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Commander Crabbe Music in Co Clare (103* d) RE: Music in Co Clare 17 Apr 11


Many thanks for your replies explaining in more detail your situation. Firstly let me assure you that I am not trying to dictate to you how to run your session.

Secondly you ask for advice on any possible solutions to a problem which although not restricted to Clare appears to be more prevalent there.

Can we leave the egocentric gods gifts for later!

From what you say there are at least three or four problems to deal with other than the above.

Firstly is that you are almost certainly victims of your own success. Since the explosion of such as (dare I mention them) Riverdance!, Celtic Women, the High Kings, Enya etc. And before them The Chieftains, The Dubliners and many more to mention. There has been world wide interest in Irish traditional music and musicians. This includes not only listening to it but there are obviously those who will want to play and sing as well. This should not be regarded as a bad thing as to some extent it keeps the tradition alive. However we would do well to remember that this interest will inevitably generate a multitude of singers and players who will vary in ability from excellent through capable to maybe not so good.

Clare being a musically rich county will, as you well know, attract them in droves. As Peter says they will all have their expectations some will only come to listen others will most certainly want to join in with varying results!

Unfortunately the only real solution for being a victim of your own success is not to be a success! This is not really a viable solution so until such time as Irish music becomes unpopular with the rest of the world you are unfortunately going to have to live with the fact that you're going to be invaded on a regular basis by the excellent, the good and the not so good.

Second and thirdly you are victims of your circumstance and choice. All your sessions are in small bars which as you say is the choice of the musicians as they are cosy during the winter. Not a bad choice in my opinion, however, because of the multitude of people who wish to listen and join in the experience it generates it own problems. Those that can't get near the music or hear it start up conversations which raises the noise level forcing the musicians singers to sing/play louder which raises the conversation level and so on in a vicious increasing spiral until no one wins. This is a particular problem in our town. If we are lucky those of the audience who have come specifically to listen police the noisy ones into silence or subdued murmurs, otherwise we have to live with it.

Solutions, well, other than changing the venue to a larger hostelry and evicting the disco. Your only real option is to amplify (sharp hiss of breath) music to the extremities so they can hear as well, which generally (hopefully) keeps the interest up and conversation level down. Changing to a larger venue can bring its own problems and you tend to lose the intimacy. It can also exacerbate the noise problem as well. Also it will most likely not be the same acoustically.

This is also not a viable solution as it doesn't fulfil the regular musicians choice.

Leaving the egocentric few out of it. Most people if advised of the session/sing around etiquette beforehand will adhere to it. Those that don't know and feel that it's OK to join in uninvited have to be told then and there. Most will accept it, those that don't will most likely leave which solves your problem. This unfortunately will depend on their level of sobriety! In which case a different tack will be required.

As Peter said it is all about expectations. The regular session players expect to play as usual without being screwed up by poor playing or good but unsympathetic playing. The visitors that come to play/sing/learn and experience the joy of good music expect that you may let them join in and experience this.

The only solution which will satisfy both expectations will most likely be a compromise. I don't know the volume of visitors during the winter or summer months. However. Of the three or four regular sessions per week one or two (or even an additional) could be designated as open or open by invitation each venue taking it's turn on a week by week basis while the others are closed to regulars only listeners welcome.

The same could possibly happen during the summer as well. I don't know if you have the ability to make the venues larger by heading outside into a marquee during the summer months but that may alleviate the crowding a little. You could even try a workshop type event. That way, those that wish to could benefit from the experience of the regular session players and be introduced to the wonderful tradition and etiquette.

However this kind of compromise would definitely require the agreement and cooperation of the regular sessioneers.

As far as letting people know particular session etiquette there are many ways. This has to be done, as an assumption that people should know, will, inevitably be wrong. If it's done sensitively with good manners it will almost always generate sensitivity and good manners from those it is aimed at.

With regard to as you say "insensitive and (often) untalented ego-trippers" I don't really think there is a solution to these people. They exist and generally speaking can or will not be educated to the error of their ways. Luckily enough if they are only visitors they go away eventually. Pointing them in the direction of Doolin may work to some extent but from what you say doesn't stop them slipping through though.

Lastly, as I said before, a compromise is probably your best bet and even then it may not change your situation.

As Mary Engelbreit advised; If you don't like something, change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it.

Please be aware however that I'm not insisting you do. However, somebody has to make the first move and you may have more of a chance changing the way a few think, than the thousands of visitors you are expecting to get this year and the years to come.

Please be assured none of the above is intended to offend.

Regards and good luck


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