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Thread: Seisun or Session?

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    Post Seisun or Session?

    At the risk of being branded an agent provocateur(French) I must record my astonishment at the frequent use, by native English speakers, of the word seisun(Erse) when they are referring to a session(English). This usage seems to be most prevalent in North America as, when I was in Dublin last month, I saw that a venerated city centre pub had a chalk board outside which proclaimed "Trad session tonite(sic) 7.00". It is all the more surprising as our second favourite website (after Mandolin Cafe) is surely thesession.com!
    Does this go hand in hand with the belief that the music played at many of these gatherings is ITM, when in fact, a significant part of the repertoire was actually written in the last 30 years by musicians from Quebec, Cape Breton, Scotland (inc Shetland of course), Brittany, Northern Spain and the USA? I think the PR leprechauns from the Irish Tourist Board have been sprinkling green fairy dust over the major North American cities!
    These niceties apart, just enjoy the music and the crack (craic) and a good pint (Guinness preferred but not obligatory).

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    Mandolin Botherer Richard Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    Interesting point. I'm Irish myself and in Ireland the word session seems to be used nearly everywhere apart from the Gaeltacht. Same here in Scotland, certainly at all the sessions I go to.
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    ...but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    They'll find a way to spell Guinness magAonghusa some day...

    Oh, and spell will be spelled s'paill ...
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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanS View Post
    the belief that the music played at many of these gatherings is ITM, when in fact, a significant part of the repertoire was actually written in the last 30 years by musicians from Quebec, Cape Breton, Scotland (inc Shetland of course), Brittany, Northern Spain and the USA?
    That depends which session you go to - I've been to plenty where most of the tunes played have appeared on recordings pre-1950. Some people have an ear for an old tune. And if someone can take a new tune and make it sound 'old' (which may sound like an insult, but it's not meant that way), then is the music they are playing any less traditional, regardless of the age and provenance of the tune?

    But I wouldn't have much time for people being precious about Irish spellings/pronunciations of words borrowed from English (and, in the case of session, borrowed by English from French, I think). When I hear (English speaking) people refer to a seisiún, it is usually with an element of humour - something that is rarely if ever unwelcome - and I have certainly never been 'corrected' on my pronunciation. 'Session' it is. And (at the risk of a barrage of abuse), I believe it is possible to play Irish traditional music whilst drinking lager, bitter, martini (stirred or shaken), coffee, guava juice, champagne or what you will.

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    Registered User Canoedad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    Crack or Craic? When you find it you won't care.

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    ...but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    Quote Originally Posted by whistler View Post
    I believe it is possible to play Irish traditional music whilst drinking lager, bitter, martini (stirred or shaken), coffee, guava juice, champagne or what you will.
    I have seen all of that and more...
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    Marbhna Luimni Eddie Sheehy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    Seisiún - Gaeilge - (Leathan le Leathan agus Caol le Caol). We really don't care how you spell it or pronounce it... but if you're going to write about it - and use pretentious words like ERSE (which is anathema to an Irishman) then please get the spelling right. The Grammatical rule is "when a broad vowel precedes a consonant it must be followed by a broad vowel - ditto a slender vowel". Thus Seisiún is correct and Seisún is not.
    As long as you enjoy the music and the craic/crack everything else is immaterial...

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    I always thought the Seisiún was where Irish music was played and any other music thing was a session (among us English speakers). Then again, I am never sure how to pronounce the equivalent for playing choro: it is roda but pronounced something like hoda or hora.
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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    Quote Originally Posted by whistler View Post
    And (at the risk of a barrage of abuse), I believe it is possible to play Irish traditional music whilst drinking lager, bitter, martini (stirred or shaken), coffee, guava juice, champagne or what you will.
    I can verify, from firsthand experience, that it is, indeed, possible to play ITD with all of the beverages mentioned with the exception of guava juice...never tried the stuff! I'll add that a nice Scotch goes well with the music, too Heck, even plain old water works!
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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    I try to call it whatever the others I want to do it with call it.
    As much as I post, I pick a whole lot more. Just sayin'
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    Unruly Crumudgeon Loretta Callahan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    All I know is that it ain't a jam. Nobody will ever buy you a drink if you think it is. That's pretty much all I care about.
    There are those who fast and abstain to see visions of heaven; and there are those who eat and drink heartily of life to see the same ...... Earl Wickman, Glen Ellen, CA town drunk

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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    ...nevermind...

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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eddie Sheehy View Post
    We really don't care how you spell it or pronounce it... but if you're going to write about it - and use pretentious words like ERSE (which is anathema to an Irishman) then please get the spelling right.
    Eddie, you make my point perfectly. The spelling of the word seisun is not mine but is one that is frequently used in this forum and and in the advertising for numerous musical gatherings in the US. My intention was to highlight and debunk the pretension and ignorance of those who lead some of the sessions which I have misguidedly joined, and who dictate as to what can or cannot be played at an "authentic session".
    I have thankfully never encountered this sort of narrow mindedness at sessions in either Ireland or Scotland.
    Erse may be an anathema to some but it is the word used to describe both Scottish and Irish Gaelic and their common linguistic roots. Both of my Gaelic speaking parents (mother Irish, father Scottish), used to joke that they spoke Gaelic and the other spoke Erse!

    The one rule is that there should be no rules and the music is the thing!
    Last edited by AlanS; Apr-07-2012 at 3:03am. Reason: Typo

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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    I think the best policy is just to keep a firm facial expression and just say 'session'. My least favorite aspect of Irish music sessions is all the fakey-fake more-Irish-than-thou stuff, with the ultimate expression of this being the person who sings an endless (ostensibly) humorous anti-Protestant ballad with a Lucky Charms 'Irish' accent, reading the lyrics out of a book.

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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    Seisun is what pretentious pseuds call a session.

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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    The Irish are very eclectic when it comes to music. I can't verify this, but it seems that the word "session" was there first and the Irish word simply a different (and more correct, for Irish pronunciation) spelling. "Session" in the rest of the non-Gaeltacht world seems to work.

    As for "Craic", the Irish invented that word and it's meaning. Since "Crack" has several different meanings in English, none of which are related to "Craic", then the Irish spelling makes more sense. English has all sorts of words that sound alike and are spelled differently (and vice versa.)

    Referring to OT, Cape Breton, Quebecois, Bluegrass, etc. music in sessions, the Irish seem to like good music (at least in Ireland) and whatever sticks - especially Scottish music - stays. The last time I was in Ireland I was asked to play
    "Jerusalem Ridge" a number of times and had to explain that it was not an Irish tune.

    BTW, only about one hundred thousand people speak Irish as a primary language and some of them don't live in Ireland. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_language) There are one and a half million who speak the language all over the world. I can say hello in three dialects of Irish after taking courses in the language for years. I don't get much chance to speak it even though there is a hot bed of the language 60 miles away in Madison. It's a great language to sing in. In sessions.
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    Registered User Mike Snyder's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    The one rule is that there should be no rules and the music is the thing![/QUOTE]

    Brother anarchist! If the rules get in the way, throw out the rules.

    For me, it's always been about playing with feeling. Trouble is I play often with truly superior musicians and for them the joy is in a tight, cohesive sound. I think alot of the really, REALLY good musicians are superimposing their perfectionism on the session and their joy is diminished when ham-fisted players take part and play with dynamics that don't fit their paradigm of what the session SHOULD sound like. Fortunately the egalitarianism of the group will win out over the perfectionism of the few, usually. I've not run into the pretentions of the session/seisun here in the mid-west, fortunately.
    Last edited by Mike Snyder; Apr-07-2012 at 7:10am.
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    ...but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeyes View Post
    The last time I was in Ireland I was asked to play
    "Jerusalem Ridge" a number of times and had to explain that it was not an Irish tune.
    The Irish have always been great assimilators. Whatever they play becomes part of their tradition - thus contradicting what traditional purists may think.

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeyes View Post
    BTW, only about one hundred thousand people speak Irish as a primary language and some of them don't live in Ireland. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_language) There are one and a half million who speak the language all over the world. I can say hello in three dialects of Irish after taking courses in the language for years. I don't get much chance to speak it even though there is a hot bed of the language 60 miles away in Madison. It's a great language to sing in. In sessions.
    Time to re-contribute this one:



    ...and maybe this one, just to bring in some mando content
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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeyes View Post
    ..."Crack" has several different meanings in English, none of which are related to "Craic"...
    I'm not so sure about that. Wisecrack and to crack a joke are both associated with fun of some kind. It is possible that an earlier meaning of the English word crept into Irish usage and persisted there after it became obsolete in England.

    The Chambers C20th Dictionary (printed in Edinburgh) gives one definition of crack as 'a friendly chat' - although it specifies this Scots usage, so it is possible that it has a Gaelic origin.

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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    Loved the video, Bertram. I'd be surprised if there weren't a few Yu Mings scattered around the Gaeltacht.

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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeyes View Post
    I can say hello in three dialects of Irish after taking courses in the language for years. I don't get much chance to speak it even though there is a hot bed of the language 60 miles away in Madison.
    Sounds familiar. I live in the middle of Wales, but rarely get a chance to speak Welsh outside my weekly evening class. The next town to the NW, about 20 miles away (quite a long way on Welsh roads), is about half Welsh-speaking; beyond there the majority of the population speaks Welsh.

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    ...but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    Wales is interesting. Its language survived the strongest of all Celtic languages - no wonder, since an early form of it was once spoken over almost all of Britain, before the Saxons arrived. "Britain", in turn, is originating from a Greek word for "painted" or "tattooed" people, describing those Celts who roamed the seas all around Europe. Language is a plate full of historical spaghetti, it seems.

    For all who are into the details, I recommend The Sea Kingdoms by Alistair Moffat.
    And here you can see (or rather hear), where J.R.R. Tolkien got his concept of the Elvish language:

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    Celtic Bard michaelpthompson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    In my experience, "seisun" (however you place the accents) is often used to differentiate the experience from a jam session. I have heard the postulation that "seisun" is actually a loan word from English and represents an idea of how it would be spelled in Irish. Some call it pretentious, others see it as a nod to tradition.

    It seems to be true that in Ireland, musicians are often not as "purist" as those here in the States. We have a tradition to preserve, they just enjoy the music; the tradition lives all around them. That's why they can say, "It's all about the music." and we are more concerned with the type of music. A TRAD session is a special thing because we SHARE the music. We have a shared repository and we can share it with each other because we hold it in common. A session where somebody's playing ITM and somebody's playing bluegrass and somebody's playing old-time just becomes chaos. We can't play together because we don't all know the same music. And few things will spoil a TRAD session faster than somebody swanning in and playing classic rock.

    That's the difference between a "session" (or seisun) and a jam. A jam is about making up the music as you go, or following somebody's lead where you haven't been before. A session is about sharing music that most of us already know. There may be differences in how we play it, but the basic tunes are already there. Each has its own attractions, but they're two different things. But when you just say (or type) "session" not everybody realizes you don't mean a jam session, so some people have adopted "seisun" to be more specific.

    My opinions anyway.

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    Registered User Tom C's Avatar
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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    It's "center" ...not "centre"
    Let's Go JETS

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    Default Re: Seisun or Session?

    It's ' CENTRE ' in the UK. we should know, it's our language.

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