Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

After 40 years of playing Irish Trad I have finally come to the determination that Irish Trad is now becoming very stuck up, not just with many players but many listeners as well . I am sorry if that offends, but after 40 years, it is a very matured determination . I started playing in the mid 70s when it wasn’t just as fashionable to be into ‘trad’ as it is today, and yes we all knew those certain players who had attitude back then, but they were few and far between. However, in Ireland today it is fast becoming the norm rather than the exception, even with some novice players.

When I started playing in sessions, there was craic, banter, fun and laughter as well as manners and common courtesy . During a session older players, for example the likes of Lesslie Bingham, would advise and pass on tips, tunes and stories. Music was played and shared by all, there would be singing (which is now scorned upon in many sessions) and even dance . This was all mixed up in a magic, a melting pot of entertainment, which at times may have deviated from the session but never took away from it ..Its seems those days are long gone, replaced today by conservative political correctness at best , or pure snobbery at worst !

Playing last week in a session was perhaps the breaking point for me. I listened to a young lady on a fiddle asking another to put their’s down..it was putting her off..I was flabbergasted … when I put my flute down to go to the toilet, the same young girls mother commandeered my seat …and wasn’t for moving… she spent the next 3/4 of an hour telling the daughter what to play next and both took virtual control of the session..I went to the bar.

I am tired of open sessions being dominated or took over like this. I am tired watching two or three players in the company of 6 or seven insist on playing obscure tune after tune, or playing in Eb or an obscure well practiced key, or battering out tune after tune out with no respect to any other players repertoire (by all means it’s different if it’s their specific gig). I listened to one lady in leitrim a few months ago at the start of a session telling the session what speed she wanted it played at, and her only been playing for two years…my jaw was on the floor…I would never had even thought of coming out with such a thing when I was at that stage.

We are traditional players, very few are world class maestro’s or resemble Jose Mourinho’s chosen ones , however a sizable minority of players today seem to class both themselves, their music and their knowledge at this high level and seem to demand respect for the same…

I have watched stern faced middle aged woman fight their way around tables in pubs or wrestle to the front of the crowd at fleadhs, especially if there’s a tv camera. I watched a publican in Westport last year get verbally abused as he fought to move a group of listeners who had taken over half the tables and seats in his bar and completely encircled the session…nobody else could see or hear a thing and yet the same people bought nothing from the bar… Such stern , ignorant and obnoxious attitudes are ruining sessions, there is no friendly banter or relaxed atmosphere when these people are about . If people want to listen to music in this way, go and pay into a concert, by all means they can criticize all they like then. Or if musicians want to play like this, organize their own gigs and don’t impose their music and bad manners on other musicians.

I taught whistle for bit just over three years ago, i stopped after the first few weeks. Several of children clearly didn’t want to be there, but ‘mammy’ insisted. I was quizzed on what tunes they were learning , I was even asked how quick it would take to get to competition standard and how quick they could move to the flute or pipes. The pressure was stupid, and it was no were near enjoyable either for me or ,I would say, several of the children.

Irish Trad Music to any player should be first and foremost fun, and is there to be shared. I don’t have to be as good or better than you, my children don’t have to win competitions, the world does not have to stop and listen to me, and by all means the last thing I should ever be is arrogant, snobbish, bullish or stuck up with my music…Perhaps we are reaping the rewards of continual comhaltas competitions that thrust young players and their parents into the ‘win win win’ mentality, or perhaps we are victims of what has now become fashionably Irish .. I for one miss the craic and diversion of the sessions many years ago , sessions that were more informal and any form political correctness, snobbery or nose in the air type playing was treated with distaste and contempt. Just because we play or listen to Irish Trad music, doesn’t give us a licence to be ignorant or arrogant in pursuit of that music …I get better contentment playing at home these days or with a few friends, I have even found myself walking out of sessions when I can see or judge who is playing…..enough is enough.

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At our session, tunes are called in the round robin approach. This way every player get a chance to call a tune or set and we all play it at the speed of that person. Songs are welcome. Dance if you like. We have even had a few people do some half sets. We have so much fun. I have been to many sessions like the one Leitrim lad mentioned. Usually only once.

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Oh my bad didn’t see the disclaimer that nothing is correct on the drone. Thank the universe!

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That’s what the sessions I go to are like Suzy. :)

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We have people here who are adamant that there’s only one way to play traditional Irish music. Must be from memory. Must be at a certain speed. Must be this, must be that. The thing is, we don’t learn music by ear most of us in the States who aren’t born into a first or second generation Irish family. Some of our families have been here since before the Revolutionary War. That doesn’t make us any less proud of our Irish heritage or interested in Irish culture, including music. Some of us have brain injuries or learning disabilities that make memorizing music next to impossible. So those of us who value fellowship and music play together and we leave the "Must Bes" to play by themselves. Literally. Music and fun are what trad is about. Those are the sessions to go to, either here or in Ireland. Leave the "Must Bes" alone. And the ones who tell you your music is s—— because you don’t play up to their standards. Life’s too short.

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Never heard of The Drone before. What a hoot!

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Thanks for the post, Leitrim Lad. Is it mostly the larger sessions and during fleadhs where you’re noticing the changing attitudes and disruptions, or smaller sessions as well?

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Back on my hobby horse: Reg Hall traces the emergence of the sort of attitudes and behaviours you’re talking about … in his book … !

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Thanks, meself. That’s a relief.

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What - that I’m back on my hobby horse? Yup, feels good to be back in the saddle - yee-haw!

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Debbie, with all due respect, learning by ear is a longstanding tradition in the US of A and always has been. Jazz, Blues, Old Time, Cajun, Gullah, Rock, Gospel…the list goes on and on, are all passed on from ear to ear. Nothin’ special about Irish Trad here. I say that as a champion of (but poor in practice) sight reading. I have no issue with learning from notes or learning by ear ( does that make me Bi-?). I do have an issue of the disruption that sheet music causes in sessions although I won’t get p***y about it. If it is the norm in the session I’m in, as it is sometimes, I can be flexible in which case I’ll stay because I like the players and enjoy the company. Not a Must-Be, more like a Wish It Were. And I have great understanding of injured or impaired learners.

Oh yeah I do absolutely agree with the notion of walking away from,"scraping off", the single minded session bullies. I’ve got your back on that one!

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Sessions are a social function, not an exception to the rest of the issues that plague society. I’ve yet to run across people like you describe(limited playing with others), but it wouldn’t shock me to see them pop up.

The general public is full of ass clowns, so it makes sense that some of this would filter down to the music scene.

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AB… the attitudes I described unfortunately are not confined to larger sessions and fleadhs, rather it seems to have developed into a culture across the board and is very prevalent. Be it the session, the classroom, the competitions, the public performance, social media, the fleadhs, festivals or the likes of comhaltas etc …you wont be around Irish Trad music to long in Ireland before it confronts you. An ‘uppity’ air of self-importance and single mindedness that now seems to go hand in glove with many followers and players today…

I have seen it with tutors, judges, young, old , good, bad and even novice players particularly over the past 10 years. I have seen it with onlookers and listeners who adopt airs of cultured superiority even though they couldn’t hum a tune…I’ve listened to comhaltas members who think they are above and beyond everybody else…

I was present at a session in Clare in 2014, 3 people were playing, nice music. Four local musicians then came in and took their seats, the box player took a sign out of his case and placed it on the table. It requested no further musicians. The sign outside said all musicians welcome, I dont think they were somehow !

In 2012 I watched a woman in a shop in Galway pay over €500 for a flute, she asked if it was suitable for a young lad who was just learning…. perhaps to start the young lad off on a basic €5 Generation whistle first didn’t look or sound cultural enough for her .. I struggled to hold my laughter, wondering how he would even get his fingers around the holes least alone the keys… The poor lad, he obviously didn’t know what was in store for him…mind you, it looked the part !

I have even seen fallout’s at fleadhs and confrontations with judges. Last summer for example at certain fleadh (lets just say the west of the country) I watched a father aggressively approach a judge in the corridor after the fiddle competition, with his irate wife hot in tow, simply because their son came 3rd..What his wife then said to the judge was no more than venomous. Perhaps they should have judged it, sure what did the judge know !

So there we have it, our magnificent expression of cultural identity through Irish traditional music, a gift that should be shared for the enjoyment and wonderment of all being taken over and ruined by cultural snobs. I have spent 40 years playing semi professional, teaching and enjoying music..the latter is starting to wane, I don’t really enjoy public performance anymore, because I simply detest ignorance, snobbery and arrogance.. and it is starting to become rampant…

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It’s sad to say the least, but they do not represent the tradition. There will (hopefully) always be at least 10 respectable musicians in this tradition for every 4 or 5 eejits that are out there.



Hopefully this tradition will never become the Irish versions of toddler beauty pageants.

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…kellie….believe it or not..the toddler beauty pageant thing, as you put it, is a good way of describing it. It portrays the mindset of a lot modern parents and their attitudes towards the competitions and the music…What happens is that the child plays the same set of competition tunes over and over and over for nearly a year, he/she goes into the competitions, wins or is placed. The child then comes out with an attitude and perhaps a very proud but egotistic parent, they walk into a session and think the child is a superstar under the guidance of this self appointed cultural expert, the parent…and so the rot begins !

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So are there no sessions worth the bother at all?

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They need to learn that knowing one set of tunes really well does not make you 100% proficient with playing your instrument. How do these parents actually expect their kid to last in the session scene with only a knowledge of a small set of tunes? It of course brings up the age old question "How much freedom is too much freedom?"

or in better words "How much regulation is warranted to protect everyone from complete chaos?"

Maybe there should be at least one common rule for sessions "Be polite, and don’t be afraid to have some fun"

Maybe the phrasing needs work (I’m not the best with it) but you get the idea.

(Keep in mind I’ve only been playing 10 months so take these words with a grain of salt)

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Also "…kellie….believe it or not..the toddler beauty pageant thing, as you put it, is a good way of describing it."

GOD HELP US ALL!

Re: Changing Attitudes…

Time out?

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AB…I wouldn’t go that far, lets remember this is my view, my determination after 40 years of playing. I think I am qualified to form and express a judgment after all that time..but it is my judgment, my view not necessarily yours. Let each make their own…

All I can say is that during the 70s and 80s, I was graced with playing in fantastic sessions, with some fantastic musicians, so I have experienced the two extremes, then and now, many have not had that privilege. It’s my view, that today’s session have changed dramatically, not in music but in attitude, an attitude I find distasteful. and totally discouraging….but this is my opinion and I am sure many disagree, and I am not arrogant enough to state there are no sessions worth bothering with, as you ask…it’s up to you and everyone else to make their calls.

Suffice to say l prefer to sit in the house these days .. I love Irish trad, but my view is that there is nothing as bad as enduring someone else’s ignorance when you are playing in a session or in public…In the past, there was maybe one or two, what I am arguing now, is that this figure has multiplied dramatically in today’s Ireland, and as I said at the start, Irish trad music, to me, has now become ‘stuck up’

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Kellie, there is no reasoning with those types of parents. It’s not just beauty pageant parents, it’s everywhere in society. Sports moms are the worst. Look up ‘hockey mom’ on youtube for some good examples, and you will see why there is no point even talking to them.

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Perhaps I’m being too cynical (I’m old), but society in general seems to be coarsening. Maybe the behaviors the OP describes, some of which I have noticed in sessions around our area, reflects a broader shift towards less empathy, and more self-awareness/gratification? I do miss the times when it was just for fun and socializing, not a contest which might elicit extreme emotions.

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I have never been to a session with any instrument. I have played at home with a friend or two and we played whatever we wanted. I prefer to play at home and play what I want, how I want, and so on. I play at home for myself and friends if they can stand to listen. I am a hobby musician since age 10, 68 years ago and at age 78 I would never put up with attitudes described above. Really I have never had the desire to play in sessions. I do frequently have friends come over who want me to play for them and some of them and I play instruments together. Good conversation while drinking coffee and playing music together is a great time to be had. My wife and theirs even cook and we all eat together. A popular type of get together in Thailand. Playing in a session with drinkers and attitudes, hell, we would have a bar room brawl in process in a few seconds. HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY.

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Ah, Leitrim Lad, get over it.
Does every session have to be perfect?
Why so bitter? Things change.

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David Levine nails it.

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I’d be bitter too. In fact, I am bitter. Who in their right mind would want to deal with the kind of BS he’s talking about?

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The players at the top of the game make beautiful art and they’ve sweated blood for years to get to that level. I have a lot of sympathy for people like that who want to screen out session wreckers. I don’t want to hear Gilbert and Sullivan and clueless bodhran bashing either. There are special sessions for people who want to sight read sheet music and not practice.

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As a recluse and anxiety ridden social cynic who stays home to very happily play my fiddle to only myself and the birds, this thread makes me laugh, because….. well hasn’t anybody noticed that thjs change applies to the whole of western society, not just sessions. There has been a massive growth of narcissism, intolerance of others, and, as the OP said, ignorance and arrogance. And before any of you want to attack me in the belief that I am being self righteous and arrogant myself, I must assure you that I like, love and respect most individuals. But I walked out of society for pretty much the same reasons as I would walk out of Leitrim lad ‘s session (in fact I’d run). I do agree with David Levine’s comment of "Why so bitter? Things change", because bitterness is absolutely pointless and mentally unhealthy, but all I can say is if you don’t enjoy participating in something, then simply recognise it and stop. We all have our one, ever changing life to get on with. Change in all things is inevitable. Adjust if you can and want to, and if you can’t then walk away or it will do your head in.

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"Leitrim Lad" - I’m very sorry to hear about your situation, it all sounds horribly familiar to me here in Scotland, and I would probably be of very nearly the same "vintage" as yourself, but you have the answer there in your second last line - " I get better contentment playing at home these days or with a few friends".
Unless you are prepared to be very assertive, and probably upset people and cause unpleasantness, - [ is it really worth it ? ] - as "Gobby" says, "walk away". Sessions are not the be-all and end-all of this music, IMHO.
Hope you manage to get some good music played in 2017.
All the best, Kenny

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..the last thing I am is bitter, definitely not, I am just very disappointed with the direction our music has taken, especially in modern Ireland…at the end of the day, no one is more insufferable than he who lacks basic courtesy.

One thing that is agreed, is that such attitudes definitely exist, David Levine’s comments above perhaps reflect the mindset that causes it to flourish…’get over it’ ..’times change’ ..accepting such an attitude certainly does not sit well for the future state of Irish Trad in terms of public performance…which, if accepted will succumb trad music to an ultimate world of ignorance, intolerance , bad attitude and arrogance….It’s not just the young, new and lesser players who will be to afraid to leave their doors for fear of embarrassment and ridicule by these self proclaimed purists, but decent players with character, experience and a wealth of tradition.I was working in Derry for a bit a few years back, and was told by one of the players "the best players in Derry stay at home’ ..now that’s a sad reflection and a direct result of accepting the like of David’s comment, and a direct loss to music…..so no David I wont ‘get overt it’..why should I have to accept it, just because it’s there doesn’t make it right….

..

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You’ll get no argument from me on any of that, but what CAN make it right?

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I’m playing for over 40 years too and,whilst I recognise some of Leitrim Lads observation, I am more bemused by those behaviours than upset by them. I’m enjoying the sessions, still learning everyday but will no longer put up with any old sh*te and am content to walk away or just listen. The best sessions are still with friends and I would not be interested in sitting down in a strange tune unless these was some warmth and friendship on display.
I think dfrost has it right. We are in the age of the selfie, where the individual put themselves into every picture, all must have accolades, and parents must have successful children .
I attended a flute class at one of the summer schools last year, surrounded by teens who were being shipped from summer school to another in the run up to the Fleadhs. They were very nice kids but had parents asking what tune they should be playing in the competitions. My observation (I was quite niaive on this) was that many of the summer school teachers, seem to teach Irish music full time; they also often are the judges in the fleadhs. More kids had weekly one to one tuition. It’s a circus and it’s how many well know musicians make a living. And teachers had reputations, known to the parents, on successfully getting kids through competitions.
I have kids and you see the same things playing out in dancing, drama etc. I’m happy to plough my own furrow.

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Another more benevelent thought then, may be subliminaly behaviours are being driven by response to a failing economy and the need to find hope for the next generation?

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That’s two really good posts on session behaviours in the last month … this one and https://thesession.org/discussions/39997#comment805869. I’m totally with the observations of the original posters and all those who feel the same way.

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I have to say I agree with what Gobby and Kenny say. I’m of a similar vintage. All the negative stuff you describe is out there, and as Gobby says, it’s reflecting the changes in the wider society,where fame and short lived popularity are the driving forces. We all deal on a daily basis with the "entitled to" people who have the right to do everything THEIR way. Oh well, just as well there are still a fair few auld farts and young players who can hold the line.
On a more positive note, my local session is the opposite of that, and it is populated by a huge variety of abilities, from dabblers to professionals, young and old. For once, I think it’s an advantage to live in a comparative cultural backwater ( in terms of ITM), where It’s not too much of an industry. It would be fantastic if everyone could leave the competitions to Comhaltas, and the egos to Xfactor.

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Welcome in the third millennium.

Get over yourselves.

Some sessions are better than others. I don’t go to a session with the sole expectation that I will enjoy myself. I also go with the thought that I will do what I can to make the session work better. I have been playing in sessions for over fifty years. Some are great and some are as LL characterizes them. But to lump them all into the same hand-basket is a big mistake.
Despite what people say there are good, and open, public sessions. An obscure tune is just a tune that I don’t know. Not every mother is a tiger and not every young hot-shot is arrogant. And not every bitter old begrudger is worth listening to or even answering. Some older players are kind and generous. We must treasure them.
I went to a lovely session in Washington state last night, with five other players. Earlier in the day I spent a lovely afternoon with old friends, playing tunes in a private house. It is a shame that Leitrim Lad — and all begrudgers — can’t find similar pleasures and that the world isn’t as they would wish it.

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I didn’t see any comment to suggest that the increasing lack of consideration for other players in some sessions is ‘the world as [we - the bedrudgers] would wish it’. If all session players simply paid heed to generally accepted session etiquette, most of the undesirable behaviors described above would not emerge, or at least would be more limited. Good session behavior is essentially just common courtesy, the lack of which would certainly not be the world as I would wish it.

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Our session seems free of this behaviour. Could it be linked to the fact the average age of the players is getting on for sixty?

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I think it could! :)

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fao: David Levine, the discussion regards sessions in Ireland today, not Washington , London or any other place. I have limited knowledge of sessions in other parts of the world and as such I am not qualified to comment on them. I would rather listen to your experiences of sessions in Ireland over the past 15 years or so, because this is were the problem lies, and what this discussion revolves around…Irish sessions in Ireland !

…also I can’t understand your comment ‘You dont go to sessions to enjoy yourself’ ..why go then ? …You state you go in search of.. ‘what I can to make the session work better’..well tell me David, under who’s rules ? Yours ? ..whats better for a session in your eyes may not be better in someone else’s eye’s…What makes you right ? Tell me also, if you want to make the session better in your eyes, but others don’t follow, do you adopt the rude arrogance and self mindedness that we are addressing here… or as you said above, advise people to ‘just get over it’… I dont think so, David.

Furthermore, nobody is trashing every session, parent or student..what is being looked at here is the developing culture in Ireland today of expectancy, rudeness and intolerance within trad music, especially in sessions. Attitudes of people, and excuse me, perhaps people like yourself, who think they know best about how sessions should be run, about how music should be played, about how competitions and teaching should be directed,..people who not only think they know best but are prepared to shove their opinions and attitudes down other throats! ….simply because as you say ‘they think it works better’ ..It makes me wonder how sessions have existed and flourished for years without the glorified input of these people, these special people who obviously know exactly what makes a session (or Irish Trad) better ….the rest of us must have missed something !

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Something to bear in mind here is that behavior doesn’t happen without reason - if we’re seeing more of a behavior it’s because it’s getting reinforced/rewarded - if the culture of some sessions is changing to a more self centered one it’s because that behavior is being rewarded somehow in those environments. With that in mind, we can push back against that shift by doing our best to not just demonstrate friendly, inclusive behavior ourselves, but to visibly reward the same behavior when we see other folks at the session engaging in it. If we can swing the pendulum back towards fostering welcoming atmospheres at a session then it sets a tone and creates a culture that anyone new attending will either fit into, or choose to not return to. If that doesn’t seem possible with a particular session/group of people who attend it, then start a new session that from the get go has a welcoming atmosphere. Not aiming that at Leitrim lad in particular, just throwing out ideas for anyone else who’s not happy with how their local session is going.

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…no triplet upstairs, dont worry about aiming your comment against me , I agree with you …but i go to sessions for music, for fun and for social reasons and would rather not complicate it any further than that. …It’s interesting though thinking about what ‘reward’ these people get or gratification they seek, as you suggest..Is it they can play more tunes, is it they can play better, faster, slower ? Is their style better, is their appreciation or even instruments better, is their family background in music better.. or is their music simply better than everyone else’s….I simply dont understand or accept it anymore

I accept what you say about setting up other sessions, however living in rural Ireland as I do, sessions can be few and far between, and even if one does set up another session, as I have seen before, it’s not to long before the same undesirables stick their heads around the corner looking for another stage to exhibit their wonderment on…at the end of the day, it’s simply not worth it.

I can only hope for a day (as it was when I first started in the 70s,) when perhaps it becomes less fashionable to play trad again, and people like ourselves can settle back down , have some fun and enjoy our music in peace again…

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From what you say, it sounds like the satisfaction they get is from making their mothers proud that they outshine everybody else …. Anyway - maybe the session in Ireland has run its course, and it’s time for something new - or something-old-that’s-new-again - like solitary old coots playing by the auld peat fire, and solitary kids hiding below the window, listening. Or something like that.

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Do I have this right? There are open sessions in Ireland and any musician who asks if he or she can sit in is welcome. Obviously good behaviour is more welcome than poor behaviour and bad behaviour is frowned upon.
Is it fair for someone who does not appreciate the disruption of the session (due to bad behaviour) to address the offending party right up front, with clear language, though probably away from others so as to not cause more disruption.
Or is it better to express one’s scorn and contempt non-verbally and head to the bar for a shot of single malt; waiting for a favourable change of attitudes before getting back to the session?

ps … Leitrim, I wasn’t asking you to consider taking a time out. I was asking my leave from the mustard discussion, especially after the desperate plea for divine intervention.

Ben

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That plea was a joke. Sorry bout that. However if you’ve ever seen any of the parents from reality shows like toddlers and tiaras you’d know why that plea would be justified.

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The Matt Molloy, Mary Bergin, Joanie Madden photo; that was a joke. :-P
Sorry, kid.

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I know it’s a joke. I didn’t think the article was at first, but I knew the photo was a joke.

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That makes absolutely no sense.

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Sorry for my stupidity. I’m not the greatest with words.

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No, thank you for the distraction. For future reference you’re not stupid just because you took your time separating the discrepancies between the words and the images. That is exactly how satirical posts thrive and you got caught in between their use of smoke and mirrors. You can always learn from those simple mistakes and then it becomes easier as you gain more experience.

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No thanks, Aaron, that is simply stupid.

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"Playing last week in a session was perhaps the breaking point for me. I listened to a young lady on a fiddle asking another to put their’s down..it was putting her off..I was flabbergasted … when I put my flute down to go to the toilet, the same young girls mother commandeered my seat …and wasn’t for moving… she spent the next 3/4 of an hour telling the daughter what to play next and both took virtual control of the session..I went to the bar."

I suspect it’s really hard to tell people off when they pull stuff like this. It’s rude of them, but it’s such a passive-aggressive technique because it can make the wronged person look bad if they say anything. I can just imagine you politely asking her if you can have your seat back, then having her say things like, "sorry, but I need to be near my daughter" or "sorry, I thought you were done" etc, etc. I see this a lot. Sorry/not sorry is what my daughters call it.

Even though I appreciate the things that have brought Irish music to the world and made it more accessible, I’m going to say that it’s a blessing and a curse that acts such as Riverdance, Celtic Woman and the like have created certain expectations of what the world of Irish music (and dancing) is like. As with many things that become popular, you will get a rush of people suddenly clamoring to get into things because it’s "cool", but not have the respect for the traditions, nor the background to understand the traditions. More often than not, as things get more popular, the types of people who are not truly appreciative or respectful will get into it. In my case, being Asian, I’ve noticed a huge surge in popularity in the martial arts since the 80’s, but I also noticed that as it got more popular, people ignored the basic rituals and traditions and hierarchy of respect that goes with it. Suddenly, what was once a set of physical and mental exercises and philosophies devolved into trash-talking fighting bouts and bad techniques. Basically, it became a money-making competition, with no artistry.

I am really sorry to read about all this. I was hoping that one day, if we could save up the money, to take a vacation to Ireland. I wanted to sit and listen to some sessions (I would never be brave enough to play or sing, even if invited), and maybe see some dancing. This is the kind of stuff I dream about when visiting Ireland, as well as seeing all the beautiful land (geologically, Ireland is pretty awe-inspiring). Oh, yeah, and the pints of Guinness. Must have those. I can get it here, but it’s got to be better there.

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"money-making competition"

This is really a big part of it, if not all of it. Someone above mentioned ‘hockey moms’ - NHL salaries have become so extravagant, and there are so many teams compared to the six when I was a kid, that thousands of parents at the low-end of the economic scale pin their family’s hopes on their kid making it to the NHL - and, like winners of lotteries, just enough of them do to keep the forlorn hope alive. Then you get a whole lot of others encouraging that hope in order to sell something: equipment, coaching, camps, etc. So kids playing hockey is no longer just kids playing hockey; it’s kids competing to make the NHL, and become rich. I assume it’s the same thing with toddlers and tiaras. With trad, every parent wants their kid to be the next superstar, and elevate the family to the top of the money heap. (Well, not every parent, but you know what I mean). So when they bring or send their kid to a session, it’s not to have fun, nossir; it’s a grim business. And you have people making their livings by everything associated with music, all predicated in the end on the idea that some few kids will out-compete all the others, and reap untold wealth.

There’s a clip on youtube of a teenage girl in Cape Breton doing some terrific fiddling - and in the ‘Comments’, some friend-of-the-family congratulates her - and assures her that in a few years she’ll be making millions. It hurt my heart to think that that was someone’s immediate reaction to an impressive musical performance.

Incidentally, I have a young cousin who actually did make it to the NHL. I never got the impression that his parents were pressuring him particularly; he just loved playing hockey. (And was pretty darn good at it, apparently).

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Yes, meself, money is just a false god. Music is real.

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Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Mae..makes a good point above…’More often than not, as things get more popular, the types of people who are not truly appreciative or respectful will get into it’ ..perhaps thats a bit harsh in terms of Irish Trad, but having said that I can see were you are coming from..Lets just say the focus for some people changes from playing music and having fun and socialising, to winning competitions and playing singular ego-stylistic music when in public , and do so with little respect to those around them in pursuit of their single mindedness

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"Leitrim Lad," that’s unfortunate that you have run into these problems. Perhaps it’s time to find some friends and make your own session? I have had mostly positive experiences in Ireland and the United States, but I have seen some people act inappropriately as you described.

Whenever I encounter people who want the music to be a certain way or are too exclusive, I seek out another session to find more accepting people. I enjoy myself more with people who are fun than anything else. Sometimes they are world class musicians, and sometimes they can barely play (by their own admission).

Here in Chicago, we let anyone play and have fun. My favorite sessions have a mix of singers and musicians, and the odd dancers popping in from time to time. If someone is not up to snuff, so to speak, they usually sit in and play what they know and are asked to start a set or two. If they trample over the music, we roll our eyes and move on.

Things ebb and flow. I have heard stories from the past where things were more exclusive and people were excluded, but that doesn’t happen around here as much. The worst that ever happened to me here was at a so-called "gig session" where they played on stage facing the audience with microphones. They asked politely if it was OK for me to sit out for the first half and then let me join them for the second half. I played with them for 3 or 4 more years after that.

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Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

..thanks for the comment daiv… these days i’m to long in tooth, life is for living..after 40 yrs semi professional playing, I pack my flute , whistle and instruments up and just leave, even in the middle of a set. I have even walked into sessions, spun round and walked out straight away when I see or judge who is playing..I couldn’t be arsed with it… I do play with a few select friends and the craic is good.. But I have no space for negative, rude or intolerant people anymore, I am just saddened that they have poisoned something in life that is so dear to me with their selfishness , arrogance and greed..But thats life in 2017 I suppose …the funny thing is, many have not half the talent or knowledge the think they have, and it then becomes quite personally funny…

Re: Irish Sessions in Ireland

I’m becoming depressed reading more and more posts about how things are getting worse for musicians in Ireland hoping to find a session they can enjoy and appreciate. I’m very sad.

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Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Coming in late to this discussion…

It seems to be a recurring theme these days, lamenting the downward trend in session behaviour. I’m with you, Leitrim Lad - I’m sticking to ‘kitchen’ sessions and the odd well-timed guerilla session down the local these days. Hopefully it’s a passing trend, and it’ll all blow over like El Prez’s combover.

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Thanks, Matt. What’s wrong with guerilla sessions? From my distant perspective I don’t understand why veteran session players don’t completely back away from regular (though often dysfunctional) public, open, all-inclusive sessions and go back to the kitchen. There seems to be too many chefs currently in most open sessions in Ireland to make the regular sessions worthwhile for anyone expecting to enjoy them and appreciate tunes, banter, meeting people or anything fulfilling at all.
At least that is the impression I’m getting from reading several posts on the Mustard over the long haul.

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Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

"….More often than not, as things get more popular, the types of people who are not truly appreciative or respectful will get into it…."

Oh, you mean like the time three of us were playing tunes - a paying gig - on the deck of some restaurant in the summer time. A woman came up to us with two girls, dressed in full dance outfits. She asked if we minded the kids doing a few steps. We said fine - do you know what they’d like us to play? She said "Oh, do you play Riverdance?"

Us - "No, but we can…"

"That’s OK - we’ve got the CD here."

And she had the CD player.

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Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

What kind of person does this? I don’t get it. What does it take to make someone think that bringing a CD player to a live concert/performance and then play said CD player is acceptable behaviour? Come to think of it, who could substitute a recording for a live band?

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While I don’t care for Riverdance, in many places ceili bands (talk about exclusive) and sets (and of course later showbands) created similar sentiment when they first became common.
Sessions are social events, but are being attending more and more frequently by people who did not grow in a family with musical history that could teach them the silent rules. Nothing left to do but teach them ourselves, or they’ll never know. Thank goodness someone told me!!

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Well, in this case I think it took a woman who’d been through this many times before, basically promoting the kids. Some folks are like that. Playing in public you get little insults all the time. If you want to get paid, you get over it.

As for the CD vs live - that is a genuinely tragic situation. I think people who are glued to iPhones and mp3s could lose the ability to respond emotionally to live music. But that’s where we are.

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Looking on the bright side, maybe one or more musicians of the attitude described above will discover this website, come across this discussion and the scales will fall from their eyes! Well, maybe that’s a bit too optimistic….

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Ergo, that is such a sad state of things, and I’m super offended on your behalf. Even those aforementioned shows have lost some of their magic, especially once the egos started coming into play. A little off subject maybe, but I caught a video recently of one of Jean Butler dancing at Matt Malloys with a live session. It was quite satisfying to see a star of one of those shows doing this; I know she had left the show very early on, and I wonder if she was starting to get dissatisfied with how things were going. Here’s the clip:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBVGQ8mdRuo

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Nice video, Mae. She could probably touch the ceiling if she wanted to:)

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"Sessions are social events, but are being attending more and more frequently by people who did not grow in a family with musical history that could teach them the silent rules…" (Thady Quill)

That may be the nub of it: a markedly atomised contemporary world >> pervasive individual insecurity, inducing all sorts of obsessive bids for attention, status and the rest of it.

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"What’s wrong with guerilla sessions? From my distant perspective I don’t understand why veteran session players don’t completely back away from regular (though often dysfunctional) public, open, all-inclusive sessions and go back to the kitchen."

Nothing wrong at all. That’s what I prefer. The minute you do something in public, it feel it becomes something else. Making a public session open and all-inclusive can be even more formalising, paradoxically enough. It can result in having to find common ground/sticking to a playlist set in stone/taking a round-robin approach (are some tunes forbidden?).

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Sad to say son of Kellie, but I’m trying to save you from disappointment here. Remember your comment about pageant moms? It’s exponentially worse for Irish dance moms. If their precious, curly wigged little lass doesn’t win it’s because the live player played that jig at 126 instead of 127. There’s not a shred of tradition in it, Irish dance has fallen to being all about the competition. They don’t want live musicians. Don’t even try. Their eyes are on the prize and not at all about what any of it means.

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I blame CCE.

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Well, I’m all for being friendly and social, but I’m there at the session to play and enjoy traditional Irish tunes. I can sit at the bar if all I want to do is drink and catch up on gossip. If I wanted to hear old time, bluegrass, or James Taylor I would go to a different venue on a different night. I expect people to at least try to do a little homework on the tradition by listening, and spend a little time woodshedding.

Last session I went to I was trapped between a notoriously out of tune, off tempo tune wrecker who’s been playing for a decade or more, and a budding bodhran player with a tenuous acquaintance with rhythm. Plus another long-time perpetual improver on accordion and a whistle player who solved an inability to keep up or know the tune by playing long drone notes. And a guitar player thrashing out full chords reading charts from his iPad. When someone started singing while reading the lyrics from an iPhone I just had to pack it in. I wasn’t rude or confrontational. I just left. They won, I lost.

I don’t demand much, but I do demand something more. I guess that makes me a snob. Whatever. I think it will be kitchen sessions for me in 2017.

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You know, fidkid, you give the impression that you think you’re giving a contrary point of view, but really what you’re saying doesn’t seem to be at odds with what most of the others are saying - unless you mean that you think you should be able to walk in and take over a session ‘cause you’re better - but that doesn’t seem to be what you’re saying, so …. The general conclusion seems to be that if a session is, in one’s opinion, being messed up by other people’s behaviour, then there’s no point in suffering through it or trying to fight it. If I’m not mistaken, that is what you are saying too ….

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I won’t wade too deep into the back-and-forth here, but I will say that having been to many sessions in both Ireland and the States, there are a few things I see often that might be pertinent to the discussion.

One is that especially in trad-heavy areas and places frequented by tourists like Clare, Galway, and Kerry most if not all of the sessions have paid leaders, and can feel very much like a gig (sometimes even with amplification). This gives a real sense of power to the people leading the session, since it is now "their session" rather than simply a group of like-minded people. This also gives them a responsibility towards the publican to make good, engaging music, since they are being paid to draw people in and keep them in (and ordering drink).

I’ve also noticed a difference between very good to great players and truly excellent players. The latter are almost always much more friendly to newcomers and less advanced players. My theory is that since many of them are full-time musicians and do a lot of teaching, they are much more used to and well-inclined towards those who are not "at their level." Plus, they play so much music on a day-to-day basis that a few slower jig sets or a halting rendition of the Sally Gardens is not going to make or break their day. The very good to great players, on the other hand, are more likely to have other jobs and play trad as a hobby/side gig, so someone new or less advanced coming into their session is possibly encroaching on their fairly finite leisure time and enjoyment.

Finally, I do think it’s important to distinguish between not knowing tunes and not being able to keep up with the level of playing at a session. While in general better players will know more tunes, there are so many that any newcomer to a session is bound to not know at least a few of that session’s staples, no matter what their level. I’ve definitely started into a tune I’m sure everyone and their brother knows only to have blank stares come my way, and I’ve sat quiet while everyone else plays a tune I’ve never heard in my life. I’ve found people are much more amenable to someone who sits out anything they don’t know but joins in capably on what they do know than to someone who plays everything but does so poorly.

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Bigsciota (love that tune by the way), I think you hit the nail on the head with that post. My background is bluegrass and old time, not ITM but I think this applies just as well to those worlds (except perhaps without so much of the paid gigs for tourists aspect). I personally know what it feels like to have limited time to play, and when you spend that time on music and it feels like it was less good than it could be, that is frustrating! Especially in bluegrass where having a session can mean driving hours to a festival to play with friends from miles away you rarely see. You might have only a few hours to play with these people, and all it takes is one particularly insensitive new folk to wander up and become a jam buster. I have to admit I’ve even been the guy to give someone the cold shoulder now and again if they don’t understand or follow etiquette. At one particularly rowdy festival where our campsite yearly becomes a major party zone, any attempt to have a real pick becomes a swamp of people with instruments who aren’t listening. I’ve literally played in a circle shoulder to shoulder for hours just to keep things tight and avoid ending up with a 15 banjo session!

That said - for me it always comes down to etiquette. Despite what I’ve just said, I always believe in being friendly and welcoming and not a jerk to other musicians that come along. If someone came up and politely asked, no matter how strict we might be policing things, I’d always let them sit in for at least a tune. If things worked well their could be more. Any time I’ve approached a jam or session full of musicians I don’t know, I’ll stand nearby with my instrument in it’s case but visible and listen. If I get a wave in it’s all good, if not I’ll keep listening. If there is a lull I might ask if I can sit in, but never assume that means I get to be in the middle or call tunes! If someone hears and likes it, it’s up to them to call me closer. If they say no, well than I’ll find something else. That’s how I was taught when I first started playing, but I’m not sure if those rules apply to ITM sessions or not.

Aggressive parents grooming their kids and being rude, folks with egos that far exceed their talent, music school kids who have all the technical skills in the world but little to no soul in their playing - these are problems in all kinds of acoustic music. Our modern society might have something to do with it, or not. All I know is I have met some great people and made real friendships through playing music with strangers, so I hope it doesn’t all go away for good!

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In the 30 odd years of session paying I have seen a lot of annoyances that come and go (usually new players that disrupt the balance of a session in some way) but seen very few changes in the how sessions operate.

Usually the annoyances have gone away or get resolved in some way, often by someone having a word on the (often unwitting) cause. But all the sessions I’ve been to are ‘run’ (with a small r) by a few regulars with an informal pecking order. And that seems to be the only hope in keeping a session as good as it can be. We can’t do much about general shifts in attitudes but we should be able to do something about behaviour in sessions.

I don’t know about your session Leitrim Lad and I’m sure it’s a very real problem, but is no-one able to stand up to the disruptors? Or maybe they’ve overwhelmed the regular players? I’ve seen a few conflicts in my time and I suppose the last resort is to start up somewhere else. But, if the newcomers won’t acknowledge the existing order, there’s also getting the licensee to understand what’s happening - and intervene if necessary. Start on a different night. Or get the newcomers to start up on another night … anything other than let it go - it’s too precious a thing!

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Having originated the post, it is interesting to see a census of agreement that this problem is very common, however from what I can see it stretches beyond this, and is now well established as part of the living tradition, a part that is unsavory at best and intolerable at worst..what can we do ? ? ?

I have set out a possible solution at the end of my ‘rant’ ..but let me start by suggesting members read the thread https://thesession.org/discussions/40115 … a visiting American (on his honeymoon..his poor wife’s suffering has started early) was asking what instrument he should bring over to play in Clare sessions (Doolin & Ennis ) later this year..several of us advised him to air on the side of caution, as to avoid disappointment. The likelihood is that most session’s he go’s to these days in that region are closed, and he would be better served to sit and listen with a pint of Guinness, as he certainly wouldn’t be welcomed in many of them as a player.

Having to advise somebody of this, in my own country, with my own fellow musicians, as someone who has played this music for 40 years, is not just very frustrating but also very embarrassing ..in fact I am ashamed …. Listening to some of the stories on both posts, it’s obvious (just like Ergo’s experience of the mother with the CD player and dancing kids..to which one poster called such mothers ‘helicopter’ mothers) that these people don’t care about the carnage they are causing. Be it egotistic musicians, snob type followers , teachers, helicopter mums , competition judges, social media posters and supporting organisations such as CCE etc .It is quite obvious that this elevation of cultural snobbery, enforced etiquette and subordinate treatment of lessor players, is done to manoeuvre and manipulate the tradition in a direction favorable only to these people..’they obviously think they know best’…but rather than add to the tradition what they are doing is in fact very detrimental..

This is not what Irish Trad music was ever, and should ever be about…it is counterproductive and is stiffing the music itself…… I heard one teacher give off buckets about John Mc Sherry’s piping..I have played with john on many occasions, he is one of the finest pipers to ever come out of Ireland least alone Belfast…how can one who criticizes such playing so vehemently, yet be allowed to teach and pass on such nonsense to young/novice players in the name of the tradition…??? ..apparently John’s music was not traditional enough for him… !

JOE FIDKID’s post above….sorry Joe, but I totally disagree with you…you seem to have something critical to say about all those players in that session which I find suspicious, I also find your use of the word ‘demand’ quite controversial…tell us , who sets this standard you demand, is it you ? ..perhaps you should write it down beforehand and give it out prior to any session you attend…. tell me also, as you develop your music , increase your skills, increase your knowledge or tune database etc, does your demand increase pro rata…? how do you expect people to stay abreast with your demands ? In fact what authority do you have to demand anything from any other player who go’s to any open session, they are in the same position as you… I know for a fact if you sat beside me, I could mix it all night with serious tunes with different keys, tempos and styles ( Donegal, Sligo , Kerry and Sliabh Luachra for example)..would I dismiss you because you couldn’t match it, ? how would you feel if I did ? would you come back and play again next week and revisit my ignorance ? …if you were a new or novice player would it put you off ? If you were a visiting musician from another country, what impression would you have ? Think about that Joe, think about what the knock on affects are ..is that worth somebody getting their 1/2 hour of ego trip , are getting p***ed off because they dont meet your demands…I think not.

I believe the answer lies in social media…sites like Facebook and The Session here..Social Media allows like minded people to discuss, to be-friend , to familiarize, listen and learn more about other players and their music. The same tunes can be learnt in the same sets, session can be arranged, tunes can be talked about and practiced, visitors to countries like my own in Ireland, can meet up and play tunes, already known beforehand and communities outside the false elite and expectant divisions can build up….it would take someone better than me to set this up, but it does open doors ..the world is a much smaller place these days, and there is no need to be held to ransom by a brigade of ignorant, self proclaimed purists ….who serve nothing but negativity and arrogance..

So for that Gentleman visiting Ireland on his Honeymoon from the post I mentioned above https://thesession.org/discussions/40115 ..would it not be a measure of perfection if he came over, was met by the likes of myself and/or several others in the social media group, in a small Irish pub somewhere and session’ed into the early hours with familiar tunes , friendly people he already knows with similar attitude to himself…without the risk of arrogant ignorance and expectancy ….

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Sounds a bit harsh in response to Joe Fago (fidkid), Leitrim. At least that’s my impression.

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Eubonian..thanks for your comment…it came in as I was writing my above rant……I’m a terrible man when I start ha ha..

I fully accept what your saying, but one of the problems many people who play Irish Trad sessions outside Ireland have , is that they are not familiar with the very conservative nature of Irish people especially in rural areas, and in particular places were Trad is popular..Clare, Kerry, Leitrim, Galway etc …Evertything these days has to be the best..GAA football, Trad Music, Fashion…reputations are built around it and condemnation is swift… a generation of ’ has to be’ has evolved..and unfortunatley it has affected trad music.. rather than the annoyances go away, they have seemed to multiply over the past 15 years. I started in 70s, and through the 80s and 90s no such snobbery exsisted….but since early 2000s i have noticed an unrelenting push from the fashionable ‘has to be’ camp….I’ve waited nearly 15 years for it go , but it wont…it’s settled !

What you have to understand is that there is no argument with most of these self proclaimed stalwarts of the faith ….setting up other sessions only provides temporary reprieve until they stick their heads around that door as well..genuinely, after 40 years I’m sick of it..it’s not worth the hassle anymore…as I said above, I play with a select few friends now and thats it… I avoid the ‘has to be’s’ like the plague ! ..haa haa..im off to bed..it’s late here in Leitrim ….the dog is howling and the chickens are gettin nervous…..

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AB + JOE..sorry AB & Joe, not meant to be harsh, on that comment..no harm meant..just found it hard to accept people setting out demands on other peoples music..hope I didn’t offend…

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No offense, Leitrim lad—this is all in the spirit of sharing thoughts and opinions.

To clarify a bit more on my feelings: I don’t ask for much more than that a player at a session care about the people sitting next to them, and care about the music. Those are things I feel are essential. I might go so far as to say I demand them. Well, that and a decent pint.

I try to be welcoming except to people who are pushy and rude. I try to be generous except to the selfish. I try to be respectful except to show-offs.

If I sat beside you and all night you did nothing but start tunes I didn’t know in keys that were unusual for me, in styles I wasn’t familiar with, at a tempo I couldn’t keep up with—well, I would sit and listen. I’ve learned a lot that way, and have been able to experience some fantastic music with the best seat in the house. I’ve actually been in that situation on more than one occasion, playing maybe 2 or 3 tunes all night, and yet feeling extremely welcome.

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…I suppose Joe the subject is a minefield for those of us who are passionate about our music, it’s very easy for any of us to get upset when we feel abused ..I for example have taken exception at 4 or 5 bodhran players giving it the’war drum’ treatment and me stuck in the middle. Having said that, there can be a fine line between exuberance and ignorance and sometimes we can confuse the former with the latter…haa haa The wife does it with me a lot !

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This discussion scares me. I was in Clare and Kerry in 2002, which is coincidentally the fifteen years you’re saying snobbery has increased, Leitrim. From your description it sounds like most sessions there are exactly the opposite of what I experienced. It’s bewildering and frankly depresses me greatly if all of what you say is now true.

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Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

I’ve been hired for gigs where they also hired a dancer but we were never informed.

The dancer arrived with her mother and a CD boom box.

We told her we play for dancers quite a bit and asked if she’d like live music instead.

She said "Sure! Do you know (looking at her CD of arranged dance music) "The Jig"?"

(this actually happened)

:-)

Re: Changing Attitudes …

Got it! :-)
Much of what I read on thesession.org is anecdotal and needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
For a long moment I was relying on you guys for solid information.
My bad!

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..well AB..what has happened in Clare & Kerry especially is that the publicans depend heavily on tourism. Informal session’s can be hit and miss..so publicans started paying maybe one or two musicians as ‘head’ or ‘Lead’ players..what happened then was that these players brought or encouraged other people to join them and/or visiting musicians could just drop in..The publican was guaranteed a half decent session and the tourists kept happy…it wasn’t perfect, but it worked most of the time ..

..Trad has since become really popular and fashionable. Also the pubs in Ireland have taken a big hit with smoking, drink driving and rising costs all hitting their business. A good solid Trad night can be big money for a pub, week in or week out, or even day in and day as is the likes of Gus O Connors in Doolin or Matt Molloy’s in Westport..it’s the difference from being bunged to the rafters or completely empty..thats the black and white of it.

So what happened then, was that many players got a bit angry that only the lead players got paid, and there was that bit of friction..also trad players in them days tended to drink a lot more than they do these days and there was always that edge….. So during this process the next generation of players were coming along and in truth were very good, the standard did get a lot higher (I suppose the CCE and helicopter mum thing played it’s part as well)..The result was that groups of young people now in their teens and early twenties, say 3 or 4 of them, had been playing perhaps for 8 or 10 years previous, since childhood, they played competitions together, went to school together, were brother and sister or neighbors and developed a relatively tight bond both in music and in friendship. They were now very competent and confident playing together, ideal materiel for the pub session. The added advantage was many didn’t drink and a weekly organised session in a pub between themselves was a good practice outlet, they got a few bob for it and it all grew from there…the problem was that they were not really receptive to other players, and lacked the same confidence when playing outside their groups, but the publican didn’t care, he was getting great music, the pub was full, and musicians were not falling around drunk and the punters in the pub were happy… A lot of older musicians copped onto this as well and copied it….

This has now developed in many pubs especially in serious trad areas, so much so that it is uncomfortable for other ‘musicians and little room is left for the solo or visiting player’s expression…The sets are well practiced, professional and little room is give for manouvre. You will see these younger groups a lot at fleadhs..many have since got older and that bond still exists, whether it’s good for music or not is very debatable…to me it’s not…it takes away from the social side, it takes away from learning and it only allows public expression, development and sharing for a select few , leading exactly to the problems I have outlined above.

Dont get me wrong, there is still good pubs across Ireland..but money talks for publicans, and such small groups are dependable, cheap, play a high standard of music within themselves and give little or no hassle..changing times !

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Thanks, Leitrim. From your description it sounds like it’s the older session players were the ones most impacted by changes in the pub environment. Obviously snobbery and increasing popularity of trad music are edging out many of the regular session players.

As much as I dread having to post this I sincerely feel that the pubs were destined to change, eventually.
No publican should be expected to endure the high level of tension required by allowing all their patrons to drink alcohol completely unmonitored. There is nothing wrong with young, sober, under-age musicians playing in sessions. The fact this has created tension with more mature musicians is perhaps inevitable.

The question (now) is how to get the old guard and the new generation (and maybe a few parental guardians) to make 21st century sessions as good as those 40 years ago.

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….AB..things change..life changes.. ..life has got serious, people have got serious..money, fame, popularity and fashion are all driving force these days….even within Irish Trad….No more would somebody play a generation whitsle at sessions, it has to be at least a killarney, or over here a sam murray (my dear old friend and neighbor from years past) flute…These young people play fantastic music within themselves, nobody is disputing that..the helicopter mums and CCE perhaps have done their jobs, insisting on perfection from the start..be it from teachers , students, the competitions, the sessions etc.. ..all have to be conservatively ‘stiff upper lip’ top notch…and this sets a high bar…some argue like myself, to high…But there is a big market for it out there..and a big cost to the rest of us…These young people know no difference, they look at me as the odd one…and helicopter mums and CCE arn’t going away…so I don’t think there ever will be an answer in that sense..

I might look at setting up an Irish Trad Players Facebook Page as a closed group . This would allow similar thinking musicians and visiting musicians either to Ireland or any other country to meet and play shared tunes, tunes and sets of tunes that can be suggested on the page. As I said before the world is a much smaller place and there is nothing as bad as hearing some of our American or foreign visitors wishing to play a session, but going home either disappointed or annoyed at the customary rejection and ignorance dished out at many sessions. But thats for later….

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Much though I agree with practically everything you have written Leitrim Lad I find it hard to believe that a Facebook group will be the answer. In a world that is an interconnected nowhere just about everything we do and everywhere we go is just someone else’s marketing opportunity ( The Session.org is a very worthy example of something a little different) It will not be long before that tight and representative set list becomes distended and distorted, before that welcome light becomes a beacon to every passing fancy and before you’re right back at square one.

It appears to me I have some fundamental differences in attitude, lifestyle and practice to a lot of people that post on this site. I try and treat these with a degree of cultural relativism, mostly I fail. I look out of my window at the city sprawl, read comments about music that has its roots in experiences, working conditions and a way of life completely alien to any in the megacity or mountain retreat of the poster making them. Traditional music, of all flavours, today is less a musical expression of identity than an exercise in wistful romanticism and once a canvas has been painted over once there’s no stopping anyone else doing the same.

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

I must say, all these tales of woe on the Irish Session front make me feel very lucky to be living in a rather quiet backwater of the island, trad. musically speaking that is. Sure, there are probably such doom & gloom sessions not too far away with 12 - 15 players thrashing away, giving off a rather intimidating vibe, with players trying to outshine each other but, up here at least, it’s very easy to give those a wide berth.

In fact, it’s not the first time a very good player has joined one of our wee open sessions of never more than 5 or 6 players, after driving right up the West Coast ( the Gold Coast for Irish Music ) claiming that ours was the first actual Open Session they’d found, where they were not only allowed to join in, but were actually welcomed to join in & repeatedly asked to start sets of tunes. Very Sad to hear especially as, back in the 70s, I remember hitching around most of Ireland for the best part of 2 years with a tent & a Banjo, back in the day when all sessions were Real sessions, open events full of crack. In the mid 70s I well remember two perfect Gentlemen - Maurice Lennon & Paul Roche very politely asking if they might join our session of visiting musicians from Scotland, in a pub on the main street in Miltown. I also remember one Jackie Daly politely asking if he might join our wee session, in Girvan one year. … Good Manners Cost Nothing.

Incidentally, I use the term Open Session, but of course all sessions are Open, or should be, but if visiting musicians are not welcome to join in then, let’s be honest - it’s Not a Session. So Pubs who cater for those phoney gig/thingy events, please take down those ‘Session’ signs!

Thankfully I go to 3 very friendly sessions here, each week, which demonstrate no snobbery, grandstanding or one-upmanship … unless they’re done with tongue in cheek, for the crack.
For example, at the session last night, there were nearly as many yarns & jokes told, as tunes played. A few ballads were sung too & we even had a funny resuscitation ( ;-) ) of a recently composed poem on the current Burning Money RHI DUP scandal up here! Yes folks, anything goes … our motto is - Go With the Flow. If you want to play your tunes from a book … tear away, we’re not Trad Irish Snobs either, so any Trad. tunes are welcome, if you want to bring in a Double Bass … bring it on, etc. etc.
On the other hand, if you want to show off & practice your wee competition tunes … go somewhere else!

By the way, I did start two of those sessions myself, so that is one way of being able to help generate the right vibe & control the essence.

For me though, the open session is what traditional music is all about. There is a certain magic you get from playing with other musicians, friends & complete strangers and playing that music in front of friends & complete strangers too, a magic that you just don’t get from those cosy wee house session in the kitchen or by the fire. Sure they’re grand, certainly & much better than not sharing your music at all, but with an open session you also get that air of mystery & uncertainty, for you just never know who is going to walk in & of course it’s lovely to be able to pass the music on to complete strangers who just happened to wander in. After all, isn’t that how many of us first discovered this music.

It has to be worth preserving Sessions. After all, let’s face it, without them Jeremy would just have to change the name of this site! :-D

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Ptarmigan- a very good post response..thank you very much. It’s nice to see someone fighting back, well done with them sessions, long may they be open and you must be commended for your attitude, it’s a pity there wasn’t more people like you up in Leitrim here.. I would go down myself, only I would have to leave the day before with my lunch box tied to my flute case…

Steve T..once again, thanks for your comment…very good words of wisdom..I dont think anything like facebok will solve the problem, I was only suggesting it as a means by which visiting musicians cold meet up with ordinary ‘right minded’ musicians when they are over here, and at least not go home disappointed… but I take on board everything you say, and to be honest your are correct..it wouldn’t take long before them outside forces get their grubby mitts around that as well…it’s shamefully sad..but thats life..I enjoyed your comment about looking out the window at the mega city..I did that for 35 years..now I look out at the tranquil forests, rolling hills and the easy living of leitrim…just a pity there wasn’t a decent session.. ha haaaa

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Someone told me about a friendly open session in Ballydehob County Cork. I have yet to visit it.

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

..keep it to yourself Richard Dalton ! .. I will call round fer ya and we will head down ….. grab your jacket…. let me turn the spuds off first …… yee haaaa !

Re: Negative Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music Sessions

A session, like most things in life, is what you make of it.

I feel sorry for the people who have such a negative view of the current session scene.

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

<<
We told her we play for dancers quite a bit and asked if she’d like live music instead.
She said "Sure! Do you know (looking at her CD of arranged dance music) "The Jig"?"
>>

Well Michael… didja??? ;)

sorry… just had to ask… :D

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

This is precisely the bind in which most sessions find themselves from time to time. You deal , in the nicest possible way, with those spoiling things, and then you’re branded as elitist, unfriendly, cold-shouldering session nazis. Or you let your session be ruined.

No brainer.

Jim

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Looks like I’m late to the discussion, as always. I concur with David Levine’s comment: "A session, like most things in life, is what you make of it. " Most of the sessions in southeast Michigan seem to be gatherings of the usual suspects with an occasional newbie drawn in like a moth to the flame. They are, above all, social events with a focus on the music.

I think that our success (that’s how I classify it) is due to luck, a strict adherence to the rule that you will treat others with respect, and the occasional awkward situation where you have to tell someone that "we don’t do that" in our sessions and suggest that they might find another venue.

I think that the general consensus here is that we’ll stick together and not let anyone ruin things. Under dire circumstances we’d probably go to ground and continue on our merry way with house sessions until it was safe to resurface. Pubs are nice gathering spots, but I have a beer fridge in the cellar and plenty of seating.

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Read this thread, connected threads, and watched all the video
(love the Hilter one)…
getting ‘scared’ that going to Ennis this August 2017
(something for my ‘decade’ breathday) is a bit scaring with all those great comments.
Jest 20 years of playing (battle being losing memory and getting slower muscle responses), a teacher who claims I play great "baroque Irish", and fellow sessions players (USA, Ireland and UK) who thank me for the contributions.
For me session playing (entering a new one or returning to those public one with folks you know) seem as ‘complicated’ as all conversational encounters where responsible behavior and
understanding of "what’s going on here" lies with each individual’s struggles with their ID, EGO, SUPER-EGO and a simple Golden Rule.
M…making
U…universal
S…sense
I…in
C…communities

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

With a few exceptions — Ross and Dick and a few other players — I doubt that I’d enjoy playing in sessions with most of the people who have been so negative and begrudging here. I have been playing in sessions for more than fifty years now (I lived in Co Clare for over 15 years) and have seldom seen the bad behaviour that has been attributed to parents here. Or encountered as much bitterness and complaining as I read in this woebegone thread.
As a dealer of high end flutes and concertinas — and as a shop proprietor during Willie Week — I came into contact with hundreds of parents of musical kids, in the shop and in our house. These parents invariably have a lovely relationship with their children. The parents are supportive and the kids respond with respect and affection, appreciating the time and money it takes to find a suitable instrument. It is insulting and insensitive to refer to these parents as "helicopter mums."
I’m not a CCE fan but that organization doesn’t necessarily determine etiquette any more than they set the tune list for sessions. What they (CCE) do is of little consequence to me and to the people with whom I play. I certainly do not think it wrong for musicians to want to play with people who share a level of accomplishment. I see no reason to welcome punters with bodhrans and guitars, or fiddlers and fluters who play out of tune.

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

I see all the comments about unfriendly sessions, and I can’t help thinking that the attitude of the session is often dictated by the attitude of the visitor. In all the sessions I know, visiting musicians of an appropriate standard who approach the session with a bit of humility usually end the evening having made some lifelong friends. But those who just dive in ego-first, usually with very little clue about the music, can expect a very cold reception from the same musicians.

But I can see where the problem would come if you live in a touristy area with a constant stream of feckless visitors who just want to be part of something, I think my patience would wear thin fairly quickly in that situation. Perhaps the answer might be to run two stage sessions - early evening free-for-all, give everyone a chance to do their bit, then shoo them all away for a late session of regulars with maybe one or two invited guests who have proved their worth.

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Mark M, I’m not sure the changing session attitudes theme is based solely on the premise that tourists are the only cause for problems in sessions. If I’m not mistaken some posters (in Ireland) are saying there are detrimental impacts due to the attitudes of players who are local to the sessions they are attending. In other words there can be different (potentially disruptive) expectations even when all (or most) of the musicians are from the same area.
Is it generational? Is it class-based?

Posted by .

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Yes, sorry. There are two similar threads running and I was mentally merging them into one. I didn’t really mean exclusively tourists, but uninvited guests in general. I still think an all-comers hour followed by an invite only session is a good compromise.

I don’t think it is generational or class based. I think it is a decline in manners in some individuals across all social strata.

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

But with local disruptors who come on a more or less regular basis there is a chance that they will observe and learn the etiquette. Failing that you do have the opportunity to work on them, have a quiet word here and there and bring them into line. But tourists and visitors are more of a problem, because one wrecks the session one week and then is gone, only to be replaced by another.

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

When traveling in Ireland many places I went seemed overrun by tourists who didn’t have any true interest nor respect for the music (a "Let’s get drunk in Ireland!" attitude while someone was trying to sing a song). It was certainly better outside of Dublin; at least people seemed to have more of an interest, if not more knowledge.

One session had this strange power structure that matches some of what you described… 2-3 musicians deciding that no one else could play with them, passive-aggressive exclusion of "non-privileged" session attendees… Tune after tune that only those 2-3 knew, tunes that everyone knew played in highly non-standard keys so in the end no one could play along, when I’d play a tune they wouldn’t join in, when one of their friends played the same tune they did… At several points 5-6 of us were obviously trying to listen to one of the quieter instruments launch a tune (the pub was loud) when one of the "leaders" (who played a loud instrument) just barreled right over it. Everyone besides the leaders seemed very hesitant to launch tunes. Maybe I was stepping where I shouldn’t but it was advertised as an open session, although I did give up on playing after a while.

That said I have also been to some amazing sessions in Ireland. On the same day I went to that highly politicized one, I later went to another down the road that was balanced, good fun, and lovely music. I was happy to just sit back and listen to with my mere 2-3 years of experience - and yet they were so welcoming and often encouraged me to share some tunes. The evening was fun and included laughing, drinking, and chatting as well - and this was with young musicians, whereas the previous session leaders were much older! Music festivals I’ve been to also seemed to be more like how you described the "old" sessions to be.

I was surprised when I first went to Ireland and discovered myself missing my local session in France (consisting of only French people plus two Americans, a Spaniard, and the occasional Japanese harpist). Our session isn’t perfect… I would love a bit more tolerance for singing for example, and we tend to play everything super fast by default when some tunes could be fun with a more danceable pace and time to play around with ornamentation. However, we do our best to welcome new musicians (we have a slow session at the beginning of the night which gets faster as more people arrive), when someone comes we look around and help them find a chair and a place in the circle, and we encourage each other to launch sets. The more experienced players give tips to newer ones. A few of us get up and do some sean-nós dancing later in the evening (if there’s space in the pub), and many put their instruments down to have a drink and a chat from time to time too. It’s always enjoyable and often magical. Maybe it’s because here in France we’re the odd ones out who have this hobby, and we do it for the love of the music and not for the competition? I don’t know what Ireland was like in the 70s or 80s and I’m still relatively new to all this, but at some sessions in Ireland I got the feeling that our local session in France is more authentic experience than some of the modern ones in Ireland - though certainly not all.

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Oh and those two sessions I mentioned were both not in Dublin, and not during tourist season.

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Someone suggested that it’s CCÉs fault…..I couldn’t agree more. Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is a wonderful organisation for teaching young children traditional Irish music, but its ‘competition culture’ promotes a ‘win at all costs’attitude, more so among parents than the kids, but however…

It also foments an attitude among young players that they are somehow superior to others who haven’t won All-Ireland medals, and are unwilling to share their musical space with others they consider to be lesser beings.
I also think that some of these young people are emotionally scarred by the CCÉ experience. They may be wonderful players, but their humanity is often lacking!

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Couldn’t agree more with Pat ‘deVerse’ Burke - "You’re not bad but you should hear so and so playing that tune. He or she won the All Ireland you know." That really puts me off Trad music when I listen to that sort of guff. We should have a branch for players who have no interest in entering a fleadh competition and just play the music to enjoy playing the music…..but was that not how it was supposed to be ???

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

When CCÉ was founded traditional Irish music was not popular at all. Players were sneered and jeered at, as were singers, sean-nós singers especially. CCÉs idea was to have an organisation based on the way the GAA worked. You compete in your county, if you win, you then compete in your province, and if you win you are in the All-Ireland. As a result, the best players in the country would assemble for the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil. A great idea, but over time winning All-Ireland medals has become a priority.

I am a traditional singer, not a musician. There are certain sessions I wouldn’t dream of singing at, as I already know where I’m not wanted. When I ran sessions a few years back, I was determined that everyone got a look in. I was sometimes asked to tell some player not to come back…I refused, as I felt all should be welcome. This did not make me popular with some people, I assure you!

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Re: CCE. According to Reg Hall’s account (have I mentioned him lately?), the CCE was, until maybe the 1980s, inconsequential to the activities of the trad musicians who were actually in and of the tradition; they were getting along just fine without it, as was the tradition. Popular? No, but doing fine.
But eventually the CCE became an imposition that could not be ignored. This is all second-hand to me; just passing it along …..

FWIW: Traditional music (esp. fiddling) competitions died out or were killed off in Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island long ago now. The lack of contests has not done trad music much harm there. Rather than contests, there are many festivals, including fiddle festivals, where one fiddler after another gets up and plays. Those who feel the need can reach their own conclusions as to who are first, second and third.

********************

The big drawback to the accounts of sessions we’re getting here - not that there’s any alternative - is that these various accounts are individual interpretations of events. So while my inclination is to suggest, for example, that if a person has been playing for only two or three years, they shouldn’t expect to be welcomed as an equal in to a session of accomplished players; on the other hand, some rare people make tremendous progress in a few years, so … I don’t know …. I think I’ve been in every role - except the rudest ones; it’s not my nature - in these various scenarios in my day so my sympathies are widespread …. Oh yeah, I’ve never been in the role of the virtuoso big-shot ….

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

And I’ve never been a mother trying to push my kid into the limelight … !

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

.. there seems to agreement that many sessions (especially in the rich trad areas) are made uncomfortable, either for the novice, the new comer, the traveler , the outsider and even a visiting accomplished player by the select few, who view their music over and above that of others in the session…We have the likes of David Levine above, whom by his own admission makes money out of the retail side, and defends such actions, we have an obsessive ‘win’ culture of competitions and supporting parents that see it fashionably Gaelic and fashionably Irish to have a champion fiddle player in the house (It use to be a priest many years ago,),We have publicans who prefer so called ‘select few’ sessions also because of money , but most of all we have an established culture of ignorance from a breed of narcissistic and arrogant players .. who see no wrong in directing sessions in a way that suits them or pushing session players away , whom they judge are unfavorable or not up to their standards…this is shockingly arrogant and has turned many public prefomances of ITM into a debacle….So this begs a bigger question

..are these sessions actually sessions ?

If a gentleman comes into a session, the finest of folk singer, banjo and guitar players Ireland, Scotland or America ever had to offer, and sits in with the 3 super-ego musicians in say Kilfenora for example, as they thrash out highlands, reels, jig, slip jigs..the lot..one after the other.. yet he is not given the opportunity or welcome to join…his gift is lost to us..and why ?…simply because some narcissistic stalwart thinks the session is his/hers or there’s and thus deprives anyone else from experiencing anything outside their music..If that’s case, why preform the music in a pub session ? if you are that good get an agent, get your own staged gigs and play and raise your ego on that stage.. people would then have the choice to accept it or not …

So my conclusions are that there is only one kind of session..a proper ‘open’ session, were an open invite is given (provided it’s not 10 bodhrans and 8 strumming guitars) to all musicians, of all standards. By all means some too-ing and fro-ing may well take place, but thats part of the learning curve for many musicians and a level playing field will be found…. What others who have posted here are in favor of ARE NOT SESSIONS !.. and should not be called that in terms of ITM…Irish session’s ARE NOT just for the select few..if that is the case it is not a session ..it is a gig….end off ….. Gigs have a totally different set of rules, and by all means such arrogant behavior would be tolerated more in relation to musical intrusion or interference from others in relation to gigs ..but gigs don’t come as easy a sessions, and the listening public demand more in terms of gigs…so the simple thing for these narcissistic players is to high jack a session and turn it into their own wee gig…laying down rules and regs that they have no entitlement to do so…

The bottom line, I feel, is if such people think their music is above and beyond anyone elses, then F off somewhere else and play it…leave the sessions for people who want to share. Also as important, Publicans should NOT advertise such sessions as sessions, they should advertised them as staged gigs..and if these narcissistic players are so good and exclusive, pay them appropriately..which ever way, at least when that great folk singer/guitar/banjo player shows up, we might get the chance to here and play with him rather than sit like schoolchildren listening to the egotistic performances of the select few. Better still younger players, novice players, nervous players, quiet players, travelling players and even accomplished players as well as everyone else, singers, story tellers , dancers etc will get to experience the magic of being partof a session..not just the select few..

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Well said leitrim lad you nailed it.

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Good old Ptarmigan, always has something thoughtful and constructive to add to the discussions.

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

Not sure who gave you the right to decide what all sessions should be and that if they don’t fit with your ideal then they are not a session Leitrim Lad. You say all musicians are welcome but not 10 bodhrans and 8 guitars, though any sane person would agree with that, you’re contradicting yourself. As long as the session leaders, those who make it happen, makes clear what the session is then what’s the problem? For example, why can’t you have a song session, a tune only session, a foreign tune session, a piping session, a beginners session, an unaccompanied session etc?

The anything goes at any session attitude is usually perpetrated by the very people who ruin sessions. I absolutely agree with you regarding session manners though and some of the examples you give show some terrible ignorance. Maybe CCE should be pushed to offer young players a lesson in how to conduct themselves at a session.

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

I agree that the advertising is a problem - a big problem. If a ‘session’ is advertised, most would assume that it is more or less ‘open’, or ‘open’ to a degree, at least. The last time I went to such a ‘session’ I found a group of musicians in a tight circle around a table, with amplification in the form of mikes that were directed toward, well, featured performers, and pick-ups on acoustic instruments, as well as an electric violin. Much of their material seemed rehearsed, and when they performed songs - they did quite a few - they had clearly been ‘arranged’. So I accepted that I was attending a performance - but I did feel that I had been duped somewhat. In my younger days, I would have been quite annoyed, but I’ve mellowed …..

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

In fact, one of these musicians was talking to me when they took their ‘break’: she had sat in with my band at a gig, but there was no reciprocal invitation to join their, harumph, ‘session’ …..

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

I definitely don’t go into sessions for the first time expected to be treated as an equal, with my 2-3 years of experience and lack of ever having been there before. I come expecting to listen, pick out cool new tunes I like, and maybe play a tune or two (or play the notes on my fingers without blowing if I’m less certain). At the same time, seeing a musician who dares to launch one set over the course of the entire session get shot down by someone who has been launching two out of three tunes for a couple hours (and this with 10-15 musicians present)… I know I’m still relatively new to all this, and "session etiquette" varies and is up to interpretation, but to me it just seemed rude.

The only session I saw with kids present was at a music festival, and it seemed like there was a really nice exchange going on with older folks showing the kids how things went. I didn’t see any hovering parents and the kids seemed to behave well and enjoy the music just like everyone else. I also might be unaware of what goes on underneath though…

I like setups where people of varying levels can find their place. At our home session, the slow starts first then turns fast. I know it will be rare for me to touch my instrument after 10pm, but that’s OK because I know from 8-9 I can play all I want (and there’s wine to be drunk and people to chat with later on). The more advanced players who don’t want to be bothered by beginners/improvers come after nine. A neighboring city has three sessions of designated speeds/skill levels, at different pubs. Everyone gets to find their place in the musical ecosystem. However, we also don’t have so many tourists staring down our necks, and no competitions going on…

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

You know - that sounds ideal … !

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

I don’t think the issue will ever get resolved, in fact it will get worse.

..Donald Duck’s post above (have I met you before after a few drinks Donald ?…the name sounds familiar..) asserts the argument that there is a contradiction, if I feel people should not take over a session why do I take exception at 8 or 10 bodhran players or guitar strummers ..all I can state is the obvious..not just half a dozen bodhran players, but one or two loud players can drown out any session, regardless of who or what is being played…and rather than a contradiction it actually supports my argument. These players travel down the same road as the narcissistic players..they care little of those around them and play their own music..the only difference is that many of these players have little or no musical experience and little knowledge of jigs, reels, hornpipes or whatever..when you start seeing them lift their drums for slow airs, then it’s time to have a word..But in general, this doesn’t happen to often, most bodhran players I know will share the tunes out in a session..but you do have the totally ignorant ones as well …so I don’t think using that argument ‘Donald Duck’ is fair…..

In Fairness as well, and in response to your comment Donald Duck I am not deciding ’ what all sessions should be and if they don’t fit with my ideal, they are not a session’..I am stating the opposite, others are doing this, others are deciding what route a session should take in favor of themselves, I ask for an open door policy (in reason with the bodhran players) and let the session find it’s own level , among ALL those attending it… there is a big, big difference between my ask and their ask… and at the end of day a Session in Irish Traditional music, is exactly what it says on the tin , a session, an informal gathering at which people play…a well rehearsed set of tunes, played out by a few select individuals, who purposely exclude every other musician around them for the entire night is a gig, it’s a rehearsed performance …it’s not a session …. I have no problem advertising a gig as a gig..at least then I know other musician’s arn’t welcome and the playing of those select few must be respected … but thats not what a session is ..

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

That all sounds perfectly reasonable to me!

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

..many thanks Donald Duck……folks I think I have run my course with this discussion…point made
..see ya’all

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

To me it seems there are 4 categories of potential "session ruiners" depending on who you ask.

1. Bodhran/bones/guitar players without a clue as to what they’re doing.

2. Bodhran/bones/guitar players who are decent players.

3. Melody players without a clue as to what they’re doing.

4. Melody players who are not up to the standard of the session.

The problem is, different sessions would bar different groups from here. Some see nothing wrong with allowing #2 in, but would get incensed at #1 showing up. Some don’t see much of a difference between #1 and #2, whether it’s because they already have a regular accompanying player or because they don’t like accompaniment at all. Some welcome #4 with open arms, but would rather see #3 (say, an off-tune and noodling whistler or fiddler) out the door. Again, there is very little distinction between #3 and #4 for some, as the boundary between "not quite up to our standard" and "hasn’t a clue" might not be very clear to them.

I’d say David Levine and some others on this thread are talking about #1 and #3 when they talk of not wanting just anyone at a session. Perhaps some are also concerned about #2. Leitrim Lad and others seem to be mostly focused around #4, where someone is barred not because they are clueless or boorish but because they aren’t quite up to the level of the others, which could be a real gap or a perceived gap on someone’s end. Again, the line between #3 and #4 can be fuzzy, but I think it’s an important distinction to make.

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

5. Melody players who want to demonstrate how much better they are than everyone else/know tunes that no one else knows.

Re: Changing Attitudes To Irish Traditional Music

I don’t think it is about what instrument, or even how competent the player. I think it is all about attitude. I’d far rather have a beginner who knows their limtiations - plays quietly so that any mistakes don’t spoil it for others and sits out the tunes they don’t know, than an intermediate or even good player who feels the need to demonstrate their prowess by overpowering every other instrument, even on tunes they don’t know.