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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 9:34 am 
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brewerpaul wrote:
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Go back to your session,listen to the tunes and get the names of ones you like,preferably several different types eg jigs,reels,slip jigs. Those would be the ones to learn since the other session members already know them.

BTW-- for all the respondents who have said they've never been to a session, find one and go ASAP! It's the single best way to really get a feel for Irish trad.Even if you're not up to session playing speed, you'll learn a lot.





I feel like what I've learned about ITM from going to sessions or reading about sessions hasn't made me like it very much. I like hearing the music, but as far as I can tell the culture of sessions is cliquish and unwelcoming. People typically have sort of grimly serious expressions on their faces, and there isn't a lot of conversation. Over at "the session.org' there was recently a thread about how to ditch the people who ruin sessions because they don't "get it.". There are lots of threads the gist of which is something like "oh some guy came to the session and started playing "the sally gardens" and I'm so sick of that tune how do we get rid of the guy." There's a thread now about playing really fast and how it's mainly useful to weed people out. The whole point looks like exclusivity, not welcome. There's no formal list of tunes to learn, there's no standard way of playing the tune: you are just supposed to magically "know." It's like joining a different lunch table in high school.

Obviously lots of people find great joy in it and more power to them: also any social interaction looks weird from the outside. And of course there's everything to be said for actually learning the tradition rather than thinking you're entitled to wank away: respect and courtesy should be foremost and you can't expect to just walk up and join a group of great players, of course not.

I'd love to know the history of "the session" as a thing. A great deal of the practice of irish traditional music appears to have been, at one time, solo playing, a guy in his home, a family after dinner, a single piper or fiddler, or ensemble performance at public events. There would be multiple musicians at wedding and fairs, and of course later ceili bands, but O'Neill describes groups of people gathering in someone's home to play tunes, or in clubs. In Passing the time in Ballymenone Henry Glassie talks about lots of private playing, people gathering in someone's home and taking turns playing tunes solo, enjoying the individual's expression of a tune. I've just read a couple of Jr. Crehan's oral histories, and a lot of what he describes is appreciation for solo playing. The session today is an odd hybrid of private music making, friends getting together to play tunes, and public performance, and it seems to simultaneously invite participation and repel it. I suppose it also has to do with the peculiarity of folk music as a pursuit. On the one hand you want everyone to like it, on the other it's fragile and needs to be protected from oafs.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 9:57 am 
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O'Neill describes groups of people gathering in someone's home to play tunes, or in clubs. In Passing the time in Ballymenone Henry Glassie talks about lots of private playing, people gathering in someone's home and taking turns playing tunes solo, enjoying the individual's expression of a tune. I've just read a couple of Jr. Crehan's oral histories, and a lot of what he describes is appreciation for solo playing.


All this is a bit of a tangled web and one does need to be careful not to read today's practices into varying accounts.

First of all, O'Neill's gathering may or may not have had people playing together, there will certainly have been duets and trios and even foursomes but not necessarily big groups playing. At one time it was not uncommon for musicians to gather and play a few tunes each for eachother, taking turns while the rest of the group listened. But you said that already.

There were tunes at home, playing for neighbours but function is important here. Junior's appreciation for solo playing doesn't rule out playing as part of a group as well. And Junior certainly did that when the occasion arose, in social situations, playing for the sets, at housedances, for volume more than one musician would be needed. Junior played for seventy years for dancers with various people. For decades a group of six of them, sometimes referred to as 'Dad's Amry' and also irreverently known as the 'Stiff Six' (and sometimes with even less reverence the 'Six Stiffs'). And, more formally, he was part of the Quilty Ceiliband and the Laictín Naoifa ceili band in his time. Context is important for the form the playing takes, solo and playing with others each had/have their time and place although it could be argued that 'sessions' as they function now are a development of the latter half of the last century.

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Last edited by Mr.Gumby on Wed Feb 06, 2019 6:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 11:35 am 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
Quote:
O'Neill describes groups of people gathering in someone's home to play tunes, or in clubs. In Passing the time in Ballymenone Henry Glassie talks about lots of private playing, people gathering in someone's home and taking turns playing tunes solo, enjoying the individual's expression of a tune. I've just read a couple of Jr. Crehan's oral histories, and a lot of what he describes is appreciation for solo playing.


All this is a bit of a tangled web and one does need to be careful not to read today's practices into varying accounts.

First of all, O'Neill's gathering may or may not have had people playing together, there will certainly have been duets and trios and even foursomes but not necessarily big groups playing. At one time it was not uncommon for musicians to gather and play a few tunes each for eachother, taking turns while the rest of the group listened. But you said that already.

There were tunes at home, playing for neighbours but function is important here. Junior's appreciation for solo playing doesn't rule out playing as part of a group as well. And Junior certainly did that when the occasion arose, in social situations, playing for the sets, at housedances, for volume more than one musician would be needed. Junior played for seventy years for dancers with various people. For decades a group of six of them, irreverently known as the 'Stiff Six' (and sometimes with even less reverence the 'Six Stiffs'). And, more formally, he was part of the Quilty Ceiliband and the Laictín Naoifa ceili band in his time. Context is important for the form the playing takes, solo and playing with others each had/have their time and place although it could be argued that 'sessions' as they function now are a development of the latter half of the last century.



Junior's words are just fascinating. I doubt I could understand him speaking in real life, so I'm delighted they were written down! He does clearly play a lot of what we would call "gigs," contracted to play for money, and yes you're right he does describe small groups playing together, and he likes to hear and play with other musicians as good as himself, and he describes the robust rivalry with other ceili bands. I just don't fully understand the modern session, which seems like it's sort of a public performance and sort of a private gathering. In lots of the american music I'm more experienced in, each player gets a "turn," a solo, and the novice gets brought in and tested and learns. The Session seems to want the player to show up fully formed, while in Jr's account he learned his trade playing for himself but also in the forge of paying gigs, and most good musicians he met knew the same stuff in large part because they played the same stuff at gigs.

So sessions started after the 1950s? Please tell me more, if you will.

I'm also wondering about O'Riada and the Cheiftains. O'Riada seems to want to have imposed some of the modes of classical music--not just the concert hall, but ensemble playing, then featured turns by individual instruments--on irish music. I know the Chieftains come out of his bands. In my conversation with Nicholas Carolan he compared the Chieftains to a jazz band, but also pointed out how they were kind of a dead end, respected but not widely imitated today and replaced by the unison playing of three tunes in a set.


it's all very interesting


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 11:57 am 
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Junior's words are just fascinating. I doubt I could understand him speaking in real life, so I'm delighted they were written down! He does clearly play a lot of what we would call "gigs," contracted to play for money,


He was very quiet spoken, at least later in life, but he wasn't that hard to follow. Not sure there were that many paid 'gigs'. He did play the sunday nights for near seventy years but that was more a social event. We kept it going after Junior died, until the pub folded anyway.


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Christmas eve 1996, Junior having a break at the bar

There's some speech on the (double) CD they did of him. You may also want to look at the documentary ('Junior') TG4 showed at Christmas, I may (or may not ) still be up on the TG4 player. It didn't go very deep but it was nice enough to watch. If you can't find anything else, I can probably dig out a bit and put it up, if you want to hear him.

Sessions as we have them today are supposed to have grown out of the melting pot that was London during the fifties and onward.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2019 5:45 am 
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Sessions as we have them today are supposed to have grown out of the melting pot that was London during the fifties and onward.


I was a bit brief on the subject last night, busy making the dinner. It came to me later that for the London scene and development of sessions there you will probably need to read this:

Reg Hall : A few good tunes of music

It's downloadable as a PDF, or was years ago, and is a massive piece of work, a mighty read.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2019 8:12 am 
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PB+J wrote:
brewerpaul wrote:
\

I feel like what I've learned about ITM from going to sessions or reading about sessions hasn't made me like it very much. I like hearing the music, but as far as I can tell the culture of sessions is cliquish and unwelcoming. People typically have sort of grimly serious expressions on their faces, and there isn't a lot of conversation. Over at "the session.org' there was recently a thread about how to ditch the people who ruin sessions because they don't "get it.". There are lots of threads the gist of which is something like "oh some guy came to the session and started playing "the sally gardens" and I'm so sick of that tune how do we get rid of the guy." There's a thread now about playing really fast and how it's mainly useful to weed people out. The whole point looks like exclusivity, not welcome. There's no formal list of tunes to learn, there's no standard way of playing the tune: you are just supposed to magically "know." It's like joining a different lunch table in high school.


Each session has it's own vibe. I've been to a few like you described and never went back. However,there are a lot of sessions that are very open and welcoming.I go to a wonderful one at The Garryowen Irish Pub in Gettysburg PA. It's an open session,with some fantastic players and some relative newbies. The person who calls a tune sets the pace and the group is really good about keeping to it.Nobody gripes about playing an old warhorse of a tune. People let each other try out their instruments and people are generally all smiling.Many hang out after the playing to have dinner together. That's the kind of session you need to find.

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