How frustrated are you with sessions these days and is there any better options? When they work and have a strong core of musicians driving them they can be great. There is also no doubt that there are some fantastic ones around the country, but these are by semi professional and professional musicians. In speaking to some friends recently they stated their disappointment with the general sessions. Too many musicians, too much singing, too much drinking between sets, to loose. You name it they could describe it and I think I got them on a good day.

I have also long held the belief that sessions are not necessarily the best way to learn and musicians should be getting together in smaller groups, learning some sets, and then starting their own session in the knowledge that they were in control of how it progressed.

Are there any better options?

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We the Coventry branch of Comhaltas, have a fantastic session here in the Hearsall Inn, 45 Craven St, Chapelfields, Coventry every Tuesday night.  After all the tutoring on various instruments, we have a session with the pupils both young and old and play at their speed, when they have finished we then play at session speed but try not to play too fast, we always encourage new musicians to partake should they feel they can cope.

Our sessions start around 9pm and finish as and when really...sometimes 1am .....sometimes 2 am.  I can assure you no one is left out not even Bodhrán players...oops!!

I think you hit the nail on the head there Tony. It's important for beginners and different standards to learn and play and get experience, but it's also important to advanced players to be able to play with people their own standard. Standard specific sessions would be best for all I think and maybe if a learner etc wants to experience playing in a more advanced one they have an understanding and respect for the session and are maybe let in for a set ? but not just this awkward mix of standars with frustrated players of each just not having a good time :-) ?

Great thread, and great ideas Tom.

In rural Ireland (and maybe in other parts of the world) there are sessions shere no money changes hands, and these are probably still the most authentic. In many of those, the pub owner would traditionally give free drink and/or food to the musicians.

But now tourism is bigger, Irish Music is on a bigger stage. And certainly in the cities of Ireland there are it seems to me few sessions where money does not change hands.

I played for a long time in such sessions in Galway City. I felt I never fitted in because it seemed there was always a divide between the attitudes of the musicians who were paid and those who were not. I realised that in cities, the way many/most pubs are run is different (compared to small country pubs....). There may be a barman, a manager, an owner, all 3 different people. Unless all 3 of those want/like Irish music - your session will probably run in to problems. In rural Ireland - the barman, manager and owner are all the 1 person.

Anyway - to try a different model, I set up a session, which is paid, but with the important difference that every week, no matter who shows up, all money is split between all musicians.

So - everyone is paid - but as you may guess, it is not a lot each, but everyone feels a part of it. The money probably pays for your drinks, and maybe a taxi etc.

I don't know of any other traditional irish session in the world that runs this way. We have been running now

6 years, every week. It has needed some careful management. Beacuse it is paid, we need to keep the quality of the music at a reasonable level. But we also want new people to be allowed play their stuff. I organized the session, after 3 years in to it I left the country for 8 months, and it ran itself!

So - thats just an idea - in case any others in TRADCONNECT want to try that model!

(For the curious - we get paid 150 euro per week, most weeks have 10 musicians)

i agree with you no money shows hands in a lot of these sessions but why let greedy landlords get away with no drink mo money plenty of them in london

Danny, 

You may want to try the slow/intermediate session at J Patricks in Baltimore on Mondays lead by Donna Long (previously with Cherish the Ladies).  This was a beginners session but has slowly grown into an intemediate session.  J Patrick is in Locust Point on Andre Street out by Fort Mchenry.

 

Thanks for the referral, Lee. A hop, skip & a jump to Baltimore. And I've wanted to check out J Patrick's anyway. Two birds with one stone. Gee,....two cliches in one comment. Only you can bring that out of me, Lee. Thanks, mate. Cheers,

Danny
 
Lee Marsh said:

Danny, 

You may want to try the slow/intermediate session at J Patricks in Baltimore on Mondays lead by Donna Long (previously with Cherish the Ladies).  This was a beginners session but has slowly grown into an intemediate session.  J Patrick is in Locust Point on Andre Street out by Fort Mchenry.

 

I go to a practice session that has both beginner and intermediate levels.  The advanced musicians play on a different night in the pub, so we can hear the tunes there.  I'm a beginner (mandolin & Irish tenor banjo).

My frustration is that I learn a tune, then find out it's the wrong version for my group.  Just getting the name of a tune isn't enough to look it up on thesession.org, so you need to have a recorder and figure out which version it is from there.  As a newbie, it's hard to learn a new tune, then have to learn it all over again.  Geese in the Bog in D doesn't sound anything like Geese in the Bog in A minor.  (I learned D, the group plays A minor).

So my frustration is with the music and its organic and changeable nature.  It's something I have to learn to live with.  The people are great!

I've been frustrated with pub sessions so I started my own with like-minded melody players  of similar skill as participants.  It took some confidence and a thick skin but it's been the best thing for my musical development. 

I'm a guitar player. 2 guitars in a session is difficult (backing) so sessions just aren't that fun for me. (Except for a great session I played in Dublin, where the other guitarist and I worked together I know lots of the melodies but without amplification it's no use at all to play along. I did participate in a small session with a friend of mine where everyone encouraged me to plug into my little Roland Cube. ... sounded great and I could lead tunes then. And the backing sounded more in balance with the rest of the players too. That was the most fun I had at a session. Sadly, that session isn't going anymore.

There's another session nearby that bans amplification, which is ironic because the room is very loud and about the only thing that can be heard at all is the pipes.

I do like to go occasionally to hear the tunes. I get lots of ideas for things to learn that way.

I find this interesting Anne, there are so many different versions of tunes out there, if I spent my time learning every different version for every different session, I'd never get anything else done! I find that most versions work well enough together - yes they are slightly different, but they still fit. Sometimes the version is too different for the tunes to work well together, but that hardly ever happens. 

Anne Wright said:

I go to a practice session that has both beginner and intermediate levels.  The advanced musicians play on a different night in the pub, so we can hear the tunes there.  I'm a beginner (mandolin & Irish tenor banjo).

My frustration is that I learn a tune, then find out it's the wrong version for my group.  Just getting the name of a tune isn't enough to look it up on thesession.org, so you need to have a recorder and figure out which version it is from there.  As a newbie, it's hard to learn a new tune, then have to learn it all over again.  Geese in the Bog in D doesn't sound anything like Geese in the Bog in A minor.  (I learned D, the group plays A minor).

Brid, after that, I decided to learn one version of a tune.  If it's not the same as the group plays, then I sit that one out.  I don't know a lot of tunes yet anyway, but the confusion over tunes, different versions of those tunes, and who knows what the name of that tune is, is pretty funny, something we have broken out in laughter while discussing this.   It's the nature of the music, I guess.

Howdy Kathy.  I know what mean. I use the Roland Cube as well, and it DOES make a difference in how to play "traditional" tunes.  It makes an ordinary tune on the harmonica sound "mystical," and it alters how one approaches the tune that would normally be played acoustically. This is why I encourage folk in my little "Keltic Folk Music" sessions here in Texas to use the microphone with the Roland Cube to play the tunes.

I know that "acoustic" is the norm in most "traditional" Irish session groups, and maybe we're considered to be outlaws Kathy, ... but ain't it fun?   -- from the "KelticDead" and the Irish Texas Celtic Nationshttp://youtu.be/A9RjY-yta6A.


Kathy Barwick said:

I'm a guitar player. 2 guitars in a session is difficult (backing) so sessions just aren't that fun for me. (Except for a great session I played in Dublin, where the other guitarist and I worked together I know lots of the melodies but without amplification it's no use at all to play along. I did participate in a small session with a friend of mine where everyone encouraged me to plug into my little Roland Cube. ... sounded great and I could lead tunes then. And the backing sounded more in balance with the rest of the players too. That was the most fun I had at a session. Sadly, that session isn't going anymore.

There's another session nearby that bans amplification, which is ironic because the room is very loud and about the only thing that can be heard at all is the pipes.

I do like to go occasionally to hear the tunes. I get lots of ideas for things to learn that way.

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