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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 3:38 am 
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This is an interesting topic and, in fact, a thing that I've been pondering myself. Here where I live there's one monthly session in which there's a rather regular set of tunes that are played. It's a small-ish session and when I got interested and asked to join they welcomed me, as I reckon they would anyone who happened to get interested in ITM here. Of course there was but a couple of tunes I knew when I started, and I sat and listened to their playing most of the time, but as friendly as they are, they actively wanted me to participate and welcomed me to play the tunes that I knew so that I wouldn't need to stay idle all the time. One by one I started to learn the tunes and and so fit in more nicely. Since then there are actually a couple of tunes that I brought in that have become a part of the repertoire, and the monthly session has become one of the most important hobbies for me, if that's anywhere near the right word to describe it.

I'd like to think of sessions as an event that everyone's welcome to join, but, as said, not with a presumption that you can come and "ruin" the session by playing tunes, at least very loud, that you don't know. Of course I'm not that familiar with the session-scene and what it is in its birth place in Ireland. I'm travelling there next month and will take my whislte with me, and hope to see some sessions in which a passer-by like myself might feel welcome and hope to run into some familiar tunes, as well, to maybe participate in.

There is also the meditative aspect, escapist even, in playing the low whistle in particular. It takes me away from all the everyday hassle and troubles for a while and gives me a minute to relax thinking of nothing but the tune and the sound of the whistle.
Maybe some day I'd like to do small, informal (as a term already used in this thread), gigs with mates, especially when, in time, my skills grow with the Uilleann pipes, too, as there aren't that many pipers around my country so there might be somewhat demand for performing pipers. But I guess that's somewhere in the future, if an opportunity comes.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 5:47 am 
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I played in bar bands for years, and everybody dreads the guy/woman who wants to sit in. Usually they are terrible. Now and then they’re good or better. I used to call them “espontaneos.” Sometimes it’s funny. More often it’s tragic. I could tell many stories.

The absolute last thing I want to be is that guy. Trust me on that!

As I understand it, the “session” is not a traditional thing, it started in the 1960s? It seems like a semi commercial phenomenon. When we were in Ireland last year, for a month, I kept hoping to find a non commercial session, but all we ever found was performances of sessions. We were simple tourists and my wife and daughter are less enthusiastic than me.

It seems like it’s connected to the formalization of ITM as a genre, and so it’s in what seems (to me) to be a strange space, in that it has high technical demands and a large repertoire and a high level of specificity, but it’s also based on community and custom and insider knowledge. Probably the closest analog in the US is bluegrass music, which is a cousin?

It’s been true that the more tunes I learn, the easier it is to learn new tunes, and there are a bunch of “moves” that show up in lots of tunes. So I can certainly imagine a point where I can pick up a tune on the fly.

Those of you who play a lot in sessions, what is the balance of social playing/playing alone?


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:56 am 
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Caveat: I'm in the US so my experience may be different from other locations. This is also somewhat of a rant so take it as just my biased opinion.

At a workshop some years ago, Liz Knowles, the fiddler, talked about the "ideal session" as a musical conversation. And, much like a verbal conversation, is best effected with a limited number of people—she suggested no more than five max. In a setting like that players can hear each other, trade off variations or tunes, and musically joke or be serious. I've had the good fortune over the past year to be involved in two such settings on a regular basis and have both enjoyed and learned from both. Each was in a private home and so there were no intrusions into the "conversations."

Recently, however, I was party to another version of a session. This time in a pub/restaurant. This particular session has been running in the same location for decades and has become a focal point for ITM in the area. The hosts and facilitators are remarkably kind and welcoming, encouraging all the participants—at whatever level—to join in where they could, to play the tunes they knew, and to record/learn those they didn't. There was a wide range of skill levels from outstanding and experienced players to relative novices. At this particular gathering the group swelled to about 30 participants. Between the size of the group and the sounds of the diners, it was extremely difficult to have any sort of conversation, musical or otherwise. Nor do I think there was much passing of the tradition or repertoire going on.

It was, however, a social gathering of like-minded folks will all good intentions. It just wasn't what I was looking for in a session.

End of curmudgeonly rant.....

Steve

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 10:34 am 
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I’m a part of a session that plays every week at a pub. I’m a novice and I learn slowly so in all my off time from work I practice flute and make very slow progress. ( So I’m not a great example regarding ‘playing alone’, I assume you are asking more about those who are proficient.)

When I started going to the session, I didn’t know a single song, but they invited me in. We sit in a circle and, going clockwise, everyone chooses a set or song for the group to play. They’ve always asked me to pick and have always invited me to lead.
There have been a few gigs we’ve been asked to play and the session group have invited me along and I go (even though I have to sit out for half the songs, and I’m not even sure that I’m any good with the songs that I do know). They have been amazingly inviting and I’ve been playing with them almost weekly for a year.

In my area, “Old Time” is the other social musical genre that is played and talked about. ITM can basically function as a musical variant for my community. A lot of people here play in both genres and some can get parts of the genre (e.g style, tunes) confused with the other (to the consternation of others). I recently went to an Old Time get-together and there were 4 groups that played Old-Time and one that played ITM.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:55 am 
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*tunes, not songs, unless they really are just singing a lot... :poke:


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:41 pm 
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NicoMoreno wrote:
*tunes, not songs, unless they really are just singing a lot... :poke:


Fair. :P


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 7:04 pm 
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For good measure, here is a recent picture of me and my session mates. (That week, the power was out at the pub, so we went to a session member's house since his daughter was coming home from school and was expecting to get to play fiddle in a session. That is to say, power or not, we were going to have a session.)

Image

For those who are observant, there are 4 bodhran players in the picture. (One was a complete novice trying the bodhran for the first time, but it is actually kinda normal that we have 3-4 bodhrans in a session.) I remember reading a thread on TheSession.org about some differences between sessions in the USA and Ireland. According to the thread, in Ireland, it is more likely you'll have one bodhran player playing and others sitting out but, in America, everyone wants to bring their instrument and everyone wants to play all the time. That is kinda what happens with us too. Some weeks we will have 1 flute, 1 accordion, 1 fiddle, and 3 bodhrans. It gets a little crazy sometimes, but it is a good time and we manage to make it work. :)


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:59 pm 
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AaronFW wrote:
For those who are observant, there are 4 bodhran players in the picture. (One was a complete novice trying the bodhran for the first time, but it is actually kinda normal that we have 3-4 bodhrans in a session.) I remember reading a thread on TheSession.org about some differences between sessions in the USA and Ireland. According to the thread, in Ireland, it is more likely you'll have one bodhran player playing and others sitting out but, in America, everyone wants to bring their instrument and everyone wants to play all the time. That is kinda what happens with us too. Some weeks we will have 1 flute, 1 accordion, 1 fiddle, and 3 bodhrans. It gets a little crazy sometimes, but it is a good time and we manage to make it work. :)

I've known quite a few sessions in Ireland where, if there is already a bodhran player, someone else coming in with a bodhran will simply be turned away. I've also played in some where neither bodhran nor guitar would be welcome. Not elitist, by the way - just somebody's session that doesn't have guitars or bodhrans. :)

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 2:41 pm 
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The kind of session that interests me is 3 or 4 people maybe 5 or 6 even but no more, a balance of instruments, no audience , no drink, under the shade of a tree.
Generally I play alone because i play every day and ive been hard at it for 40+years.
The kind of session going on in town today with a gazillion people masses of instruments , noise, chaos..... ok if im paid for it but otherwise....

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Heres a few tunes round a table, first three sets;

http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/werty
http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/jigs-willie
http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/jigs


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:04 pm 
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AaronFW wrote:
in America, everyone wants to bring their instrument and everyone wants to play all the time. That is kinda what happens with us too.

That's a generality that doesn't play around this area. The sessions here may be flexible to some extent, but, there are the whole gamut of types of sessions from closed invitation only to open everyone welcome, however, when multiple bodhráns, guitars, or banjos appear someone is sitting out as a courtesy, or switch to another instrument but too many accompanying instruments just muddles the music which is detrimental to early learners in developing an ear and may be annoying to experienced players. We have some big sessions at times. I'm still fairly new playing whistle and happy to sit out at times just to listen.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 6:38 pm 
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The kind of session going on in town today with a gazillion people masses of instruments


But you can make your own space and organise people. I was in the back of Hillery's for several hours this afternoon, three sets of flat pipes, a whistle. Just fine. More than that even.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 9:17 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
But you can make your own space and organise people. I was in the back of Hillery's for several hours this afternoon, three sets of flat pipes, a whistle. Just fine. More than that even.


Says the man who's in Milltown at the height of Willie Week... :D


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 11:00 pm 
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bigsciota wrote:
Mr.Gumby wrote:
But you can make your own space and organise people. I was in the back of Hillery's for several hours this afternoon, three sets of flat pipes, a whistle. Just fine. More than that even.


Says the man who' :D s in Milltown at the height of Willie Week... :D


Aw c'mon, the man is dying of thirst in the middle of an ocean for want of a glass of fresh water :D :D :D

Bob

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:52 am 
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Says the man who's in Milltown at the height of Willie Week... :D


All I was saying, in response to Will, is that at the height of the Willie week, in the middle of that ocean you can create your own little islands, space and gather up a few people: Emmett Gill and Claire Keville playing in C all afternoon in the back of the cafe, Eanna Drury, Brian McNamara, Colm Broderick, and myself playing in C in the back of Hillery's most of the afternoon. Or all of the night Noel Hill, Oisin McDiarmada and Eamonn O'Riordan right in the front of Clacy's (so you could stand out side and look through the window and hear them well too). And no doubt many similar things going on in other places, if you care to look beyond the crowds.

And next week the crowds will be gone, I'll be still here, until the next one (if we live to see it).

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 1:10 am 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
Quote:
Says the man who's in Milltown at the height of Willie Week... :D


All I was saying, in response to Will, is that at the height of the Willie week, in the middle of that ocean you can create your own little islands, space and gather up a few people: Emmett Gill and Claire Keville playing in C all afternoon in the back of the cafe, Eanna Drury, Brian McNamara, Colm Broderick, and myself playing in C in the back of Hillery's most of the afternoon. Or all of the night Noel Hill, Oisin McDiarmada and Eamonn O'Riordan right in the front of Clacy's (so you could stand out side and look through the window and hear them well too). And no doubt many similar things going on in other places, if you care to look beyond the crowds.

And next week the crowds will be gone, I'll be still here, until the next one (if we live to see it).

Silly of me, perhaps, to pick up on just one name. But Emmett Gill is a totally brilliant musician. Fantastically inclusive, interested in everything and everybody, huge generosity of spirit, and an absolute joy to play with. (Having said which, I've only played in sessions with him on three occasions.)

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