View Full Version : Starting a session

Jul-15-2004, 9:38pm
Here's the deal, here in my town there are alot of musicains but a lack of irish music playing. #Since I really love the music I'd like to make more opportunities to play. #There's only one time were there's irish music played and that's at an bar called Duffies on Friday from #5 -7. #

There are alot of muscians in this town so I think it would go over well.

So how do I go about it? #My instructor used to play in an irish band and said he could hook me up with players. #Where do I go from here?

steve V. johnson
Jul-15-2004, 11:40pm
My fabulous wife, Min Gates, has started several sessions, and moved a couple others when the winds of change have blown about the restaurants or bars we were in. And I've gotten to watch, so I'll chime in here... <GGG>

From your description, I'd say to first join in at Duffies and get to know folks (Fri happy hour is a great time for a session!), and if there are those who haven't had enough by 7pm, have 'em over to your place, or just find another place, to go to play. This happens all the time at our Fri sessions. Sometimes we group up to go to dinner or a movie, but a lot of times we go to someone's house to play (and eat and drink).

Once you've gotten deep in that, you'll know if folks want to play more than just once a week on Friday, and after playing some Fridays after 7 you can look for a place (if you haven't one in mind already) to bring another session.

We've found that it's important that publicans, bar owners/mgrs, and such folks, understand what a session is, that it's informal, not a "perormance" but just a gathering. We've cribbed some stuff from Kieran Carson's books for text handouts for the venue folks. Often we are offered gig money for a session when Min asks if we can play in a joint, but we never take it, at least until the thing is really well established. Then we get coupons for drink &/or food, so the players can use those. That way there isn't the complication of how to split the $$, or the conditions that come with playing a gig.

Many sessions have a paid "leader", a melody player who can keep things going (if, say, only guitar players show up! <GGG>) But we're too anarchic a bunch for that... <GGG> Our folks break out in hives at hierarchies!

Once venue folks find that you can put butts in the seats, all will be well. For a long time we did nothing to build audiences, only worked at building our own community, learning to play together, get along and all. Now we work with the venues to do postering, public service announcements on local public media and so on. We haven't yet figured out how to work in promoting our various bands, but that will come.

But the most important thing is that folks aren't getting enough session time. If they are satisfied with playing together only two hours a week in Duffies, then you may have to just bring more folks to that one until you have a hungry bunch who want to play more. Be careful about factional stuff... if some want to play more because they don't like playing with some others, well, ok, but the factional thing won't just go away, and it can kill communities.

We have three sessions a week in Bloomington. One is very, very informal, on Sundays in the Runcible Spoon Coffeehouse. It's real, real loose and we often talk more than play there. One is on Tuesdays in the Spoon, also, and it's led by master flutist and concertina player Grey Larsen. These are the 'senior' players and there are great tunes in this one. The 3rd is our Friday session, 5:30-7:30pm at the Encore Cafe, a full-service restaurant run by the Bloomingfoods Co-op, a large client-owned food operation here. The Encore session is really getting an audience and the Encore folk are really helping us build an audience. There's also a great session in Indianapolis on Tuesday nights, in the Golden Ace Inn, founded in 1934 by the McGinley family of Donegal. Min and I go there cuz it's more ... rowdy ... And we meet our fiddler, TJ Hull, there. He lives in the northern part of the state, so Indy is about halfway for us all.

I've kinda rambled, but i hope this helps...


Aug-06-2004, 9:56am
I reakon that there are 2 key things to do if you want to start a session, the first is to gather a small, reliable quorum of musicians (say 2 tune players and one rhythm), who can be relied upon to turn up and can hold a tune together. Arrange the session around this quorum and select an evening when everyone is free, the next step is to find a venue.

Ideally this should be a quiet pub with nice beer and good acoustics. Steer clear of noisy trendy pubs/bars, and try to pick a place with a music loving manager, (although this can backfire if they join in too enthusiastically). You'll need to ask the manager if you can start a session there - it can be good to pick very quiet pubs, as the manager is usually pleased to have something that will generate interest in their establishment.

It doesn't have to be a pub, cafe's will do - as long as they sell booze!

Anyhow, hope this helps......

Aug-06-2004, 10:41am
Come to bloomington... we've got several Irish sessions... I caint keep up with those irish pickers... so I stay away...

Aug-18-2004, 2:48am
I totally agree with much of what Sliabhsteve has to say (especially about his 'fabulous wife' <GGG>).

I would also say that starting 'off-pub', perhaps in a kitchen of someone's house, might be a good idea. The 'core' members of the session that I've recently started to sit in on, here in Ireland, practice in each other's homes over the winter months, in order to have a solid set of tunes prepared that everyone knows, for when the time comes to go public.

It should be remembered that a session, although informal - and not a performance - as Stve says, is also not a time for practice. There is nothing more embarrassing, in my view, than having to listen to a session member show off a new tune he's found, bum notes and all, and then have the other's try to follow it - with the 'audience' stood around, pints in hand. Although a session is informal, try telling that to a hord of music hungry tourists (and locals) who have come in expecting to hear 'real Irish music'!

So, my suggestion is:

1. find like minded musicians (three or four and a good balance of instruments - with at least 2 'lead' instruments, so you won't be stuck if one is away or ill).

2. practice - preferably away from the session venue.

3. Find a pub that doesn't already have a session.

4. Enjoy it.

Aug-24-2004, 10:33pm
venue supplied Beer , stouter the better, http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif