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Session Snobbery!


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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! ;)

 

Mind you, I am not saying that other songs are not Irish, nor that they are not worthy songs. I am just not sure how many of those ballads would be strictly speaking considered ITM. In any case, that is probably something that will vary from session to session.

 

That being said, even if the session sticks to Dance music, there are plenty of hornpipes, slides, polkas and slipjigs that can be used to add some variety in the music... that tends to be how my local session does it.

 

--

Bill

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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.

Bill

Bill, I can see how that is probably bound to happen if the musicians only play Reels & Jigs all night.

 

However, if they make an attempt to vary it & include a number of Barn Dances, Flings, Highlands, Hornpipes, Marches, Mazurkas, Planxtys, Polkas, Slides, Slow Airs & Waltzes, plus the odd Song or two, as well as their Jigs & Reels, I reckon no one need ever tire of ITM. I know I never tire of it. The only time I got bored & wanted to put my Fiddle away, was at a Donegal Session, many years ago, where they ONLY played Reels! 2.gif

 

Let's be honest here folks, just playing Jigs & Reels all your life, would be a bit like restricting yourself to the Missionary Position! :P

 

Cheers

Dick

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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 :-)

 

Azalin,

 

Personally, I reckon specialists who are attending an open session in a pub should wise up & become generalists.

 

If they are at a home session, then they can specialise all they want, with whoever they want.

 

Unless of course they actually OWN the Pub, in which case they may be forgiven for dictating what is played. ;)

 

Or, if it is one of those FAKE tourist type Session/Gigs that I believe are becoming more common on the tourist trails in Ireland at least, where four guys sit round a table with a Mic or two ... posing as a Session.

But then who would really, in their right mind, wish to join such a farce, anyway! :rolleyes:

 

Cheers

Dick

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Guest Peter Laban
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.

 

The house is public yes, but would you walk in sit down at a table where you see people having a conversation and join in uninvited?

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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 :-)

 

Azalin,

 

Personally, I reckon specialists who are attending an open session in a pub should wise up & become generalists.

 

If they are at a home session, then they can specialise all they want, with whoever they want.

 

Unless of course they actually OWN the Pub, in which case they may be forgiven for dictating what is played. ;)

 

 

Dick,

They might well be able to play tunes from multiple genres and even play them in the appropriate styles, but if the session really is open with respect tho whom starts tunes and what tunes they start, then why should it be wrong for them to start tunes in the genre they specialize in? If there is an expectation that people should not start more than a certain number of sets of tunes in a particular genre for the night then it should be a spoken out loud... of course then its no longer really an open session is it? :).

 

Frankly, I think the whole concept of an open generalist session is essentially an unstable one. Its just too easy for a few specialists to come into the session and without ever meaning to (and without being snobs or mean), start to tip the session towards a specialist session. In contrast, its much easier for house sessions to maintain a generalist character if only because the owner of the house will usually make sure that they invite people with many different musical interests.

 

I think we can probably label the phases...

 

I. Its a generalist session.

II. Its a generalist session but ITM (or Old Time, Bluegrass, Morris, etc.) is most common.

III. Its an ITM session, but we occasionally hear Old Time, Bluegrass, Morris, etc.

IV. Its an ITM session, we really don't play anything else...

 

--

Bill

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Personally, I reckon specialists who are attending an open session in a pub should wise up & become generalists.

 

Maybe we have the real problem just here. What means "open" ? An "open" session doesn't necessarily mean "anyone can come and do whatever". An open session will often mean "anyone who can adapt to our style can come". It's common sense here. As Peter was saying, when people have a discussion in a public place, will you simply sit down and interrupt the conversation? If these guys want to talk politic, should they wise up and talk philosophy or any other subject?

 

That's the problem with many generalist, they apply their rules to all "open" sessions they come across, and will complain of snobbery when they don't feel invited. If they'd simply sit down and listen, wait for someone to invite them, etc, it would be a total different thing. They will often force their style down the session's throat.

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Unless of course they actually OWN the Pub, in which case they may be forgiven for dictating what is played. ;)

 

I believe that session learders don't need to own the pub to dictate the session. They have the right to dictate when they were the ones organizing the whole thing, contacting the pub owner, dealing some payment/drinks for the session attendants, and commiting to their session so that it doesn't die. *They* should be allowed to dictate, and if you're not happy, find another pub and organize your own session.

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Personally, I reckon specialists who are attending an open session in a pub should wise up & become generalists.

 

Maybe we have the real problem just here. What means "open" ? An "open" session doesn't necessarily mean "anyone can come and do whatever". An open session will often mean "anyone who can adapt to our style can come". It's common sense here. As Peter was saying, when people have a discussion in a public place, will you simply sit down and interrupt the conversation? If these guys want to talk politic, should they wise up and talk philosophy or any other subject?

 

That's the problem with many generalist, they apply their rules to all "open" sessions they come across, and will complain of snobbery when they don't feel invited. If they'd simply sit down and listen, wait for someone to invite them, etc, it would be a total different thing. They will often force their style down the session's throat.

 

I think I might have stated this a little more gently, but essentially I agree. Regardless of where a session is located, at a pub, in a house, or in the park, the session itself essentially belongs to the regulars at the session and the person hosting the session (assuming it is not in a park :). It may be an open session, but if all the regulars want to do is play Irish reels, and don't join in when you start playing a cajun tune, then shouldn't that be their right?

 

--

Bill

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Dick,

They might well be able to play tunes from multiple genres and even play them in the appropriate styles, but if the session really is open with respect tho whom starts tunes and what tunes they start, then why should it be wrong for them to start tunes in the genre they specialize in? If there is an expectation that people should not start more than a certain number of sets of tunes in a particular genre for the night then it should be a spoken out loud... of course then its no longer really an open session is it? :).

 

Frankly, I think the whole concept of an open generalist session is essentially an unstable one. Its just too easy for a few specialists to come into the session and without ever meaning to (and without being snobs or mean), start to tip the session towards a specialist session. In contrast, its much easier for house sessions to maintain a generalist character if only because the owner of the house will usually make sure that they invite people with many different musical interests.

 

I think we can probably label the phases...

 

I. Its a generalist session.

II. Its a generalist session but ITM (or Old Time, Bluegrass, Morris, etc.) is most common.

III. Its an ITM session, but we occasionally hear Old Time, Bluegrass, Morris, etc.

IV. Its an ITM session, we really don't play anything else...

 

--

Bill

Bill, if an open session is a genuine generalist session, then it should be able to go quite naturally with the flow & if say this week, there happen to be more ITM fans than Old Time, then quite naturally, more ITM tunes than Old Time may well end up being played. Next week, if there are more Old Time fans present, then the opposite may happen. I can't imagine any session members getting so petty though, that they'd start counting sets! :blink:

 

For this reason, I would change your word "unstable" to 'flexible'.

 

I reckon a really good session should reflect the musical interests of those taking part ..... on any given week.

 

For example, one of my regular weekly sessions is an out & out ITM session. However, when passing musicians drop in, we insist they join us & play whatever their music is & we often find the whole nature of the session will change for that night, as the regular musicians make an effort to play what they know, in the strangers genre.

It usually makes for a totally different night & ends up being a real breath of fresh air. One night a group of four singers from Cork were in the bar & half way through the night, one of them rather timidly asked if he could sing a song. We of course said yes & the rest of the night ended up being tune / song / tune / song. It was a brilliant night as these folks were excellent singers & made that a real night to remember. Thank goodness we weren't one of those so called specialist sessions, cause we'd certainly have missed a great night.

 

After all, we have all winter to play our beloved wall to wall, diddly dee ITM! :D

 

Cheers

Dick

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Personally, I reckon specialists who are attending an open session in a pub should wise up & become generalists.

 

Maybe we have the real problem just here. What means "open" ? An "open" session doesn't necessarily mean "anyone can come and do whatever". An open session will often mean "anyone who can adapt to our style can come". It's common sense here. As Peter was saying, when people have a discussion in a public place, will you simply sit down and interrupt the conversation? If these guys want to talk politic, should they wise up and talk philosophy or any other subject?

 

That's the problem with many generalist, they apply their rules to all "open" sessions they come across, and will complain of snobbery when they don't feel invited. If they'd simply sit down and listen, wait for someone to invite them, etc, it would be a total different thing. They will often force their style down the session's throat.

Azalin, anyone who just sits down at a strange session, without first checking it out for a while & then asking if they may join in, is of course, just asking for trouble.

 

For example, I went home to my old Edinburgh session, which when I left it twenty years before had been an all ITM event. Anyway, rather than just steam in, I got my drink & stood at the bar listening for a good while ... smart move every time! These guys didn't play one Irish tune, the tunes were all Scottish tunes I didn't know. Naturally, I stayed at the bar & actually had a great nights crack, listening to the best of music. You have to use a little common sense. I didn't feel that I wasn't welcome at this session & I didn't feel like they were being snobs, it just seemed like these guys were in a lovely groove & I didn't have the skills to be able to join in & add anything to that session.

 

I have felt the same way when I have arrived at a session that already had a Tenor Banjo player, back in the days when that's all I played. I felt strongly that ONE Banjo was enough for any session, so just listened.

 

Only a total eedjit would try & force a whole session to adapt to their style .. uninvited! :rolleyes:

 

You don't HAVE to play every time. There really are times when it pays to just listen instead.

I found that out the first time I went to Miltown Malbay. ;)

 

Cheers

Dick

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Unless of course they actually OWN the Pub, in which case they may be forgiven for dictating what is played. ;)

 

I believe that session learders don't need to own the pub to dictate the session. They have the right to dictate when they were the ones organizing the whole thing, contacting the pub owner, dealing some payment/drinks for the session attendants, and commiting to their session so that it doesn't die. *They* should be allowed to dictate, and if you're not happy, find another pub and organize your own session.

 

Azalin, I'm actually the session "leader", as you call them, for three local sessions, but I don't actually like the term leader. I prefer the term coordinator.

I do all those things you mention above, except dictate what is played.

In 15 years of doing this, I have always been totally flexible & I find that approach works best, for me & seems to work well for my sessions.

In other words, I suppose I lead ... from behind! ;)

 

I'm sure though that my approach may not be guaranteed to work so well, in all areas & situations.

 

Cheers

Dick

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Bill, if an open session is a genuine generalist session, then it should be able to go quite naturally with the flow & if say this week, there happen to be more ITM fans than Old Time, then quite naturally, more ITM tunes than Old Time may well end up being played. Next week, if there are more Old Time fans present, then the opposite may happen. I can't imagine any session members getting so petty though, that they'd start counting sets! :blink:

 

Ah, but I think the problem here is that many generalists assume that any 'open' session is a generalist session. In fact, I would say that many open sessions are simply open to anyone who wants to drop in and play... but in general the session has a particular type of music that it is built around.

 

For this reason, I would change your word "unstable" to 'flexible'.

 

I wouldn't.. I was using unstable in a very specific dynamic sense. I agree that any generalist session is going to have some nature of flexibility by the very nature of the term generalist. What I mean by being unstable is that it is unlikely over time that an open generalist session will remain a generalist session. Sooner or later, in my opinion, a group of specialists is likely to become the predominant regulars in a session. At that point the session begins to tip towards the more stable specialist session.

 

I reckon a really good session should reflect the musical interests of those taking part ..... on any given week.

 

For example, one of my regular weekly sessions is an out & out ITM session. However, when passing musicians drop in, we insist they join us & play whatever their music is & we often find the whole nature of the session will change for that night, as the regular musicians make an effort to play what they know, in the strangers genre.

It usually makes for a totally different night & ends up being a real breath of fresh air. One night a group of four singers from Cork were in the bar & half way through the night, one of them rather timidly asked if he could sing a song. We of course said yes & the rest of the night ended up being tune / song / tune / song. It was a brilliant night as these folks were excellent singers & made that a real night to remember. Thank goodness we weren't one of those so called specialist sessions, cause we'd certainly have missed a great night.

 

After all, we have all winter to play our beloved wall to wall, diddly dee ITM! :D

 

Cheers

Dick

 

Nothing against this type of session. And every session is going to have a certain level of flexibility in what tunes or songs get played in a given week. But if someone comes into an ITM session and starts trying to play Civil War tunes without actually asking if it is all right, they shouldn't be surprised if they get the cold shoulder.

 

--

Bill

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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.

 

The house is public yes, but would you walk in sit down at a table where you see people having a conversation and join in uninvited?

 

The funny thing is Peter, in the best old Pubs I have known, you could actually do just that, without anyone getting upset, but sadly those pubs are becoming very, very scarce. :(

 

Cheers

Dick

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Surely a session, by definition, is for all comers and the expectation is that if a musician turns up they are there to play. If it isn't, then it's not a session, it's a concert, or perhaps a rehearsal.

 

In what dictionary did you find this definition?

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Surely a session, by definition, is for all comers and the expectation is that if a musician turns up they are there to play. If it isn't, then it's not a session, it's a concert, or perhaps a rehearsal.

 

In what dictionary did you find this definition?

 

i often find some of the best musicians just show up to listen.

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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

 

And those other patrons might fairly say, "the musicians felt no problem at all sitting 2 feet from us, blasting to each other over our conversation..." <_< Matter of fact, I can recall several instances at a pub in Coigach when local crofters and fishermen were saying exactly that! So...what gives one group of patrons priority over others in a public house?

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