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Are the sessions real in Ireland?

Thompson 25 Nov 16 - 12:41 PM
GUEST,jim babridge 25 Nov 16 - 02:48 PM
GUEST,Peter Laban 25 Nov 16 - 03:16 PM
Mr Red 26 Nov 16 - 06:44 AM
Jim Carroll 26 Nov 16 - 09:47 AM
Tattie Bogle 26 Nov 16 - 09:34 PM
Will Fly 27 Nov 16 - 06:58 AM
GUEST,jim bainbridge 30 Nov 16 - 07:25 AM
The Sandman 30 Nov 16 - 09:03 AM
Rob Naylor 30 Nov 16 - 10:34 AM
Will Fly 30 Nov 16 - 10:51 AM
Jim Carroll 30 Nov 16 - 11:08 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 30 Nov 16 - 12:36 PM
GUEST 30 Nov 16 - 01:30 PM
The Sandman 30 Nov 16 - 02:19 PM
GUEST,Peter Laban 30 Nov 16 - 02:44 PM
GUEST 30 Nov 16 - 03:19 PM
Tattie Bogle 30 Nov 16 - 09:16 PM
Jim Carroll 01 Dec 16 - 04:31 AM
GUEST,jim bainbridge 01 Dec 16 - 05:50 AM
GUEST,patriot 18 Dec 16 - 07:27 AM
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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: Thompson
Date: 25 Nov 16 - 12:41 PM

There are all kinds of sessions. Some are people who just get together and jam as musicians and singers do everywhere. Some are professionals who also like to go down to the pub and jam in their local for fun. Some include paid musicians put there like seed corn to get the session going. And some are purely paid musicians, and the 'session' aspect is minimal.


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: GUEST,jim babridge
Date: 25 Nov 16 - 02:48 PM

just trying to establish what 'real' means, not to define it myself. I'm well aware of the criticisms 0f CCE and was careful to avoid comment there- no intention of provoking an attack on them.

I agree with you about competitions, and I knew all of the great musicians you mentioned, Jim, and they voted with their feet!
However your comment about the lack of co-ordination and co-operation grates a bit, and 'have-a-go non- musicians' may well be the future for the music? There is a lack of sensitivity to the session situation, but to apply some kind of an audition for participants also defeats the object, to communicate via the music.

In Britain, most folk clubs were great and tolerant platforms where we could forget the words, play bum notes, but LEARN and improve. We were very sympathetic to each other, and I'd see the 'session' in Ireland and everywhere else, as a modern equivalent now that many folk clubs have closed or gone professional and cannot charge good money for bum notes!
I think if the locals are 'dis(un?)interested we should look at ourselves first. The kind of exclusive circle which is too frequent these days may be a lot less acceptable to the locals than a learner musician who's doing his/her best!


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 25 Nov 16 - 03:16 PM

A lot could be said about this and I have been trying hard not to get into this but a few fairly random thoughts:

I think there's a differentiation between being encouraging to learners and being open to all comers. It can be a fine line but there's a distinction none the less.

The way I see it, a session is a meeting of like minded musicians. If you're out for a few tunes with friends it can be very disconcerting if someone joins out of the blue who is not sensitive to the dinamic of the situation and the music being played, yet expecting to be fully accommodated. Not all comers are sensitive to the social situation that a session is and often they can be the loudest in denouncing a session as being 'elitist' or 'unfriendly'.

I don't particularly fancy playing in noisy pubs (although a quiet one can be fine) and would prefer to play in more private situations. But when deciding whether or not a session is 'real' I think a few things should be taken into account: first of all, musicians not paid to be in a particular spot at a particular time may find something else to do on a night, or find themselves not in the mood. In other words, they won't turn up every time but only when they feel like doing so. Which is fine but won't be appreciated by a publican who wants to fill the house and who has a 'music tonight' sign outside. Let alone people on forums like this who travel to a place expecting a 'session'. Also, if you look at a session as a meeting of like minded musicians, playing for the sake of playing music they enjoy, it's not hard to understand why they wouldn't want to advertise the time and place of their meeting to the general public.

And for what it is worth, I wouldn't expect to walk into a place and join a group of musicians without being invited to do so. But then, YMMV and 'real' sessions can come in many different guises.


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: Mr Red
Date: 26 Nov 16 - 06:44 AM


"it's the singers who seem to think tunes are background music for them to chinwag to, "


My experience too, because the singers will sing along with a chorus song, & do regard themselves as being considerate when someone is singing. Especially in order to set the precedent that others should let them sing uninterrupted. They can't sing and chinwag at the same time either.
But a session is a session, if you want total respect from the non-singists and non musos, try a Folk Club.


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Nov 16 - 09:47 AM

"if you want total respect from the non-singists and non musos, try a Folk Club."
Can't disagree with that, imposing silence on a bar clientele is arrogantly unreasonable.
Play music or sing in a venue that is there to sell drink and you will be treated as muzak - if not at first, eventually.
Having said that, last night I enjoyed a night of solid Ewan MacColl songs - 9-30 to 2-30 - in a West of Ireland bar that hosts a regular monthly singing night, advertises the night as such, and fills the place with singing enthusiasts.
Total attention all night, and some great singing from locals who had put themselves out to learn new songs for the occasion - magic!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 26 Nov 16 - 09:34 PM

I'm very much with Jim Bainbridge in his views of making things inclusive and not worrying too much about the occasional bum notes: sessions are not concerts after all!


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: Will Fly
Date: 27 Nov 16 - 06:58 AM

I think I've probably said this in the earlier part of the thread, so apologies if I'm repeating myself.

The style of the session, in my view, really is down to the person(s) who created and started it in the first place. If it's meant to be dedicated to, say, Irish tunes - or English tunes - or French tunes - so be it. If they welcome beginners with open arms, great. If you have to wait patiently to be invited to join in (and perhaps get some assessment of your prowess at the same time!), so be it. If the session organisers want to be exclusive or inclusive, in a bar or in a private space, then that's their choice, and the would-be participant has to abide by the rules or find somewhere else to sit in.

I don't choose to frequent local Irish sessions (for example), simply because I don't know the music that well, preferring Scottish, English or French tunes. And I like sessions that are inclusive in style because, to me, it's not only about the music, it's about a social occasion that welcomes people into a circle and accepts and encourages beginners. A good session enlightens and teaches as well as giving enjoyment. Just my two-penn'orth here.

Tonight is the monthly session at the White Horse in Ditchling. The Usual Suspects will be there with fiddles, mandolins, melodeons, concertinas, a guitar or two, with nyckelharpa, flute, smallpipes and double bass in attendance. All ages. On the whole a really excellent standard of musicianship - but with encouragement for those less able to show what they can do. I help to run that session, and that's just how we want it to be. At my local French tunes session, I take a mandolin, sit well back and learn, learn, learn. Horses for courses.

And it goes without saying that if you choose to play your music in a pub, you accept the pub environment - kibbitzers, background noise, the lot - or you move on.


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: GUEST,jim bainbridge
Date: 30 Nov 16 - 07:25 AM

I'd say that an informal musical event (described as a session) needs probably to be rooted in its community to be described as 'real'?. Sure there are Irish sessions all over the world, and old-timey U.S. ones as well. It may be that roots are deeper here, but I'm not aware of any non-Irish or old-timey 'sessions at all in Ireland- a few Scots tunes may creep in, but I could be shot down there!
With some exceptions, even Irish pubs have become unsuitable for the informal 'traditional' (REAL?)session which visitors may hope to find. Pub owners have to make a living, and except in a few favoured locations, there is not enough interest in the music to counteract the need for TV sport and the high volume level of general chat which is normal in Irish pubs in late evening.

Ireland is NOT a 'lost world of music' despite the Bord Failte adverts. We run ours at 5pm on a Sunday to try & avoid these distractions- it doesn't always work, of course.
So the 'session tends to be a form of muzak in such pubs, for commercial reasons- overheads and taxes are very high here!!

You'll find a 'real session' in local kitchens & living rooms (a reversion to the bygone days of kitchen music??) rather than the pub, but visitors are not likely to be invited to such gatherings, without local contacts.

I made a living in West Cork 20 years ago playing & singing unamplified in small bars with a summer tourist presence- with no hangups about the nature of what I was playing- I just got on with it & if I got a request, whether for some polkas or a Geordie song, I would do my best to oblige, as well as being inclusive- other musicians & singers were always welcome. Myself and Patrick (guitar) were paid, yes, and we were both a blow-in- we still are!!- were they 'real sessions'?


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Nov 16 - 09:03 AM

my understanding of it is this
paid gigs should be advertised as trad music with dick miles or jim bainbridge or a n other, imo sessions are unpaid, doesnt mean the music is any better or worse.
Jim, your gigs were always welcoming, but not everyone is like you, particularly when the group are amplified and travelling musicians are not , immediately there is a them and us situation, and some of these trad groups are quite happy not to have anyone join in with them.


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 30 Nov 16 - 10:34 AM

Will Fly: Tonight is the monthly session at the White Horse in Ditchling. The Usual Suspects will be there with fiddles, mandolins, melodeons, concertinas, a guitar or two, with nyckelharpa, flute, smallpipes and double bass in attendance. All ages. On the whole a really excellent standard of musicianship - but with encouragement for those less able to show what they can do. I help to run that session, and that's just how we want it to be. At my local French tunes session, I take a mandolin, sit well back and learn, learn, learn. Horses for courses.

And what an excellent session it is! I'm very much on the "those less able" end of the spectrum, but always asked to contribute.... sometimes more successfully than others. I drive an hour each way to this session. It's by far the best musical event I attend, and what I think of as "the ideal session". You can join in, or not, as you wish; lead off a song or tune, or not, as you wish; do a solo spot (singing, playing or both) as you wish. Will and the other "main attenders" keep a weather eye on things and make sure anyone who might want to contribute gets a chance.

I'm really sorry not to have made it on Sunday....I drove hell for leather back from Hardraw in North Yorkshire, where I'd been hill-walking in the snow (and watching the play/ listening to the music in the Green Dragon!). But time was against me and after arriving home at 6.30 pm following a 300 mile drive with one stop, couldn't face another 2 hours driving that day :-) . Hope it went well Will and hope to see you at the next one (Jan 2nd?)


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: Will Fly
Date: 30 Nov 16 - 10:51 AM

Long live the Green Dragon! I spent a pleasant hour on the bench by the front door some years ago, enjoying a pint in the September sunshine. Popped through the pub and down the path to see the "Force", but the weather had been so dry, it was just a mild flow - not like when I first saw it at age 16. Then it was gushing down the rock face at a rate of knots (and it cost 4d to go through the pub to see it!)

Shame Hawes is such a tourist hole these days - it used to be a lovely quiet village back in the '50s...


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Nov 16 - 11:08 AM

" when the group are amplified and travelling musicians are not ,"
And I'm equally sure that an unaccompanied singer would not find a welcome in many amplified sessions that don't cater for the music we play around here - what's wrong with that?
If we all liked the same thing, wouldn't life be boring?
West Clare has a reputation for good music and this town in particular gets gets visitors throughout the year because of it ("The home of traditional Irish Music" is a common response when we tell people where we live- so far, it has helped the town survive 'The Banker's Folly'.
When outsiders start telling the town who they should cater for I have no doubt whatever that we should see the end of that.
It really is musical suicide when you start to try to please all of the people all of the time.
I have to say that I have visited every county6 in Ireland and I'm often staggered to note the number of places who put up signs saing "traditional music session in two weeks time"
The proof of the pudding really is in the eating.
By the way Jim B - I am not suggesting for one minute that the scene should revert to kitchen sessions, just that once you move into the pubs you have to be acutely aware that life goes on outside of our music and you need to work with that fact - too many musicians, and not a few singers, seems to believe that the world stops turning while they are singing or playing - life really isn't like that.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 30 Nov 16 - 12:36 PM

'once you move into the pubs you have to be acutely aware that life goes on outside of our music and you need to work with that fact - too many musicians, and not a few singers, seems to believe that the world stops turning while they are singing or playing - life really isn't like that'

I think you're right there Jim, once you go into a pub a musician has to put up with the noise and everything else. Not sure singers do that though, they usually just keep shushing until everybody shuts up before they start. In fact my son was rather taken aback recently when he was taken aside in a local pub for continuing a conversation with a friend while a singer was doing their bit on the opposite side of the house.


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Nov 16 - 01:30 PM

My wife is Northern Irish and we often visit her family for extended weekends.

Without doubt the best sessions are to be found in Brockagh County Tyrone. This small village has an abundance of some of the finest musicians in Ireland.


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Nov 16 - 02:19 PM

ITS ABOUT HONESTY, if a session is a session[ an unpaid gig where travelling musicians are welcome that is a session.
if it is an amplified pub gig just call it trad music gig with joe bloggs,but do not call it a session, dont drag people to pubs under false pretences.


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 30 Nov 16 - 02:44 PM

In fairness, most pubs will advertise 'music' rather than 'session' so that's honest enough.


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Nov 16 - 03:19 PM

I started visiting Ireland back in 1975 and few pubs offered traditional music, most were more interested in a jukebox playing the Rubettes or Gary Glitter.

The sessions could only be found in community halls.

It is all changed now, I find a lot of the pubs in the North of Ireland we visit advertise sessions purely on a commercial basis with front men who double as comedians.

As I said, give my the parish hall sessions in Brockagh County Tyrone anytime, pure and old world.


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 30 Nov 16 - 09:16 PM

I remember being in Ireland in the late 1960s and seeing these blackboard signs outside pubs for "Ballad Sessions": that meant Engelbert Humperdinck, Andy Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and the like: about as far removed from traditional irish as you could get!


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 01 Dec 16 - 04:31 AM

""Ballad Sessions"
I had the same experience in the early 1960s
I had just become hooked on Child Ballads and I thought all my birthdays had come at the same time when I saw he signs - what a let-down!!
The period is still known as 'The Ballad Boom' and it coincided with 'The Folk Boom' in Britain.It passed around the same time, when the mucis industry lost interest and moved off to more lucrative areas
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: GUEST,jim bainbridge
Date: 01 Dec 16 - 05:50 AM

It's a bit of a quandary really- we run two monthly singing (mainly) sessions in Co Leitrim (Drumkeeran and Ballinaglera) We could run them in fairly private pub rooms but much prefer to do it in an open bar, and involve the locals.

A solely music session can continue as 'muzak, whatever the noise level, but unamplified singers cannot do that.
We have to make a judgment on arrival and decide whether to risk a potentially noisy bar without saying shhhhh in a public bar to locals who want to chat about football!

When it works, it's great but sometimes we beat a retreat to privacy- against all my principles, but if we have a guest singer, it's only fair to people who have driven 20 miles to hear listen to him or her.

The purpose of our singing circle is to promote 'traditional' singing (whatever that is) but we don't define that & whatever it is, in a public bar situation, a singer or musician (paid or not) would be very unwise to ignore requests, however outrageous.

Too much alcohol makes some folk very persistent & if you really DON'T want to sing the 'Wild Rover clap clap clap' you can fit it into a set of waltzes & keep yer punter happy ....


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Subject: RE: Are the sessions real in Ireland?
From: GUEST,patriot
Date: 18 Dec 16 - 07:27 AM

The opposite of REAL in FAKE- a good description of what is often promoted as 'traditional' these days- in any context


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