A concise social history of "Sessions".

A concise social history of "Sessions".

These began as the house based ceilidh, when the neighbours would call to a certain house for a night’s craic. This consisted of tunes, numerous singers, solo pieces, a wee dancer now and again, in short many people trying to contribute in some way. I attended one of these in Rannafast in Donegal as late as 1974. I suspect the likes of Dow and bb and Breandan in Co Down and others still have this type of session, with or without modification.

Now many Irish emigrated for work. They lived in "digs" or bedsits, unsuitable for the house ceilidh. So they needed an alternative venue, and free from the influence of the church, you might as well have drink and women thrown in.

So they moved to the pub, especially in London, and this "tradition" soon spread all over the world.

But the real tradition survives, hence a "session" should include tunes, singers, the wee dancer, and people trying to contribute. Unfortunately many are ignorent of this "history and tradition", and try to establish new rules. That’s great if it suits your particular venue or circumstances, but the "tradition" should still be accommodated when possible, especially when the opportunity presents itself.

Rules set in stone concerning singers, solo playing, instruments, the number of guitars, bodhrans, pipers etc, are a denial of that tradition.

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

Bliss, in some ares of Scotland they also started out as - "Bothy Nichts":

“A bothy band is a musical group which comes from the farming culture of nineteenth century Scotland. At that time agriculture was relatively labour-intensive. As a result large farms often had a small community associated with them, the farm toun. This was made up of married couples who lived in small cottages and single men who lived together in the bothy. In order to entertain themselves and the other members of the toun, the young men of the bothy would hold musical evenings, the bothy nichts, with the music provided by their own impromptu band, the bothy band. A good band might well become known outside the toun, and be in demand for local events such as dances.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bothy_band

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

As you can see from the track list of this CD, "Bothy Nichts Volume 1 - The Fife Yokels", these nights were clearly a mix of music, song, dance & story:

http://www.footstompin.com/music/scottish_song/bothy_nichts_vol_one_fife

Is there a better way to spend a night?

When you read this, surely it makes you realise, sadly, just how one dimensional many pub sessions are these days!

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

Tradition is interesting, but, I don’t really give a toss

Posted .

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

I love deep meaningful debate, Mr Llig, although I admit there is not a lot you could have said.

Anyone else got anything concrete to say?

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

Seems like the house sessions i have had or have been to , are more like what you are talking about at the top of this thread.Have’nt had any dancers though unless you count the occasional happy dance.
tim

Posted by .

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

What about a question, Bliss?

I’m sure llig’s attitude is a common one, especially amongst younger musicians.

The beauty of the phenomenon known as the session is that every one ‘is’ different, so while some of us enjoy the perhaps more old fashioned mix of music plus the odd song & story, other folk, the trad rockers, just want to bop their heads all night long to non-stop Reels & Jigs.

Horses for courses I reckon.
At the end of the day, (the sun sets) we all gravitate towards the sessions that suit each of us best.
There’s room for both the old & the new - let’s just be thankful there is such variety today!

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

Aggreed Ptarmigan.

Posted by .

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

So you’re saying that the house sessions were wide open with no rules? I find that very hard to believe.

The difference is that house sessions occur in a private place, where there are some controls inherent in the situation (like don’t invite the people you don’t want to be there). And pub sessions are in a more public setting, which makes them more likely to be out of control. I think the majority of "rules" laid down in pub sessions are to keep them from being something that isn’t fun for anyone.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of the house session. Most of my all time favorite sessions were house sessions.

But I have been lucky enough that the vast majority of the pub sessions that I have been to have been free from any "rules set in stone", and have included tunes, singing, solos, and the occasional wee dancer.

So in that regard, I agree with you, and I wouldn’t consider something
that was overly structured to be in the spirit of a session.

Pete

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

I personally have no problem going to a "policed" session, as long as they don’t start p*ssing about with rules for bodhrans. In fact, I like all tune sessions from time to time, gives me a chance to take the bodhran seriously.

Others do not appear to be so pliant.

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

Does anyone agree that this ‘modern’ attitude that prevails in sessions nowadays is, at least in part, indicative a fear of losing something? In the Good Old Days that Goatskin Glee describes above, the tradition of music, song and dance was so much a part of community life that nobody would ever have imagined that it might get lost - even if it *was* actually under threat. But for those of us not fortunate enough to live in Clare or Connemara or West Donegal, playing Irish Tradiional Music places us in a very small minority (even in most parts of Ireland), so we feel we must be protective of it and savour every moment we have in which to play it or hear it played.

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

I think that ‘modern’ attitude prevails on this message board.

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

Of course modern attitudes lose things. But you have to remember that the definition of a modern attitude is nothing more than a pragmatic description of any moment in history. What did the move of sessions from houses to pubs lose? What did the general move of rural framing communities into urban city environments lose? What did it gain? My opinion is that the words "lose" and "gain" are largely irrelevant not only in the practical lives of modern people (by that I mean everyone past and present, see above) but also in people’s aspirations.

I see the value in preservation, but it is for academics. I understand the value that society should place on heritage, and I gladly pay my taxes to support heritage preservation. But when I’m down the pub, I’m a modern man and don’t give a toss.

Posted .

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

In my house sessions there are rules, LOL! no more than five or six people and we all have keep the same timing. Tradition? Doesn’t matter as long as the music is good and we’re enjoying the night.

Out at our session we have it all though, including the wee dancers and some wee musicians too. We don’t *think* about tradition though, just let things happen, songs, tunes, dance sets, food., drink. We don’t try to emulate any real or imagined tradition. Too busy having a good time. No rules there except no noodling on tunes you don’t know… and that’s not too well enforced anyway, unless someone is totally outrageous with it.

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

The original idea had no rules, it was to have a good time.

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

Iris writes: "No rules there except no noodling on tunes you don’t know"

I’ve received tons of abuse in this forum trying to make this point. Watch out, Iris, there’s a rabid pro-noodling contingent that operates in these territories. Don’t worry though… I’ll watch your back.

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

Thanks Phantom! No noodling in my house!!! You do not get asked back. That’s the rules! Not that I have house sessions that often.

One thing that really rattles me is musical chaos. In your house you can just eliminate much of that aspect. Not that I dislike the big rowdy pub session, that’s fun too, but all too often timing issues really get to me as much as the noodling.

i was telling someone at a session Sunday that I thought to start carrying a sign on a stick, that says "YOU WIN" and point it at the person who finished the tune first.

IT IS NOT A RACE!!!!! It’s supposed to be in unison, at least most of the time. When five different melody players are in their own world and playing at different speeds….ugh. And a backer stressing on the off beat, AND out of time no less…. double ugh.

Whatever, bring on the pro-noodlers, not afraid of them. Are you serious though, have you received abuse for not liking noodling? Surely there cannot be any pro-noodlers and if there are would they admit to it?

I really need to start reading at night more and get off this machine!

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

Me and a group of about 7 people wandered out of university today with instruments and went down the pub for a pint. After about an hour or so, we all fancied a tune so we asked the barmaids. They said it’d be ok, so we spent from about 7:30 till closing playing tunes, singing, chatting and generally having a good time. And it was one of the most pleasent evenings I’ve had in a while - especially as it was impromtu. And strangely at the end, some people wandered up and told us how much they’d enjoyed our playing - we hadn’t even realised they were in the pub. And whilst it was a nice gesture, the most important point was we’d had fun. Performance?? Not in the slightest.

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

Iris writes: "Are you serious though, have you received abuse for not liking noodling?"

If you’re looking for some night-time reading just put "noodling" in the search engine on the home page of this site and you’ll find ample material that includes yours truly staring as the villainous foe of the right-to-noodle contingent.

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

Jack can we call you "Super Noodle" then?

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

Super of course is meant in the Latin sense - i.e. that you are "above noodling".
🙂

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

I see, some noodlers think it is a good way to pick up a tune. Well, I sometimes see someone play almost inaudibly, and then get the tune right and jump in. That’s not so much a problem as the person who noodles loudly, out of time, catching very few right notes or chords, the whole tune through. Maybe those are the super noodles.

Re: A concise social history of "Sessions".

And some people see your session as their personal tune learning machine. They will noodle along and make it almost impossible for you to play and it will all be for lofty tune-learning reasons of course. To me it’s disrespectfull of not only the music, but the people who are trying to play it. If you want to noodle along you should record it and go home and do it in the privacy of your home. But noodlers can’t be bothered; they believe they have a birth-right to use your session however they wish regardless of what effect it might have on your enjoyment. This concept poses a huge threat to noodlers everywhere and they will defend the practice by accusing you of "elitism" and tell you that you’re a "snob" etc. The idea of sitting and listening as an alternative brings their blood to a boil.

How do I know? Because I’m a reformed noodler. 😉