Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

Lately I have run into a lot of this….people insisting that they sing "folk" music at a trad session. I try not to be a session nazi, but gadzooks, it really seems odd to me. Does this drive anyone else nuts….?

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Yes, yes, yes. Even more annoying are the singer-songwriter offering overwritten songs about their sorry-a****d little lives.

That said, I was once in a session with some known trad musicians in Lisdoonvarna who mostly wanted to sing old Hank Williams songs. Kinda fun…weird, but fun.

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No, I like the variety, provided they don’t do too much - you get the occasional singer who thinks the evening should go song,tune, song, tune,song, tune. But there’s nothing wrong with one or two songs in a session, even if they are ‘folk’ rather than ‘trad’. I also welcome solos on unusual instruments or by musicians from other traditions. Again, providing it is just one or two slots and they don’t take over the whole session.

The sessions I hate are the ones that think everyone has to be able to join in with everything, and the endless stream of generic jigs and reel that results.

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It is odd, I sort of understand why they do it, but at an purely instrumental session it should be obvious that it’s at least inappropriate. To support my view, I would never walk into a trad song session and start playing a tune.

I for one just go to the bar as soon as this happens; I wish more of "us" voted with their feet in this way as what tends to happen is polite applause is garnered after the 15 minute diatribe of finger in the "hole" drivel has been slain and said singing numpty starts up again thinking we all enjoyed it - at this point it is my considered opinion that violence is justified.

Opinion Moi ??? 🙂

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Depends on the session. Some sessions are tunes only, some sessions are songs only - and some tunes are mixture of both. It’s up to the organisers to make it clear what is acceptable for their particular session.

Tunes are inclusive, whereas many songs are not. Those that are not are a performance, which is somewhat contrary to the inclusive nature of a session.

So it also depends on the type of song. The ones that work best are those with a chorus and/or are sung in keys with one, two or three sharps - thus enabling musicians to join in.

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Well this type of attitude gets traditional sessions a bad reputation, excluding anyone from doing their bit is counter productive to the session.
All through the years of session playing i have noticed folk like to join in and feel part of it all.
Of course there has to be a control kept on things but it usually works out fine.
Its just as easy to get a musician who takes over everything as it is a singer folk or otherwise.
Its all about inclusiveness ..and respect.
To my way of thinking a session consisting purely of rigs and jeels is boring for the listener .

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I wish more session leaders would specify the nature of the session. The worst are "anything goes" sessions which tends to bring out singer/guitarists covering every style imaginable - more of an accoustic open mic night than a session!

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I didn’t see this but was told of a local session years ago at festival time when a singer known for rather down-in-the-mouth songs about workers and bosses and stuff got up and began to intone.

A Highland piper unleashed hell, the workers and bosses were blown to oblivion and the song’s space in time was given over to X zillion pipe reels or whatever, which was what the sessioners are most likely to have preferred.

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"Folk" sessions tend to be a lot more inclusive than "trad" sessions and, in most round our way anyway, variety is encouraged. Maybe some people mistakenly think there is the same inclusiveness at "trad" sessions.

"So it also depends on the type of song. The ones that work best are those with a chorus and/or are sung in keys with one, two or three sharps - thus enabling musicians to join in."
If a fiddle player isn’t good enough (like most are) to play along with a song in Bb, say, then they should just sit it out. Unfortunately most want to be playing all the time.

I also attend "trad" sessions where there are generally no songs. And, actually, I prefer it that way.
Either all of one or roughly half and half, but not 95% and 5% for me.

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I don’t mind the occasional song, "folk" or not, at a trad session, but I really do prefer the singers be able to project their voice. Otherwise, for anyone more than five feet away, it’s just five minutes of guitar chords.

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Yes, you do get a lot of "bedroom" singing.

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DonaldK: "If a fiddle player isn’t good enough (like most are) to play along with a song in Bb, say, then they should just sit it out. "

I didn’t say fiddles specifically - I said musicians. What about D whistles for example? It’s going to be hard for those guys to play in Bb.

And what if the singer sings in Gb Maj? (with six flats).

Or even worse, a quarter tone sharp of Gb Maj? That would exclude most session musicians 0f wouldn’t it?

The latter actually happened at a session that I attended a few months ago. When the singer finished, the fiddler sitting next to me commented: "I knew that - and I could have joined in - except that it was in the key of shite!"

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Pretty much every session in my region is open to folk songs (and more): I hear a lot of Dylan, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline—their songs, I mean; they themselves have yet to stop by. Though I have learned in my time here on thesession that many sessions are much more orthodox. Just to put in the mix that there seems to be some significant regional (or perhaps other) variety in heterogeneity.

I agree 100% with the dancing spider comment above that those running the session should make its limits clear. I have been unsure what to expect when I seek out a more "trad-trad" session … which I will …

@Tarran: I think there should me more spider-dances at sessions. 😉

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

*be more

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I "performed" and original song at a session once. It won’t happen again.

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In answer to Mix: yes, I was being a bit presumptuous and provocative.
I would suggest, though, that if a whistle player only has a D whistle he should expect to sit out a lot of tunes, as well as songs, here in Scotland where “odd” keys are more common. A fiddle player I know carries two fiddles, one of which is tuned a semitone sharp (because it sounds better there) for accompanying in flat keys. And, actually, most tune players aren’t, understandably, very practiced in the art of accompanying anyway. It’s not what they do.
I must admit I struggle in Gb and have to rely on the old ear rather than knowing the names of the notes or chord sequences (like ye olde I – vi – ii – V).

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The place where I live could well be considered a vast wasteland when it comes to Trad. During the very few hours a month when we regularly get together to play…well, we come to play, and we come to play traditional Irish tunes. An occasional traditional song is welcome. Too many songs just take up "our" space. Especially when they’re outside the genre. Yeah I know that I’m just being selfish. I whole heartedly wish that we had a choice of several regular sessions to attend. We don’t. For that reason I’m a bit protective of what we do have. More than most I like to think that I appreciate the inclusiveness of the session. Just so long as it’s an Irish tune session. In fact I even host a monthly "woodshed" type session in my home for the sole purpose of offering a safe place to play for everybody regardless of their ability. We need to grow more trad players.

There are several "jams"in the area which are almost always bluegrass or old school country music venues. There are quite a few open mic nights…same crowd with the addition of singer/songwriters. Frankly I, and just about anyone I know, wouldn’t think of showing up at one of these venues and trying to take over. Nor would we be welcome. If we did start a set it’s most likely that the tradition would be hijacked by clueless guitar strummers, and noodlers thinking that we need their harmonies.

Yup, I absolutely agree that the session should be all about inclusiveness. We include some Scottish, Cape Breton, French Canadian, Contra, English tunes. We encourage anyone who wants to get involved with Irish trad to join us and encourage anyone who wants to get involved with another style to find that venue. I don’t mean that cynically, I want everyone to find the place that works best for them. We include some fresh-to- music players and some who can stand proudly with anyone, anywhere (I wish I was one of these). GanstaRap, Billy Ray Cyrus (or whats’er name Cyrus), Neil Young covers. Not so much. And that’s as it should be.

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I realize my opinion plus $2.49 will get you a McDonald’s Happy Meal, but I loathe solo songs at a session. Unless the singer is really skilled, in which case it’s sort of like someone taking a solo on a slow air. Once or twice a night is plenty. Never twice from the same person, unless they are absolutely killer pro quality.

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DonaldK: " … here in Scotland where “odd” keys are more common.

The session.org tune database is very comprehensive - at the time of writing there are 24913 settings posted. Of these, only 280 (app. 1%) are in FMaj. (one flat) with no tunes at all in Bb Maj (two flats) or Eb Maj (three flats).

And of the 280 tunes in FMaj, only a portion are Scottish.

So what are these tunes in "odd" keys that are played at your local session?

Could you provide us with a few examples?

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

I think its great for a couple of times through
constant tune set’s. And the Punter’s love it.
But if there’s load’s of Folk singer’s why not have
a singing session at a different time, or day/night.
The two different session’s can work if,
its advertised properly .
I myself prefer Traditional singing between tune’s,
1/ I like them more, and 2/ also it can calm an,
otherwise noisey Bar.
f4

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

"also it can calm an,
otherwise noisey Bar.”

It can also clear one surprisingly quickly. Especially those where the performing child / dwarf / drunk is wheeled out to sing his party piece. Like other posters I prefer to escape to the bar.
I do agree with corncrake that there are musicians who also take over proceedings; they play until tired or bored then ask others to play in a horribly condescending manner. Worst of all are the ones who believe in giving everyone their 15 minutes of fame, with some horrendous results from those who were intending to hide quietly in a corner. In a recent session we played the same set of tunes three times, as the fiddler only knew three tunes, but someone thought they looked left out….

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"no tunes at all in Bb Maj (two flats) or Eb Maj (three flats)" How did you search for those Mix ? 😉

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Hardly surprising, since neither "Bb Maj" and "Eb Maj" are listed as keys in which you can post a tune.

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DonaldK: "And, actually, most tune players aren’t, understandably, very practiced in the art of accompanying anyway".

Strongly disagree.

Song melodies are usually much easier to play than tunes. Most melody players that I know from sessions would have no difficulty at all playing along with a singer - providing that (a) they were reasonably familiar with the song and (b) the singer was singing it in one of the common session keys.

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Two points-first, Mix O’Lydian, while I am interested in seeing DonaldK’s response, I am compelled to point out that your survey was highly inaccurate. First, you only accounted for major keys. For example, there are 23 pages of tunes in G Minor (two flats), four pages of tunes on F Dorian, etc. Still a drop in the bucket, but more importantly, the key given for each tune is the one of the original posting. In many cases other settings, either formally submitted or in the comments, or very frequently, mentioned in the comments even if not posted, are in different keys. Lastly, it seems to me that assigning a nationality to many of these tunes is a thorny issue in and of itself.
As to the OP, I enjoy sessions with the occasional song. I was raised on The Clancy Brothers and the Dubliners, and so songs were my entry into this music. I know I’m not alone here. The sessins I’ve atended have made room for a song or two, as well as slow airs and tunes from other traditions, without letting them take over. and that’s the way I like it,uh huh, uh huh.
x post with DonaldK and Kenny

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"Hardly surprising, since neither "Bb Maj" and "Eb Maj" are listed as keys in which you can post a tune"

I realise that, Kenny! But should those two categories be added do you think? Do you have a slew of good tunes you are desperate to post but cannot through lack of a category? 😉

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What DonaldK maybe meant was that tradplayers rarely play anything else than the plain melody, they aren’t used to improvise (other than all these micro-variations, trebles, impromptu changes in melody etc.) and definitely not make up counterpoint lines on the spot. (At least that’s why I personally find it dead boring to play in bands whose repertoire is based on songs)

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

There appear to be no tunes in Bb on the database, Mix, because Bb is not an option on the session.org. Most are posted under Gm.
Tunes in odd keys that I hear regularly would include The Ridge (F), Batchelor’s (F), Mitton’s Breakdown (Bb), Catharsis (Gm), MacArthur Road (E), Calliope House (E), Pottinger’s (F), Andy Broon’s (F), Jenn & Anthony’s (F), Amy’s Waltz (E), etc.

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Sorry, I’m a bit slow at the typing so I’m repeating what others have said.
It may be, Mix, that you play with good musicians who can accompany songs in a sympathetic manner but that’s not my experience round where I live. They good accompanists are the exception rather than the rule.

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@4string - my quick analysis used the major keys just as an illustration - within that context I was I (think) accurate. I am of course aware that one, two and three flats is not restricted to major keys. If you add the Gm Fdor tunes to the total it would still be a small percentage.

"Lastly, it seems to me that assigning a nationality to many of these tunes is a thorny issue in and of itself. "

True indeed. But when I did that quick search on session.org I just happened to notice that one of the tunes returned was the "Ukranian Polka".

I guess the Scots wouldn’t be laying claim to that one! 😉

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And I wouldn’t say that being able to play the melody of a song qualifies someone as a good accompanist.

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Batchelder’s in F. Fun on the mandolin, problematic on a hammered dulcimer.

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Back to good manners, listen first and see how the session goes………for our session it’s a social occasion, so the odd song, maybe with a chorus, is OK, but otherwise tunes are what we do.

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Thanks for that list, Donald. I know a few of those. Regarding those that I don’t, I’ll need bone up on them (if and when) I ever decide to attend a session in the borders!

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I’m with @joe fidkid - more than 3 verses of an unaccompanied song are just not much fun (some might say more than 0 verses…!)

At a session I used to go to in my last town, someone used to sing to his own guitar accompaniments (reasonably well) but had his guitar tuned exactly a quarter-tone sharp (or flat - depending on your point of view) so that while he didn’t join in with the rest of the stuff, no-one could join in with his songs either.

That seemed a bit "off" to me and I’ve never encountered that as a deliberate ploy before or since. Don’t know what anyone thinks of that?

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I should also say, Mix, that at my regular session, because we have pipers, we have tons of tunes in A (major, mixolydian or dorian) and D that don’t stray out the range G to a.

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DonaldK: "And I wouldn’t say that being able to play the melody of a song qualifies someone as a good accompanist."

Maybe not. But it’s my observation that session musicians who are normally hostile to songs at sessions will accept them if they are able to (quietly) play along to them.

The songs then become inclusive - which are what sessions should be - IMO.

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DonaldK: "I should also say, Mix, that at my regular session, because we have pipers, we have tons of tunes in A (major, mixolydian or dorian) and D that don’t stray out the range G to a."

Ah, AMix - my favourite key/mode! 😉

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Just to throw in the outlier again:
–I hear almost exclusively tunes that fit on my D whistle at sessions.
–And for flat keys, I keep my clarinet handy. 😉
–I guess if "he the whistler" should sit out, well, that leaves uses Roses in the Sessions up a creek in the mist on the mountain. (Inclusive language maybe also a regional thing.)
Hugs—

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Yes, Mix, the tune is better than nothing. Being able to fill in the gaps between the melody lines is what I’m on about, though, primarily.
And Amix is a wonderful mode!

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Hmm-maybe American fiddlers are better at this than youse guys across the pond,🙂 because virtually any of the fiddlers I’ve played with could find a harmony or invent a counterpoint or play some fills, or all of the above, off the cuff, when faced with an unfamiliar song.

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I can as well (I’ve played along to whatever was on the radio/TV/stereo ever since I started playing music), but it doesn’t mean that the result is what the singer wants or that I enjoy doing it. And if I literally have to, I prefer a plucked string instrument because it’s a whole lot easier to do something "interesting" (or less interfering, haha) on say, guitar/mandolin/bouzouki.

Playing Irish music is something different from sitting down and "jam in G". As simple as that.

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I’m sure you can, Jeff. I wasn’t entirely serious in my comment, hence the smiley face, and certainly no jingoism intended. I do think that a lot of American fiddlers came to Irish trad through bluegrass or Old-Time and thus have more experience improvising back-up. I don’t entirely agree that plucked stings are necessarily better in this context, though. I find that long sustained lines on the fiddle behind the singer can sound great and are less likely to do damage than a lot of extra notes on the guitar, zouk ,mando, or God forbid, banjo. By the way, I’ve also encountered many box players who excel at this, as does my neighbor up the street who plays great back-up on the harmonica

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There are many ways non-musical cowboys can wheedle their way into sessions. Tambourines, spoons, battering a bodhrán, and of course, singing, and maybe if you’re lucky, even accompanying themselves with their 3 chords on a guitar. I like a well-sung song as much as anyone (who likes to think they have a certain amount of discerning taste), but as there are so many crap singers around, I tend to cringe when I hear the session quietening down and shushing the punters, because you never know what you are about to hear…..
However, this guy is an exception: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzmT8OsfduQ

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Ya know what’s worse? Singers (folk or otherwise) getting out their 3-ring binders of lyrics so they can sing Wild Mountain Thyme. Or Rattlin’ Bog. Yes, that happened (not in my local session, though the dread ring binders have appeared). I calmly walked over, closed up the guy’s book, and took over singing the song. I have some sympathy for singers who need a prompt because I have extremely poor memory for lyrics, but come on! An incremental repetition song? I fully expected the clod to need a lyric sheet to sing 99 Bottles of Beer.

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There’s something worse than singers invading a tune sessions.

Storytellers.

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Of course that should be either ‘a tune session’ or ‘tune sessions’. I’m a crip typost.

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Oh yes, God save us from story tellers and amateur poets.

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Tracie-you have my symphony.🙂 I play in a rock cover band (it’s a money gig) where the lead singer brings his i-pad to every rehearsal and gig and we all have to wait in between songs for him to pull up the lyrics, even on songs we’ve been doing for years. I hate it.

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< If a fiddle player isn’t good enough,to play along with a song in Bb, say, then they should just sit it out. >
I have to agree with this ’ It’s the singer not the song ’ that, should call the Key’s I think .
For it’s Him/Her who destroying there voice, just the sing in a key to please musician’s .
f4

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

Are tunes in F and Gm really more common in Scotland? Maybe just at Donaldk’s session because the regulars like playing them.

Songs — I don’t mind one or two or three in a session, provided the singer is good. If a beginney musician staggers through the Kesh, you can help them out and provide a rhythm for them to latch onto, and then it’s the whole session playing the tune and that’s fine. If a singer sucks, all you can do is go to the loo or the bar.

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There have been several different non-instrumental performers at our session over the years. Racker Donnelly is one whom I would always be glad to call upon to give a short spot to; he always knew how much time to take-up, never over-imposed, and was always entertaining. Then there was Cedric the Pirate, or whatever he called himself, who thought what we were doing was a show, and tried to reach the back of the pub with his vocal projection. And then there have been the drunks, who can neither play the borrowed or house guitar, nor remember all the words, nor find the right key to do things in.
I say; tell them it’s not an Open Mic, tell them where there is one. The decent ones know not to overstay their welcome, the rest are a pain in the r1ng……

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Two comments: 1. Around here, at least, Caliope House is usually played in D maj cuz, E, seriously? I don’t even know which notes are in E-major. And 2. I love to break it up and hear someone sing once in a while, and tunes outside the usual genera are fine, but a song outside the genera is hopefully a once per night thing at the most.

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We have some folks who like to drop by the session and sing a song or two. Some good, some bad. While I usually like every tune or song, I have come to the conclusion that I have heard "The Auld Triangle" at least one time too many. And often dragged out so slowly that, by the end of it, I feel like I have done time in prison myself.

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Al - Over the years I’ve heard many strange percussion instruments played at sessions - but never triangles!

You must be unlucky … 😉

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Triangles are OK, man. It’s the squares you want to watch out for, man. Peace!

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"No, no, not The Fields of Athenry"
"Michael, they are singing it again"
"If I hear it I shall cry, or maybe even die……"…..

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@MarkM: ‘Hell is full of musical amateurs: music is the brandy of the damned. May not one lost soul be permitted to abstain?’ (George Bernard Shaw )

@Mixo—whaddy mean, strange? Ah the aerodynamic precision of the triangle; the glorious simplicity! The unpitched jingling!

Oh, I hear "Athen Rye" every session.

On the other hand, there are two guys who sing songs I actually request from them every time I see them. I guess I am an enabler. So if anyone out there is tired of "Streets of London" or "The Chemical Workers’ Song," you can blame me.

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Weren’t the beginnings of today’s sessions a social gathering, such as a festival or barn dance, where music, stories and songs were all performed. Integrated not segregated? What changed to create such polarized beliefs and preferences? Just curious.

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"Weren’t the beginnings of today’s sessions a social gathering, such as a festival or barn dance, where music, stories and songs were all performed." - No.

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"Singing "folk" music at trad sessions"….ruins a session for me…especially those damn sea shanties! Stop it!! I do enjoy a skillfully sung sean-nos song, however.

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Ghostflute: < What changed to create such polarized beliefs and preferences? Just curious.>
Sorry if this sound’s abit harsh, but I beleave over time, it was Talent .
f4

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

It started with singing.


U take that away, there is nothing left but material contraptions

Kenny is wrong with his "no" as nobody really knows

I once heard "get your booty on the dance floor" as a Sean nos. Now, that’s trad for ya.

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Contraption. Now that makes me smile 🙂

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I thought I’d ask. I’ve heard so many origins, from kitchen sessions, to small community gatherings, to Irish Americans gathering in pubs to remember the old country. Some origins said everything was done, others said music only or singing only. Was hoping someone had heard something more definitive. Ah well.

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There are many examples of Irish music, e.g. dance tunes, ballads in English, pub songs, sean-nós, céili, O’Carolan. Nobody plays them all, you rarely find everything on the same album (even on a collection), and you won’t hear all of them in a session, no way (but I’ve heard plenty of bands from other countries squeeze in just about every kind of Irish ingredient in their setlist).

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As a singer, I often have to gauge a session so that if/when I give a song, I can give the right one for the right audience. Sometimes, people want to hear McAlpine’s Fusiliers or some other Dubiners-type song. Sometimes, they want to hear a traditional, unaccompanied ballad. Sometimes, they’ll sing along to a sea shanty. So I try to figure out what people want, and sing accordingly. I think a lot of the animus towards singers is similar to that directed at bodhrans and guitar accompanists. Some people don’t see the bar as being very high to start at a session, and so you get a lot of people who are terrible who nonetheless give it a go.

If I’m at a new session, I listen, play my flute, and watch how the dynamic is. When there’s a bit of a lull, I’ll ask if it’s OK if I sing a song, and then when they say yes (everyone’s always said yes), I go into it. I’ve always gotten compliments and often get asked to sing a second or third time, so I think this works well. I’d never just start into a song, unless it’s at my home session and I feel the time is right. I think songs have the potential to make or break a session. I’ve been to many that have been sapped of energy by painful renditions of "Dirty Old Town" or "Fields of Athenry," but I’ve also been in pubs full of captivated (and dead silent) punters and musicians alike listening intently to a beautifully sung ballad. And I’ve been in pubs where a rousing sing-along of "South Australia" or "Whiskey In the Jar" has grabbed the attention of the punters and engaged them a lot more in the ensuing tunes. So as with anything, it’s not the song, it’s the person singing.

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There’s no problems with songs at tune sessions provided they are welcome by the players and/or the host(s). I certainly welcome it, and even recitations… but what irritates me are people that impose songs or recitations on a session with no regard for the people having it. I remember one visiting singer from the UK came into our session and announced he would like to sing a song… or two… and then sat there anticipating it impatiently. I politely invited him to sing and he did… and he wasn’t bad… but he immediately went right back to impatiently waiting to sing again. He didn’t appear to be enjoying the tunes at all—they were an impedance to what he wanted to do it seemed. This irritated me and I wasn’t very quick to invite him again… so he invited himself and would start singing after every few tunes. I was happy and relieved when his wife wanted to leave early and made him go..

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I guess it’s the same with any solo. I’m usually invited to do a solo on my harp but very rarely will I do more than one in an evening - because people are there to play together, not listen (although, hopefully, they do listen when they play)!

But as a person who enjoys harmonies especially when people do them well (regardless of instrument/s) I’m not so keen on a multi-verse unaccompanied solo song.

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Maybe all it requires is a micrometer at every session, to measure the thickness of skin…!

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If the Host calls for a song then fair enough, but lets keep them to a minimum eh!?

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I think problems arise when the session has not made it clear just what it is. Is it mostly traditional? If so, that dictates what types of songs will be welcome. Otherwise, it descends into a "jam session" where anything can happen. Ross Faisson, I love your description - "the tradition would be hijacked by clueless guitar strummers, and noodlers thinking that we need their harmonies." This is what has happened to a session I sometimes attend…

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Everyone has their own vision of an ideal session. For me, it would be a great mix of Sligo, Kerry, and Newfoundland tunes just spilling out with a really sweet groove. Maybe a tasty song thrown in once an hour or so.

And you know, if I’m lucky I average one session like that a year. (This year I was very lucky.)

For my money, though, if you’re going to have a bunch of songs in your session, sea shanties are distinctly better than wildly overdone Irish folk songs. (Hell, I’d rank an interesting shanty well above flogging Morrison’s jig again, too.) They’re well suited to a session-style environment because everyone can join in singing the chorus-y bits, which are easy to pick up on the fly.

But then, I may be biased because our local session is anchored by a fine trio of maritime music performers.

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

@MarkH: I like the micrometer idea! I was thinking of a resident therapist/mediator. perhaps one with a micrometer who sings.

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

The High Kings material is, indeed, painful. But I confess to the guilty pleasure of their version of The Parting Glass, if only because of the big pipes coming in at 2:30. Speaks to my Highland pipe days.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMkQExuzL_0


Cheers.

Matt

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

Thanks for sharing. I liked that last arrangement (but I’m not too fond of their version of Rocky Road to Dublin, which however appeals to a greater audience).

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

Matt Buckley: < Highland Pipe’s >
Now there’s something, I would want to listen too .
f4

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

Some singers prefer going to those trad music sessions where the musicians "don’t mind the odd song" as they can actually get more songs in of an evening than they would in an actual sing around or song session. Perhaps 2, 3, or 4 in the course of a night.

If there’s only the one singer, that’s no big deal really but it’s still a very crafty move on their part.

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

Make my day

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

"Weren’t the beginnings of today’s sessions a social gathering, such as a festival or barn dance, where music, stories and songs were all performed." -

Nope, but the House dances had music, stories, recimutations, song and dance.

I’d say they were magical.

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

Let there be house


And so it was

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

I quite liked that clip of the ‘Parting Glass’ Matt posted above. I’m going to Trad Snob Hell for that, no doubt. Welcome to Hell, here is your session of bodhrans, shakey eggs, and out-of-tune singers drunkenly staggering through the ‘Wild Rover.’

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

I too liked the clip - maybe not when the percussion comes in, but it’s nice to hear well-recorded, very good voices singing something passionate (whatever the genre).

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

I don’t get out to sessions much these days. When I do, if it’s somewhere I’ve been before then the chances are that the host/hosts will know that I’ll sing one if they ask me to. If it’s somewhere I haven’t been before, then if the host asks me if I sing, I say "yeah, a bit" and I’ll give them a song. If they ask me for another later, I’ll give them another later. If they don’t ask, I won’t sing. The point is, as decent a singer as I think I probably am, I wouldn’t sing in anybody’s session without being asked to. I like a session where it’s just tunes well enough, cos I can play tunes all night if needs be, but I prefer a session where there’s a singer or two (or three) as well as the jigs and reels. I don’t care if they’re a "join in if you like" singer or a "please let me sing unaccompanied" singer, as I like playing along with singers, but also just listening to a good singer sing a good song. I don’t like sessions where there’s obvious hostility to the very notion of having a song, because I genuinely wonder why people who like traditional music wouldn’t also like traditional songs.

In my view, and in the view of nearly every even half decent singer I’ve ever encountered, the song’s the thing. That’s why singers sing in "stupid keys" and stuff like that, because the important thing is the song. Not the singer - I don’t sing because I want praise. Not the musicians in the session getting to join in - if the key suits the singer but not the box player, that’s just hard luck. The song’s the thing. I attend a monthly unaccompanied singing club in Edinburgh, and I’ve made a few trips to the Goilin and to Cullerlie and here and there. You can always tell the singers who are there because they want to be heard pretty early on. It’s the singers who come along because they want this song or that song to be heard who are generally the ones worth hearing.

m.d.

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

Good post, emmdee. The only point to pick up on is

"I don’t like sessions where there’s obvious hostility to the very notion of having a song, because I genuinely wonder why people who like traditional music wouldn’t also like traditional songs."

The hostility is not generally to the song, it’s to the singers!!! Not to sensible people like yourself but to those who are there to maximise the number of songs and singers. The message to those is simply - Go start your own session and leave ours alone.

If sensible singers could be easily identified then there would be less hostility!

Jim

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

The stories in songs ‘can take people to another place’. If I am at a tunes session I don’t usually want that, the chat between tunes is the spoken word I want to give my attention to, not someone singing me a story about somewhere else, even if I get to join in on a chorus.

On the other hand quite a lot of my recreational time has been spent in situations where, come the evening, people make their own entertainment with songs (solo or communal), stories, jokes, tunes etc. There are pub gatherings like that - but they are not tunes sessions.

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

I remember one pub in Miltown Malbay which mostly/only had singing sessions. One day when nobody had started anything yet, we played some music there, and gradually the sessions turned into a singing session. No problem.

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

"I don’t like sessions where there’s obvious hostility to the very notion of having a song, because I genuinely wonder why people who like traditional music wouldn’t also like traditional songs."

I do like songs. I also like just going to a session and playing for a whole evening.

I also like playing baroque music and listening to prog rock. I wouldn’t want both on the same evening though.

If everyone at a session is happy about having songs, then no-one is stopping that session having songs. If they just want to play non-stop tunes all night, that’s fine too. What isn’t OK is telling people who just want to play tunes once a week/month/whatever that they are being ‘exclusive’ and doing something wrong.

Posted by .

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

c.g: < What isn’t OK is telling people who just want to play tunes once a week/month/whatever that they are being ‘exclusive’ and doing something wrong >
That can work the other way round too. I remember when asking a well known fiddler,
( No Name Being Given ) to come to our session. At first he was well pleased, but when
I told him there was some good singer’s there. He’ said ” Agh what did ye tell me that for,
sure singing only ruin’s a session ”
🙂
f4

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

If the session leader goes out of the way to make it known that it is a traditional tunes session, and people still insist on singing folk songs, well then, it gets hairy…and sucks the fun out of it. Traditionally, trad sessions are not held at the same time as song sessions. If the group labels themselves as a "traditional Irish session," I figured that would spell it out. Even if 2-3 songs were welcomed, in my experience it’s never just 2-3 songs, more like 10-15.

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

"The High Kings material is, indeed, painful.”

Or High Kigngs as the official channel calls them…. still painful though. ‘By the Creator of Celtic Woman’ says it all, really…

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

Yes. It has to happen, or folk songs will die. Here in Ireland, ballads and rebel songs are our vocal tradition. Those songs are still recorded and performed. There has to be a mix of vocal and instrumentals. If Ireland’s instrumental heritage is important, why shouldn’t our song heritage be the same.?

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

As my introduction to traditional music was song I agree with you Michael.

The Parting Glass is one song that I fell in love with after hearing it sung at Kilmarnock folk festival many moons ago by this group
http://youtu.be/Lum-2ejJPrI


Doubtless this will get me pelters from some here.

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

< As my introduction to traditional music was song I agree with you Michael.>
And It was also mine ’ Good point ’ And it was these guy’s, and I’m sure I’m not alone on here.
f4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmMPShjd0aE

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

One thing to add to this discussion which has not been mentioned yet. I don’t mind people singing as long as they also play a melody instrument. If someone is sitting at a session waiting to sing I see and feel it as a burden, when someone is playing along on the tin whistle or fiddle and feels like a song in between its very different to me.

Posted by .

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

Yes, and another good point. And, I’ve even been guilty of that too.
You start off close to the melody, then afew harmonies, then
you forget it’s a folk song, and you are doing something like
Dave Brubeck, would be proud off 🙂
Back in the 70’s I remember they the, ( Session Musician’s there )
did not want Folk song’s sung at all, only Traditional unaccompanied singer’s,
got the floor, Then we started learning Harmony’s, lol.
I Blame these guy’s 😉
f4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ad8RVexRUoQ&list=PLDA8CEC79158325E8

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

I’ve seen this done with some success. Usually at the point of the session where many of the players disappear into the loo and then head to the bar to flirt with a young…or not so young lady.

Though I was at one really good session where a guitar nazi showed up and insisted on singing tripe like Galway to Graceland.

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

Point of order, Mister Chairman;
Galway to Graceland is NOT tripe, merely inappropriate for a trad music session.
I’m perfectly happy to hear it at other times and places, though it might become Richard Thompsons’ Band Played Waltzing Matilda…….

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

Appropriate enough actually if the guitarist is also part of the session. One chap I know has been a mainstay of trad sessions for years, played regularly with the best local musicians, and contributes many a good song including " G to G".

He understands and loves the music, of course, which I daresay makes the difference.

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

I prefer when going to a Traditional Irish Session, to play or listen to ONLY trad music! To me that means no vocals or storytelling. They can find another place to go.

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

did Guernsey Pete mean Eric Bogle’s ‘Waltzing Matilda’? Richard Thompson wrote ‘Waltzing for Dreamers’
another fine song. In my experience a few songs at a session makes a better connection with the rest of
the pub’s clientele even if they’re old chestnuts like Dirty old Town or Black Velvet Band. For the average pub goer I’m afraid one jig or reel sounds pretty much like another! [sorry about duplication I hit the send key accidentally]

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

oh it didn’t duplicate the website must have corrected it - wonders of technology!

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

I meant that Galway to Graceland might be the song that EVERYONE does, over-emoting the whole way through. Some friends of mine picked it up quite early on and put it on their cd with RTs permission. It wasn’t ever on one of his album releases, just a track on a compilation of alternative takes and extra songs, which goes to show that even a great songwriter might be unaware of which of his compositions carries a big emotional cue.

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

ok sorry I’d missed the point, see what you mean now! Anyway I checked out RT’s original on You Tube
and I would hope G to G would be beyond the scope of most amateur strummers, ie it has more than 3 chords and quite a few verses to remember! Unfortunately that’s not always a deterrent, one of the aforesaid strummers absolutely desecrated ‘Beeswing’ at our local session recently. That brings me to my final point,
I still think its ok to have a few songs at a session, ideally played and sung well……………

Re: Singing "folk" music at trad sessions

Well, I’ve been to various sessions; I just think you have to understand the mood of the gathering: at one very eclectic one a West Indian guy used to turn up and do mainly Bob Marley covers, and very well, while the rest of us struggled with the reggae beat; then at Whitby last year some young white kid tried to do a Bob Marley song, and utterly failed to do it justice; I was mentally screaming "No ! No ! Leave the first beat OUT ! Walton, where are you to show this guy how to do it ?"….