Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

If so, or if you’ve heard or otherwise know about it, please share your thoughts about it. In particular, are there certain aspects or places about it that warrant special attention? Thanks in advance.

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Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

I have been a few times.

It is a beautiful locale. There are places to hike if that interests you, and the view of the harbor is good for the soul 🙂

There are a couple of places to get food at the resort, but in general it’s a pretty "sleepy" time of year there, not exactly bustling. It is about a 20 minute drive to the main town on the island, Friday Harbor, if you want to eat at a restaurant or buy groceries (or liquor!) or just for something to do.

There are a lot of friendly people and overall a high standard of playing.

Something I would point out is that this is not so much a "festival" as an informal gathering, perhaps of something like 50-70 people. A lot of the people have known each other for years. But they are definitely open to newcomers.

There is not much by way of classes/instruction. There is a tune learning workshop in the morning, and occasionally somebody might give a workshop, but this would not be the primary focus of the week. But there are still many informal opportunities to pick up new tunes and learn things.

There is one bar that stays open until about midnight. After that, everybody goes back to wherever they are staying…where there likely is more sessioning to be found…

So overall, it’s an opportunity to hang out in a beautiful place, play music, and meet old and new friends.

I have personally enjoyed this event and intend to return in the future, life/work/time permitting 🙂

Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

It’s definitely more in the realm of "music retreat".

The website has lots of information http://rocheharborirish.com/

It is pretty strictly Irish trad with a dedicated page to the session culture. I’d say that like-minded newcomers are always welcome and I would email the organizers for more specifics.

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I’m very put off by their "Rules of the Road" on their website. At first blush, you may find you agree with them, but they smack of too much attitude for me. I don’t take kindly to having to ask if I can join a session after traveling 500 miles to get there. IMO, anyone who suggests that is not nearly as good as they think they are. I could pick their entire list apart, but I feel too negative about it to do it tastefully.

I think I’ll pass.

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Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

This event is on my bucket list; maybe for next year if I can improve a bit more.

I like the "origin story", where they had a festival collapse, but everybody decided to go anyway. It’s pretty cool to have an event that isn’t reliant on workshops from "Big Names" (or workshops from "Small Names", for that matter).

The cost of lodging is modest (off-season), and you could probably do it without a car by asking about ride sharing from Seattle.

The San Juan Islands are magical, even in the cold & dreary part of the year. Majestic woodlands and rocky sea coasts. Orcas gamboling off the headlands.

Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

I’ve been playing for decades with some of the people who facilitate Roche Harbor and they are genuinely warm and welcoming. Competent musicians, as well. The Rules of the Road are spot on, and apply to much more than the friendly sessions at Roche. They would be taken for granted at any session worth participating in, and some would apply to any gathering of people in any situation.
Some people might have a problem with "…be humble, don’t be self-serving." So it might be better for some people to give Roche Harbor a pass. I hope I will be able to attend this year.

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Might be worth saying that Roche Harbor is on an island not that far from Vancouver, but in the USA in Washington state.

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I’d not be too sorry if anyone stays away because they can’t cope with the "Rules of the Road."

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In an ideal world all of that stuff should not need to be said, as it really is all basic courtesy and common sense for anyone with a bit of session experience, but I can see the merit in stating it upfront, especially if the festival is likely to be attended by plenty of people coming from backgrounds of other musical traditions where norms and etiquette may be different. If I decided, for example, to start learning bluegrass (as someone from well outside of the tradition and culture, with a background in a whole other genre) and was off to my first bluegrass festival, I know I’d appreciate a guide like that to help me avoid making an ass of myself!

Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

I like "The Rules Of The Road", and it makes a lot of sense to state them clearly up front. If you can’t accept the "house rules", don’t go. But I can’t help but wonder how they get on with enforcing the "one guitar / one bodhran at a time" rule. Best of luck with that.

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Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

I’d certainly be ok not having people around who feel like they’re entitled to play at any and every session.

Having read the entire page, I’d add that this reads more like an information page on sessions in general.. anyone who thinks this is wrong hasn’t been to good sessions, or else has seriously annoyed good musicians.

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Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

In retrospect, I should have said "anyone who thinks this is wrong hasn’t been to *many* good sessions, or else has seriously annoyed good musicians."

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Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

It might be worth mentioning that this corner of the Pacific Northwest is home to a fairly large number of OldTime players and guitarist singer/songwriter types, who sometimes drift into local Irish and Scottish sessions, diving in enthusiastically without much of a clue about the music. That Rules of the Road posting might be simple self-defense, given the local environment.

Edited to add:

Regarding "But I can’t help but wonder how they get on with enforcing the "one guitar / one bodhran at a time" rule. Best of luck with that."

I’ve seen that rule gently enforced in all three of the local sessions I’ve attended out here, in WA state not far from the San Juans. It’s done out of necessity, given the preponderance of guitarists and bhodran players who would wreck a session otherwise.

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>>"I don’t take kindly to having to ask if I can join a session after traveling 500 miles to get there"

What does the distance you’ve traveled have to do with anything? Manners are manners. Joining a session uninvited is a bit like sitting down uninvited at someone elses table in a restaurant. Restaurants don’t generally need to post a list of rules, because most people know the etiquette. Unfortunately not everyone understands session etiquette, so a bit of guidance can help newcomers avoid making a prat of themselves.

Looking at that festival website I don’t see a set of ‘rules’ that are going to be enforced by the session police, I see some useful advice that will help you fit in and make friends, rather than alienating everyone in the room the moment you sit down.

Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

Well, it’s only my opinion, but I don’t think of a session as a performance. Some common sense is called for, but potentially, anything can ruin a session. Having more than one fiddler can ruin a session - shall we limit it to one? I remember being at a session with a piano accordion with an outstanding player. Oh, no - too loud! The point is, you deal with issues as they arise. Setting up commandments is a downer, and all this stuff about being humble and asking permission to join in, etc. is bonkers, IMHO. Oh, and be sure to count to 100 before you start another set (we need breathing time!). And by all means, never EVER start two sets in a row unless asked (by whom, I’d like to know?).

To Mark’s point, we have a simple disagreement. Using his analogy, I believe the promotion for the event implies an invitation to play the sessions. I only mention the distance because I’d hate to go to a lot of trouble to attend an event where, for some reason, some sessions were open and some were not. I’ve been to enough bad sessions not to want to chance that.

Every bad session I’ve been to had naught to do with transgression of the "rules"; it had to do with the superior attitude of whomever thought they were in charge. This event might not be one of those, but I don’t care to go and find out. If it’s really great, well then that’s my loss.

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Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

I went to the Friday Harbor Camps, and to the Roche Harber camp when it was still classroom instruction (last one being 2011). I haven’t been back since due to my own schedule and life events, but I plan to go again this year. It’s an absolutely beautiful locale, and a good deal. There are plenty of small and large sessions that spring up all around, so there’s room for everyone, really. I’m not a particularly high-level musician, and I don’t know a million tunes, but the craic is terrific, and I’ve never felt out of place playing or sitting one out. You should go.

Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

Ailin, I don’t think we have a disagreement, I think you’ve just read too much into ‘the rules’. "Hi, I’m Mark, do you mind if I sit in?" (which is all ‘the rules’ are asking you to do) isn’t an invitation for the session to judge whether you are worthy of joining them or not, it is simply a polite way of introducing yourself and becoming part of the conversation.

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In general, session etiquette ‘rules’ aren’t laws that are going to be enforced, they aren’t there to put off or exclude strangers or beginners. They are simply guidance, given out to help you fit in and make friends without upsetting anyone. Follow ‘the rules’ (particularly the ones about when to join in and when to keep quiet) and you’ll come away from the weekend with a whole lot of new friends. If you ignore ‘the rules’ I doubt if anyone will throw you out, you’ll still get to play all weekend, but you probably won’t get to talk to anyone.

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Mark, I may be making a mountain out of a mole hill. I guess I carry a bad taste in my mouth from past experiences that make me wary. I’ll try to be less judgmental, but the rules just hit me wrong. Thanks for y0ur reply.

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Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

I’d say having some guidelines keeps the event open and accessible to everyone - it allows people to know what to expect and why they would want to come. For those that want to play Irish trad all week, it’s great. For those that want to "jam" along with anything, bring their didgeridoo, noodle around the melody etc., the "rules of the road" outlines that it’s not the time and place for that stuff. I don’t know why anyone would be upset about a group organizing an event and spelling out their expectations for said event. (NB - I am not the author of the "rules" on this website or an organizer for the RHIMW event).

As for one guitar/one bodhran, there are so many sessions going on at the RHIMW that it is reasonable enough to expect a place and a space for everyone.

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"Every bad session I’ve been to had naught to do with transgression of the "rules"; it had to do with the superior attitude of whomever thought they were in charge."

I didn’t read it that way, Ailin. The website’s "Rules of the Road" may have been extensive;
though speaking for myself I felt the author was not expressing an attitude of superiority.
My take away; the Festival provides guidelines, not actual dictates for individual sessions during the event.
The first section, "In Brief", was sufficient for me. I seriously doubt the latter sections were intended to make Roche Harbor sessions exclusive. Of course, I could wrong. But there isn’t anything I haven’t heard before about things to expect when you walk into a session for the first time & may be coming from a different place or culture. If anything the advice seems to say, "Introduce yourself, keep your eyes open & make the most of your time during the sessions."

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Thanks for the remarks. I’ll just add that this tome was not intended to be "rules for sessions at this event". The idea was just to provide some "background info about Irish sessions, northwest edition". The name "Rules of the Road" was a whimsical reference to the navigation handbook.

Hoping that experienced sessioners will have a look and say, "oh yeah, that stuff (yawn)". And then some newer comers might have a look and think "interesting, so THAT kind of stuff goes on at sessions…"

Sorry if anything is offensive in there. The event is friendly and open - one doesn’t need to ask to join a session.

Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

Ailin, what you seem to be expressing a fear of in this thread — some kind of session police state — is not at all remotely like what I have experienced during the times I have been to the Roche Harbor event. The "Rules of the Road" does potentially sound a bit overly official and imposing but I think this was inadvertent as others have suggested. Just another data point to for your consideration 🙂

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All hail fiddletech! Didn’t think your Rules of the Road would cause as much pearl clutching as it did, but I had a good laugh seeing how much interest this thread and event has garnered in the last 24 hours. 🙂

As to my stake in all of this, I just want to put my 2 Canadian (1 US) cents into this by saying the craic is great and the tunes are amazing at Roche Harbor. There are sessions of all sorts happening at different places, and if you don’t see something for you, gather a buddy and start one yourself! I came away inspired and determined to play better in keeping the music alive in our part of the world. Best of all, I gained some wonderful friends and memories by going there last year and bringing back some interesting tunes that aren’t usually played in our area. If you come looking for friends and a good time without wondering "what’s in it for me" it’s worth your while. Look forward in playing with you all again!

Cheers.

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Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

How did you manage to bring back the tunes melom, if you weren’t allowed to play unless you knew them? Session playing is the way I have learned most of the tunes I know, English, American, Irish and French.

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@Ebor_fiddler, the usual ways to bring back tunes from a session are to either ask someone for the name and look it up, or possibly record a few tunes that you like, then learn them at home. Unless it’s specifically a beginner/slow/tune-learning session, an Irish tune session is a place to hear new tunes you might like to learn, but generally not to actually learn them.

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A friend of mine was playing at a session in Berkeley about 30 years ago, when in walks none other than Joe Burke - who asked if he could sit in! It’s just good manners, along with the other points mentioned in the Rules, which seemed wholly reasonable to me - the only thing I took exception to with them was that it’s a bit more verbose than need be, a short list of bullet points would work just as well, and naming it "Rules of The Road" is rubbing people the wrong way.

Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

All Hail, O Fiddletech!

I havn’t been to Roche but I consistently hear from Vancouver locals that if you are hardcore into ITM and want to play a ton with everyone from enthusiastic beginners to trad masters (often in mixed groups), or just to listen, Roche rocks. They aren’t elitist from what I hear but they maintain traditional musical and social etiquette.

Chris

Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

Agree 100% with what Kevin said above. "Ptarmigan" and myself had a similar experience at a Willie Clancy week in the early 1980s. A session in the back of "Clancy’s", as I recall, a couple of geezers come over and politely ask, "Can we play a few tunes with you, lads ?". Maurice Lennon and Paul Roche of "Stockton’s Wing" - so if musicians of that calibre think it only polite to ask…………….. figure it out for yourselves.

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Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

At every new-to-me session I’ve ever played in, in the US, Canada and Ireland, I’ve started out by asking, "Is it ok if I sit in and play along on the tunes I know?” No one’s ever said ‘no’. But everyone seemed very pleased that I asked.

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Barry Foy’s Field Guide to the Irish Music Session covers much of the same ground as Rules of the Road, but with a lighter, funnier touch. A wonderful read that makes the necessary points without the, at times, somewhat heavier hand of Rules of the Road. The word "humility" doesn’t appear in Foy’s book. It’s so well written it doesn’t need to.

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/829017.Barry_Foy

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I’ve loaned Barry’s excellent book to a few people over the years, in the hope that, what, they would take more of an interest in making their music more authentically Irish, or something. It didn’t take at all, the lesson contained therein, that is.

At some point I was informed that people tend to take a very passive aggressive approach to dealing with session intruders who were troublesome in various ways - bad manners, no musical skill, failure to get their sh!t together generally. Barry describes this, as well as Mick Moloney and Ciaran Carson I think, in their books on trad. And I’m not Mr. Pushy myself, so have never laid down anything in the way of a law; but no more. Some people just won’t respond to anything but blunt criticism.

Seems this lack of direct confrontation is characteristic of the Irish? Or people who want to play their music. And other genres? It sure isn’t how it’s done in rock bands. DUDE! YOU SUCK! NO CHOPS! PRACTICE FOR A MONTH AND GET IT TOGETHER!

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Ailin writes: "Well, it’s only my opinion, but I don’t think of a session as a performance."

Red herring alert…

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😲

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Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

I suddenly feel that there are 2 different conversations going on in this thread: One is about what to expect at Roche Harbor with veterans giving their input and experiences. The other (evidently more popular topic) is about what are proper session manners and whether the writer of "the Rules of the Road" is too uptight or not.

We’re here guys! You can ask us how Roche Harbor is like and we’ll respond politely! And I personally know the writer of "the Rules of the Road" and he’s a really chill, funny, patient guy who’s human like the rest of us. And he likes cake too so if you need to be on his good side you and bribe him with baked goods! ;)

Ebor_fiddler: As with all sessions I attend, I play what I know and what I don’t know, I either record or write the names to learn for next time. We also have a morning tune learning workshop where anyone can teach a tune, though it tends to be the more experienced players. But really, if you come and you have a tune you’d like to teach, you can do so!

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Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

"I suddenly feel that there are 2 different conversations going on in this thread."

Wait a minute… Are you saying the Roche Harbor Festival’s official website’s "Rules of the Road" is not written by a veteran giving his input and experiences?

I’m bringing devil’s food, if that hits the spot.
cheers

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Re: Ever been to Roche Harbor Irish Music Festival?

I’m sort of a Roche Harbor long time veteran and wanted to say this:

A semi-organized music retreat w/ no name-brand ‘draw’ other than the other attendees can be incredibly successful and …. incredibly fun, relaxing and most of all inspiring.

The lack of organization can, at first, feel like free-fall but once you get the groove it’s pretty great. It’s not a replacement for going and doing some actual learning somewhere, but rather a great way to travel and a great way to vacation. And a great way to bond with others when there are no celebrities or rock-stars and you have to rely on each other to create magical sweet sessions. We jokingly call this ‘grad school’ for the lack of structure and the fact that it’s really up to us to make it happen on our own.

You _cannot_ go to Roche looking for a good time. But it’s a hell of a place to create one if you’re on for it.

Cost-wise you’re just paying group-discounted food-and-board. I’ve slept under a chandelier at Roche for about what it’s cost me to sleep in a tent at other camps (although things have changed a bit). The environment created when *everyone* is paying to be there is just really different.

Not everyone reading this will make it to Roche. But I hope everyone reading this gets a chance to attend or better yet consider creating something like this. It was a little awkward at first. Now it’s just a no-brainer.

Paraphrasing the encouragement of one of the past instructors: "You’ve worked for long enough and been to plenty of classes. Now go play some music."