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Notes from the Field

The 12 Best Sessions of 2013 and a Weird Old Trick

Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.
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 otherís 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 Ė 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.

Thatís 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 otherís 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 lifeís 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.

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Updated Aug-21-2014 at 10:46am by JeffD



  1. Dagger Gordon's Avatar
    Good stuff, man. Well done.
  2. DvS's Avatar
    Ditto that. So true and true! Thanks for sharing.
  3. Jim Garber's Avatar
    Thanks, Jeff. I have been running a similar session locally here for a few years now. Very similar. Sometimes we have a hot session and sometimes it is not. It is great getting together with friends who we have known for years and newly made ones as well. And we have a wide range of players with decades of experience and those who are just starting out or trying a different instrument. We also have a potluck dinner and it s a real community event. Keep up the good work.
  4. JeffD's Avatar
    The food I have put out or has occasionally been brought has never been touched. We don't want to stop playing that long.
  5. lorrainehornig's Avatar
    Wish you lived closer to me. Great Blog...I loved it!
  6. Gelsenbury's Avatar
    Sounds great! Can I come?
  7. JeffD's Avatar
    It is with my musical friends that I have the most healthy relationships, long lasting, and sustainable. This is 100% across the board true.

    I think it has something to do with not needing to talk in order to be together. I really do.

    I shudder to think what that means about me.