it would come as any sort of a surprise for anyone who set foot in O'Connors after say, 1980, to find 'tourist trap' applied to it. Last time I took a visitor there we walked in to find a busload of retired American on a package holiday having their lunch with an accordeon player singing 'the Fourty Shades of Green' to them. We didn't stay.

Since Doolin is now mostly huge B&Bs, Adventure Parks, Holiday bungalow Parks and other such things, well what else is it? (It's still a nice spot away from all that, in fact I'll be going there after having my lunch to watch the wild Ocean hit the coast)

 

The fact a lot of musicians try pick a spot or time to play that's quiet or private does not imply 'you'll only find pseudo sessions in Ireland'. But if that's what you like to think, work away at it.

 

Just remember, a welcome is a courtesy extended to you, not a right you can claim. Also: especially in more wellknown places at this point you're one of dozens of people passing through especially during summer and not all experiences with them are very uplifting.

Edited by Peter Laban
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The upshot of this discussion seems to be that anyone not living in Ireland who plays Irish traditional music should just forget about visiting Ireland (you'll just be dismissed as a tourist) and, instead, just enjoy your own local sessions (since you'll only find tourist-trap pseudo-sessions in Ireland anyway).

Jeff Myers

 

Ooooh getting touchy are we? ...

 

Just remember, a welcome is a courtesy extended to you, not a right you can claim. Also: especially in more wellknown places at this point you're one of dozens of people passing through especially during summer and not all experiences with them are very uplifting.

 

You are no doubt correct, Peter, but I was trying to be serious about a major trip (and expense) my family is considering. Playing music with people is complicated, as this thread shows, and if there are insuperable obstacles to doing so on a 3-week trip to Ireland, perhaps we should save our money or spend it on a trip where making music wouldn't be a major component. That's all I'm saying, and I think it a legitimate consideration. E.g., one can visit Olympia in Greece or Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome for cultural experiences that require less courtesy from the locals. On those trips, less than uplifting experiences in hotels, restaurants or pubs would be more tolerable and even expected. And I fully understand why Irish players find the kind of tourist experiences described in this thread unsatisfactory and even try to avoid them. That I would also try to avoid them, for myself and especially for my daughters who love playing the music so much, seems only reasonable.

 

Jeff

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...I was trying to be serious about a major trip (and expense) my family is considering. Playing music with people is complicated, as this thread shows, and if there are insuperable obstacles to doing so on a 3-week trip to Ireland, perhaps we should save our money or spend it on a trip where making music wouldn't be a major component. That's all I'm saying, and I think it a legitimate consideration. E.g., one can visit Olympia in Greece or Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome for cultural experiences that require less courtesy from the locals. On those trips, less than uplifting experiences in hotels, restaurants or pubs would be more tolerable and even expected. And I fully understand why Irish players find the kind of tourist experiences described in this thread unsatisfactory and even try to avoid them. That I would also try to avoid them, for myself and especially for my daughters who love playing the music so much, seems only reasonable.

So you're saying that it's OK to spend your money on a trip to a place where you don't expect as much, but not on a trip where you fear that your higher personal expectations won't be entirely met? :unsure:

 

Instead, why not try to contact (off Forum) some Irish locals (Peter Laban and cocusflute come to mind) ahead of time, to see if they would be willing and able to arrange for you some more personal and friendly musical experiences?

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Guest Peter Laban

Jeff, you still choose to ignore my comment that a lot of what you say that makes you reconsider you trip was not implied in this thread.

 

Certainly, there are tourist experiences and they are there because visitors want them, people playing music in pubs for example, some people expect them and so they are provided to meet that expectation.

 

Not all expectations meet up with reality though. It's not perfectly normal to walk into any pub and start playing music, it's not perfectly normal if you see people play music to sit down and assume you can join. You may be invited, you probably will be, but it's safer not to assume.

 

You'll find pubs advertising regular sessions, in general these will have a core of paid musicians, they attract business for the publican. Sometimes you'll find a session that's not advertised, chances are a few musicians have a few tunes among themselves in private. Normal rules of human interaction apply, to some of us playing music with friends is like having a conversation, usually you don't expect a stranger to walk in and join uninvited if that's the case. Common sense will guide you.

 

Nothing really there to put you off a trip to Ireland but the place is what it is. It's no theme park, it's not there for the sole purpose of entertaining visitors. It's a terrible beauty that, like the weather you are likely to encounter, is likely to throw up a few ugly spots that you instantly forget when you hit the bright lovely moment that will eventually come. Play it by ear, take it as it comes and don't have too many expectations that can leave you disappointed when they aren't met. You may yet be pleasantly surprised.

Edited by Peter Laban
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So you're saying that it's OK to spend your money on a trip to a place where you don't expect as much, but not on a trip where you fear that your higher personal expectations won't be entirely met? :unsure:

 

I don't think that what he's saying a 'tal Jim. It's one thing to mince around a musical situation until one finds out the lay of the land and is either excepted or rejected. It's another thing altogether with ones children in tow, particularlly if they are musicians as well. Who needs that hassel and the potential of sullying ones progenys interest by the churlish behavior of a bitter put upon musician with a bug up his arse.

 

I'm sorry Ireland has been "discovered." At least in the case of we nasty Americans it will be less of a problem as our dollar continues to tank.

 

Years ago I sang in an Italian restaurant in Houston...6 nights a week. <_< Paid my rent it did. ;) There were evenings I got tired of drunk Asian business men singing along (badly) or a local self important yahoo calling me and the lads over to his table..."sing that there oh sola miaer thang" wave a $20 bill in our mugs and then continue to talk and blow cigar smoke all over the place. That was the gig, they were having a good time and that's why I had the job. I learned a lot singing there, made some friends, made some good music, supported myself while studying voice and all this without saying, "would you like to super-size that big mac meal sir?

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So you're saying that it's OK to spend your money on a trip to a place where you don't expect as much, but not on a trip where you fear that your higher personal expectations won't be entirely met? :unsure:

I don't think that what he's saying a 'tal Jim. It's one thing to mince around a musical situation until one finds out the lay of the land and is either excepted or rejected. It's another thing altogether with ones children in tow, particularly if they are musicians as well.

Mark, I think you missed my point. I interpret Jeff's Greek and Roman examples as implying that to enjoy them all he and the family need to do is look and admire, but for the Irish music he expects to be able to participate. He's demanding a different sort of experience. Many others are more than happy to go the "look and admire" route with Irish music and "sessions"... in fact, it's for them that the commercial sessions have become what they are.

 

To become a "participatory tourist" requires a different sort of planning than to be "just a tourist". Some folks who love ancient cultures don't just visit public tourist attractions; they find ways to get off the beaten path, or even participate by signing on to help out at an archaeological dig. Same with music. One needs to find someone(s) who can guide the way off the beaten path. I've suggested a way to do that. I hope Jeff tries it. His expectations for the musical experience are higher than for Greece and Rome, but his (and his family's) enjoyment will also be much greater if those expectations are met.

And there's also more to Ireland than just the music.
:)

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I think that there is a different impression given by a casual player joining into a session, than that of an experienced player. All of these various offshooots from the original posting by Cocus Flute concern me. I have never felt unwanted in a session, if I asked the question .." Is this a performance, or an open session" Many times while attending festivals in Ireland I have found great impromtu sessions, and often there are many sessions at varied levels going on through out a town. I have seen "tourist" players come into a session in Ireland, and try to prove themselves. As you can expect this usually backfires. I can tell you at our session, which I will go to this evening, the following will probably happen. Two or three of us will show up, grab a pint, chat for a half hour, stroll gradually to the corner and open up our cases. A few others will show up fashionable late, order drinks and sit dow. We will play some tunes, slag on each other, catch up on the last week of reality. play some more tunes and head home. The social aspect of our session is a big part of why I go at all. In reality, when I travel for business and find a session, or travel to Ireland and find a session I am there to meet other players, experience the locale, and have a few tunes. If I rellok at Cocus Flutes post, he is merely pointing out the fact that not all that appears to be a session, is really a session, and that is that. Riverdance not only brought Irish dance to the general public's attention, it partially destroyed the art form. A paid session is not a bad thing for the players being paid, it is not a bad thing for anyone joining in as long as they can hold there own for a few tunes, and not try to bog down the event. I miss playing in kitchens, and back rooms as it was done by my parents friends and our family. I also find the urge to go to a pub for a drink and conversation while visiting Ireland as much fun as playing a tune. my next goal is to learn the old game of cards played in the corner of McGann's or Ciaran's. Any help there from Peter or David will be greatly appreciated. Oh yes this evenings session is down a step. Bb/F on my concertina, C pipes, a fiddle tuned down a step, a C flute, and a bouzouki. A very managable crowd at our local, and they occasionally buy us a pint,and ask for more.

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Perhaps I got the wrong impression and came to a hasty conclusion. I'm not sure Ancient Greece or Italian Renaissance Art are "less" than Irish music, but they are certainly less dependent on others than playing in a session. I will, however, reconsider and try to do the legwork before we leave to discover real sessions that might be welcoming to some good young players. My daughter, however, has suggested we go to London for Shakespeare and sessions. I've heard, however, that with the economic boom in Ireland in recent years, the sessions in London aren't what they used to be. Nothing ever is.

 

Thanks for the responses.

 

Jeff

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Guest Peter Laban

It is probably good to realise nothing in Ireland really starts before ten in the evening. And, the age of your daughters comes into play here, that the under 18 are not allowed in pubs after nine. This last bit may not be enforced all that rigidly in some country places, it is a considerable risk for the publican if minors are found in pubs so especially in (larger) towns it is a factor. A fair amount of 'Trad for teens' sessions have sprung up around Clare.

Edited by Peter Laban
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The upshot of this discussion seems to be that anyone not living in Ireland who plays Irish traditional music should just forget about visiting Ireland ... and, instead, just enjoy your own local sessions (since you'll only find tourist-trap pseudo-sessions in Ireland anyway). This is actually valuable advice since a trip to Ireland can be very expensive and time-consuming. It's made me rethink a planned trip to Ireland.

 

I think the above is certainly worth talking about. You'll certainly enjoy a session more if you feel welcome and if your level of playing/tune base is about the same as the people you're playing with. This is the point to local sessions. If you're an accomplished player you'll find more sessions in Ireland that are both challenging and welcoming than if you're a beginner. My advice to a beginner intent on music is to come here only if you go to a festival with classes, or if you are prepared to seek out great players and take private lessons. I don't think you can learn enough in a couple of weeks to make a long, expensive trip turn into a worthwhile experience. If you just want to scout around the country with your family and soak up the flavor and connect with your heritage that's a different story. But don't come expecting a guaranteed warm welcome in every small pub with local musicians, or find immediate entrée into kitchen sessions.

 

Living here doesn't mean that you go out every night - unless you have abundant energy and don't have to wake early to go to work or milk the cows. I only go out once a week or so. I am very selective about the sessions I go to, as is Peter. I seldom go to festivals because in general I don't like sessions with more than five or six other players. But if you're starved for sessions then a large festival session might be the best you'll get. If I go out three nights in a row then my ass will be dragging for the next three days. People know now that the musical life, over here at any rate, where sessions start at ten or even later, isn't a very healthy lifestyle. When you visit Ireland for the music you're on holiday and you can sleep late and go to every session within a reasonable drive.

 

Finally, as Peter says, Ireland can be a cold and lonely place as well as a country on the verge of a giggle.

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You'll certainly enjoy a session more if you feel welcome and if your level of playing/tune base is about the same as the people you're playing with. This is the point to local sessions. If you're an accomplished player you'll find more sessions in Ireland that are both challenging and welcoming than if you're a beginner. My advice to a beginner intent on music is to come here only if you go to a festival with classes, or if you are prepared to seek out great players and take private lessons. I don't think you can learn enough in a couple of weeks to make a long, expensive trip turn into a worthwhile experience. If you just want to scout around the country with your family and soak up the flavor and connect with your heritage that's a different story. But don't come expecting a guaranteed warm welcome in every small pub with local musicians, or find immediate entrée into kitchen sessions.

My understanding is that if you live in Ireland and you play music you've learned to play while you were a youngster. If you haven't learned by the time you reach secondary school it's too late. Taking up the music as an adult isn't very common, but I have met a few adult beginners on my visits there. I think it might be more acceptable now than it was in the recent past, but it's still considered to be something you learn as a kid I think.

 

I met Sonny Murray's son in Ennis once and he said his dad would enjoy meeting a concertina player from the U.S., and he gave me the directions to where his dad was hosting a session on a Tuesday night. It was held in a building next to a church, and when I arrived the first thing I saw when I walked in were a handful of ladies sipping tea, nibbling on biscuits and chatting. You could hear a sort of musical cacophony coming from around the corner, and when I walked around the corner the room was filled with kids from age 7 to 14 maybe. At the center of it all was Sonny and a couple of other gentlemen playing standard tunes at a moderate pace. The kids seemed to be joining in as much as they could with the better ones toward the center. Among these kids was one adult on banjo. After it was over I asked the banjo player if he goes to that session very often, and he answered in a thick Tennessee accent saying he'd married an Irish gal and fell in love with the music after moving to Ireland. He said it was the only session he could find suitable for beginners.

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As in a lot of things, far away hills sometimes appear very green indeed and as someone who lives in Ireland (but not Clare), I am aware that as Gracelands is to Elvis fans, Ireland is to some players i.e. the mecca of trad music to be visited before one dies- if at all possible. And as someone who lives in Dublin, I often find myself viewing Clare in much the same way and for many reasons.

However as we all know, things are not always as they seem. Sometimes they are better but a lot of the times are indeed worse. Not too long ago, I went with some musician friends as they did a gig (un-miked) in a pub in Lisdoonvarna. The deal was that a bus full of tourists was due to stop off and these players were to provide the “session”. When we arrived, there were three or four seats laid out for the musicians and the listeners were to sit in the open space before them. The bus pulled up, in they came, the musicians started playing in already agreed sets of tunes. However as they played, a plasma screen above their heads with the volume turned down, showed the film Grumpy Old Men, and during one particular scene the “listeners” roared with laughter as they “listened”. All this as the best of music was being played in a pub in Clare !

At 10.30 pm the tourists went off to bed, the musicians played until 11 pm thereby fulfilling their obligations, collected the money and left. We headed across to Ennistymon, joined in an already existing session (again probably one in which some were paid) and the lads played with great joy, free to introduce tunes or continue on playing if they felt a tune fitted in, until early hours. Here also there were visitors standing around listening, this time intently. Both sets of visitors have since returned home to their friends, neighbours and work mates and told no doubt of how they were in Ireland and were at a session. Were they?

Many years ago, Dublin city had two pubs in which you were allowed play. There were probably at the most two or three more outside the city boundaries, the most famous being The Wren’s Nest in The Strawberry Beds. Sessions in those days were a group of musicians of all abilities gathering together, never was there money paid and only in some cases would you get a free drink. For those starting off or in the early days of playing, you got in early and got some of your tunes played. You could, as the night wore on, explain that you had just learned and were trying to master a certain tune and it would be played slowly a number of times for you. You could ask after a tune was played, about variations that had just been played and in most cases you would be given the notes and sometimes tunes were jotted down on the back of beer mats or old cigarette packs. Tunes would even be played again for learning purposes and I can think of many tunes I learn in that way. Those of us living in Dublin would visit the rural areas at every opportunity knowing how welcome one would be in the pubs and as Phantom Button has said, I found the winter time to be the best time at which to do this, the reason being that you would, to my mind, get to hear the best of music and play in a unhurried, relaxed and friendly environment.

However because of the type of session described was my introduction, that is my defining sense of a “session” but not all would agree; those younger than me deal with the plasma screens showing Champions League football matches as a fact of life whilst also accepting that seeing the opportunity to play music in pubs in Dublin is limited, they may as well take the “shilling”. The changes leading to this current state came about mostly as publicans realised the value financially wise and hardly ever culturally wise of having “traditional music” in their pubs and musicians who now play for the few bobs have to understand that they are just part of the pub entertainment package, along with plasma screens, karaoke and music from the sixties, seventies or whatever and as such have very few rights and will be dismissed or hired as the financial climate dictates.” Traditional music” also can take many shapes- some publicans and punters consider ballad singing to be traditional music, whilst some listeners want to hear more songs than tunes, whilst some musicians when on a roll are not too keen to stop for a song. All of these demands and others such as the pub itself, shape the form a “session “ takes, and as the years pass, the definition of what makes a “session” changes; making the question “What is a session” hard to answer. So for those visiting Ireland, and indeed for those of us living here, who pack up our instruments ready to head out on any given night, “where to go” has become a question to be carefully considered, for there is nothing worse than realising at half ten at night that you have made the wrong choice and might well have been better staying at home. And this can apply I feel both to players and listeners alike in most parts of Ireland today. ! For those of us in Dublin, some nights there is no question as there is no session!

I would still consider that by and large quiet intimate sessions can still be found in rural areas (the last one I was at took place a few miles from me in Kildare and was in a small old dark pub where neither the owner nor the other drinkers care whether you play or not), but even in areas outside of Dublin you are not guaranteed the session of your definition and so “inside” information can be important as Phantom illustrated and Peter and cocusflute have said. Having spent most of the Mrs Crotty festival in sessions other than those in Kilrush in order to escape the madness, and having enjoyed them, I left for Dublin on the Sunday only to discover that I had missed a beauty in Cooraclare on the Monday!

For those like Jeff who are thinking of coming here, times have changed. The session world has changed and whilst we are I feel, still welcoming to visiting players and listeners, at times it can be almost as difficult for us as it is for visitors to find the right session! And indeed on the subject of Jeff staying at home, it is quite possible that there are better opportunities to play in certain parts of America- there are certainly more opportunities to find beginner sessions!

Maybe the golden goose that the tourist board have flogged to death if you will excuse the mixed metaphors, is eventually starting to refuse to lay and those of us who play and listen n Ireland are fleeing the towns and villages for quieter pubs off the beaten track and when even this fails, are reverting to sessions in homes. Maybe the genuine seeker of tunes both Irish and from outside Ireland is now suffering ?

Edited by Larryo
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Which leads me to worrysome comclusions:

Despite increased education we are getting more stupid.

Traditional spheres of activity, music and dance, that used to guide our lives and, sort of, skewer it together, became lose forms of useless entertainment, further loosening traditional social institutions of religion, family, work and rest.

 

More wisdom there than I am sure a lot of folks would want to admit.

 

Dad always said most folks went to university because they weren't bright enough to work construction.

 

 

It really depends on what skills your comparing, and how you define "intelligence".

 

There are scientists making discoveries everyday that 100 years ago would have won them a noble prize and got thier names in the history books, but we are far removed from their work: don't say people are getting stupider when in fact science is rolling forward.

 

Despite having calulators and computers to do our differential equations, despite having centuries worth of knowledge at our finger tips, the ability to actaully utilize the knowledge in a useful, brilliant way, is still a fleeting hope for the majority, as it always has been, and now the bar is higher than ever in recorded history.

 

I don't believe people are getting stupider, its just that inate stupidity is becoming more obvious: Kind of like comparing two shades of "white".

 

Not to long ago we were blood letting to cure a cold, swearing the Earth was flat, and drinking water out of intentionally radioactive jugs... anybody today would call that stupid.

 

We have more information, more knowledge than ever before, the fact that people don't take advantage of it doesn't mean they are stupider, just perhaps lazier (and ruder no doubt), and with such a broad base of subjects to study, the "Reniassance Man" really has his hands full.

 

and somebody out there is feeding that data base...

 

if you think I'm an ignorant loud mouth I can tell you this - in California I'm a friggin Genius and one halo short of Sainthood.

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It really depends on what skills your comparing, and how you define "intelligence".

 

The idea is not how many scientists we have or what amount ot recorded knowledge we have, but a connection between one's ability to make original decisions and the division of labor.

There is this notion that division of labor creates mono-task mind, and dwellers of remote mountains become more ingenuitive, more creative, less dependant on others in comparison to people in the city.

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ha, as the curious armchair anthropologist & fellow traveler who solicited cocusflute's very carefully limited and individual opinion and found it fascinating, i too am amazed, but interested, at the offshoots. my experience on several visits has been that i encountered nearly all of the phenoms cited here, including sessions which were clearly gigs (and no, the deciding factor is not always whether they are "miked." rather, one might safely say that virtually all miked sessions are gigs, but it is also true that many unmiked sessions are gigs as well); sessions which were billed as, or upon inquiry proved to be, open, gigs where the players made a visitor welcome, open sessions where the leaders were fed up and began playing in keys that effectively closed the sessions, and everything in between.

 

and i have to say, i have gotten a lot out of gig sessions, provided they have involved players i wish to see. this is because a crucial part of serious learning is exposure to wonderful players in the style(s) you emulate. it can't be the sole part or the main part, but you have to get some of that, and finding out where and when people are playing, and being prepared to just listen and watch if it is a gig, or a closed situation, seemed to me to be a good deal. i can't believe how many travelers who themselves are middling at best as players, seem to be miffed if a group of master-level players in their own habitat don't fall over at the chance to let them sit down and limp through a set. (perhaps, these are the same people who also want one to watch them on youtube, meanwhile, there are all too few internet clips of people you could actually learn something from. funny world.) i'd be dismayed to think that players were just going to start staying home and not even doing the gig sessions, because you can learn a lot at those. i was given a welcome as a player in some really nice situations. and i also happily sat and watched in some really nice situations. to me, what makes catskills irish arts week so great is that there are not one but two, skedded sessions per night dubbed as "listening sessions," where you can go and watch your heroes. same sort of deal with the ennisfest setup. why don't people want to log some time learning by watching?

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Guest Peter Laban

I remember someone who came back from a teaching job in Milwaukee or Catskills who was giving out about Tommy peoples there surrounded by some twenty 'acolytes' who all played with him. The comment was 'if they had kept quiet they might have learned something instead of overwhelming him'.

 

Visitors have a strong urge to play any second they are around. Understandable, limited time, travel expenses, chances to play with people admired. It can lead to awkward situations. Harry Bradley mentioned (over on C&F) in typical succinct manner that you can't expect to be made welcome if you walk into a group of friends playing music when your joining brings the level of the music played down.

 

It is a bit of a hot potato in the light of the diktat that 'everyone should be made welcome' but by the end of the day it can be very frustrating to be joined by someone who pulls your rhythm off constantly or messes things up otherwise without even being aware of it. And, with the increased influx of visitors it's all too common for that to happen, especially at festivals and during the summer and I think it's the main reason for people to turn inward as a group and shut others out by going for the awkward tunes or funny keys. You'll find people more tolerant if you know them and realise there's a time and place for everything. In other words seek out people to play with averaging your own skills level, it will make things much more pleasant for everybody.

 

I don't quite agree the microphone is a token there's a gig at hand: Gleeson's of Coore always had the music on stage with microphones which had more to do with the size of the place and the sets going on (although towards the end we took things off stage on quiet winter evenings to sit around the fire) and some of us fondly remember Junior Crehan playing a slow air while the speakers somehow picked up a Russian radio broadcast .

 

I do think I can still go out every night of the week and catch some nice people to play with. Having musicians all around and enough friends to play a few tunes with takes away some of the urge, we're still not exactly starved and never one to enjoy pubs much most of my musicmaking at the moment is confined to the kitchen in the company of friends.

Edited by Peter Laban
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This is a very interesting thread. The social dynamics of a session are a fascinating sociological excericise, and would make a fine thesis :)

 

I am, I suppose, a professional musician, so (like Cogsey) I have run the entire gamut from concertina learner to improver to serial festival sessioner, to regular session gigger, to seasoned old cranky, crusty seldom public player.

 

If you try and put yourself for a second in the shoes of a professional musician, lets say you are playing for many years to a high standard, how much enthusiasm are you really going to have on a friday night for the 99 millionth whistle/flute/bodhran/box/concertina player beginner/learner to jump in, pull out an instrument and launch into "Saddle the Pony" or whatever. :). Seasoned giggers/sessioners are wary for a reason - experience. I've literally had people sit next to me with a bodhran announcing "I bought this yesterday, mind if I join in?"

 

I would not do that.

 

If I came across some lads playing an informal game of soccer, I wouldn't jump in and start kicking their ball around. And if they were professional soccer players, I wouldn't even dream of participating. But at the very least I would wait to be asked or very politely request consideration for inclusion.

 

- If I come across a session or gig, even if I know the people in the session, I will slink up to the bar, sit quietly sipping a drink, listen to the music, and generally keep schtum, until someone notices that I have an instrument and extends an invitation to join. If that doesn't happen, I'll wait an appropriate amount of time, and ask politely to join in. Only then will I join the session. AND for the first half hour at least, I will keep quiet, I will not start any tunes (unless asked), I will laugh at everyone's jokes :) and offer to buy the sessioners a drink!

 

My point is that you are joining a personal congregation, and you are not neccesarily welcome, no matter who you are. If Michael Jackson started singing out of turn in a trad session, someone would tell him to shut the fcuk up :). When you join a session, you are a guest, and you must behave like one.

 

When I was a young lad and learning I used sessions to great advantage - I sidled up to the periphary, sat there quietly, played (quietly) what tunes I knew, and recorded the tunes I didn't. I went home and learned from my recordings and went on from there. That, in my opinion, is the way to do it. A session is not a stage or a platform upon which to showcase one's talents, it's a group excercise, but it is also, generally speaking, a minority dictatorship, featuring a hard core of 2 or 3 or 4 musicians who started the session and they call the shots. So long as one understands that and respects that, it's all good.

 

Also, never under-estimate the value of buying a round. ! The way to an irish musician's heart is through his liver :D :D

Edited by Aogan
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