Advice/Suggestions on Starting a New House Session and Qualities of a Good Session Leader
The idea that has been on my mind for several years to start and lead a session, and our own Cape Cod Struggler offered some encouragement the other day via PM that got me thinking yet again: is this the time?
Recently, I’ve met a couple fiddlers within a 50 mile radius, one of which is at an advanced standard of playing and makes annual trips to Ireland for the music/craic. The other is an accomplished classical violin teacher and actively learning tunes. We have one guitar player who might attend, and knows about 50 tunes quite well, but sadly has little interest. And one flute player of an unknown standard who recently moved here. And the list wouldn’t be complete with a shaky-egg weilding bodhranista who we all dearly love outside the music. To add to this growing list, we have an aspiring piper at a beginning standard, and who knows what other interest this festival might churn up. So, there’s a chance (hell could freeze over with this global warming thing), that a handful of people would be interested in playing/learning choons here….
This would have to be at a house, likely mine, for now. A pub setting is possible in the future, but not to start for some obvious reasons. We would have to start very slow, have a small repertoire of tunes (say, 25), and provide some teaching. Another idea that appealed to me was using a standard sheet/cd for the repertoire from the outset for at-home learning purposes, like one of the Foinn Seisiún volumes provided through Comhaltas, in an effort to immediately tighten up the auditory chaos that could ensue, and to eliminate confusion for beginners.
My hope is that it would be fun, and have enough structure to keep it respectful and maintain ‘session etiquette.’ A few ground rules like "no sand blasting us with your egg during slow airs", "no more cowbell", and "the triangle is not a drum kit" would be a must to keep me and the nearby cattle from running off into the hills in a dangerous frenzy, as well as our mastiff from killing anyone (actually, he just cries as he dislikes the sound of tunes being learned, especially on bodhran.🙂)
What suggestions/advice would you offer? How do you make it "fun" when the music sounds terrible due to lack of capable hands? Also, what are some qualities you think are important in a good house session leader? I realize this kind of thread has been posted many times in the past, and have read a few of them. I’d like some fresh perspective. What has worked for you? How do you accommodate a handful of players coming from extreme poles of musicianship, tune repertoire and experience? Are baking skills helpful? Have you ever had to call the police due to an angry djembe-er? Any and all comments welcome!