The 12 Best Sessions of 2013 and a Weird Old Trick
by, Dec-22-2013 at 9:50am (7015 Views)
It seems the internet is full of eye catching headlines, just waiting to be linked into Facebook. The 20 dirtiest puppies, the 14 cutest baby animals, 17 ways to prevent aging. Cure eczema, scrofula, or boils with this weird old trick.
And its only natural, at the end of the year, to come up with lists of the best of this and the best of that. So I offer the 12 best sessions of 2013. They were held in my living room, once a month, all this last year.
The first Tuesday of every month I open my doors to between 10 and sometimes as many as 19 musicians. Fiddles and guitars predominate, maybe a banjo, accordion, flutes and whistles, and a mandolin or two besides mine. I have been playing music with some of these folks for over three decades. Others I only met in the last 10 years or so. We play together at other regular jams, attend each other’s parties, and meet up at festivals.
We play the fiddle tune repertory, from traditional Irish and Scottish, to Southern Appalachian and Old Time, New England contra dance tunes, traditional French, as well as French Canadian, and some Eastern European tunes. We do sing some – old songs and more modern folk songs. The occasional Broadway tune comes out. Tons of waltzes.
Great good fun and frequent outbursts of hilarity ensue.
That’s the theory anyway.
The truth is that for three hours we get together, create, acknowledge and maintain our connections with each other. Connections as strong as those of family, or coworkers, or neighbors, or fraternity brothers, but that center almost entirely on somewhat arbitrary rhythmic and tonal patterns. We have done this for so long we can anticipate each other’s responses to a great degree and the synergy of the whole fills each of us with awe.
Every single time.
No advertising prompted us, no radio or television motivated us, no corporation sponsors us, no political movement galvanized us, no tax structure inhibits us, no promise of lowest prices brings us out these evenings. No commonly shared religion or belief guides our monthly ritual. No press covers us, no microphones record us, no permanent trace of our having met exists except that each of us is changed. Each of us is connected to the whole by long laminated tendrils of melody. For three hours we make our own community, our own culture bubble, within - but not part of, the greater culture around us. Our bubble culture goes way way back, is very ancient. Normal people with normal jobs and normal lives have been getting together after work to play music with each other for many hundreds of years, to restore themselves and their humanity in the face of life’s exigencies.
Why are these the best sessions of 2013? Well not because of any top flight musicians who show up, or because I have scientifically compared our music, or our fun, with that of every other jam in the country. They are not the loudest, or the biggest, or the longest continuous. They are the best because I get to host and attend them. And anything I can do, and be, is greater than anything I can hear about or read about.
Oh, and the weird old trick. Well if you want to play music with people for over 30 years, you have to start playing music with them something like 30 years prior. I mean, do the math.