Starting a Session from almost Zero

Starting a Session from almost Zero

Hi everyone, hope you’re well. I live in Canada on the East Coast, and I’ve been playing Irish trad music since I was 12. I’ve lived abroad and a few years ago came back to Canada, and now that I’ve settled I want to start a trad session. There was one “Irish” session going on at an “Irish” pub but they don’t actually play any Irish music at all and aren’t really interested in it as far as I can tell, so I’m thinking I’ll have to start from scratch, find people who are interested, teach the tunes, etc, etc. Anyone have experience with this?

Re: Starting a Session from almost Zero

Don’t know if this will help, but I connected with an Irish cafe and played trad flute against a backing track of tunes downloaded from YouTube that did not include flute. Sort of a virtual session (great for practice!). Eventually, local musicians found me and a Sunday session was born.

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Re: Starting a Session from almost Zero

Where on the East Coast - Nova Scotia, NB, PEI, Newfoundland? Rural (relative to the province) or not?

Re: Starting a Session from almost Zero

I’m near Moncton NB

Re: Starting a Session from almost Zero

It might just take reaching out to a business owner, maybe something low-key like a coffee shop and advertising it. The one session I helped start, we just posted it here and at the coffee shop, and we randomly got people who trickled in, both those who knew tunes and those who didn’t. If you live anywhere near Halifax, there was a nice session there at an Irish pub (actually multiple sessions) when I traveled through there a few years ago.

EDIT: You posted right before me, and I see that Halifax is a bit of a journey from your town. Maybe the sessions hosts there would be able to connect you with musicians closer to you?

Re: Starting a Session from almost Zero

William,
We (unindicted co-conspirators in SE Michigan) are struggling with finding a new venue for an established session (Seitz’s Tavern was sold out from under us). I think that the problems with starting a new session are probably orders of magnitude greater than finding a new venue, but don’t let that stop you. One thing that should probably work in you favor would be to build critical mass - if you have an established group it should be easier to talk someone into hosting you - if you don’t have that yet, focus on recruiting musicians who can be counted on to participate on a regular basis. I don’t do social media so I have no suggestions on using that as a recruiting tool. Good luck and keep us updated.

Re: Starting a Session from almost Zero

Have you considered the Legion/ANAF? These folks have been super-welcoming in Vancouver.

Chris

Re: Starting a Session from almost Zero

If it were me, I would try to find at least one musical-partner before attempting a (somewhat) public session - unless you have a notion that there are some ITM players out there who just need the announcement. I would put an ad on Kijiji (for example), and see if anyone is interested in sitting down one-on-one and playing some tunes. If someone bites, and you are able to knock out a bunch of tunes together, then move on to a public session, and see if anyone else shows up. If not, there will be at least two of you playing, and a bit of a sense of something happening.

A few years ago, I was hired to lead a non-existent session in an East Coast bar, in an attempt to drum up some mid-week business in an uninviting locale. I made it clear that I was new in town, and couldn’t call on other musicians - but I would give it a go. It ended up mostly just a solo act, me and my fiddle in the corner scratching out tunes to an empty bar, until I threw in the towel.

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I think that venue isn’t so much the issue, but getting a few people that want to actually learn Irish tunes and learn a few sets. Then having a venue wouldn’t be a huge challenge to find. I guess it’s more about finding people who want to play the music seriously and specifically Irish music rather than all sorts.

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Like I’d get 10 guitar players right now if I tried a public session.

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Moncton is big enough and being on the East Coast I’d imagine at least some people are interested in traditional folk music. Whether that’s focused on Irish or not couldn’t say. Do NB folks tend more towards the NS style of tunes, or no?

In any event, try the advertisement idea. Might also want to reach out to the folks here to meet some of the locals:
https://thesession.org/sessions/1839

And the nearby city:
https://thesession.org/sessions/2121
https://thesession.org/sessions/6213

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The Old Triangle (Moncton) has Saturday sessions listed on their June calendar. Is it still going? Did anybody play any irish tunes?

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Re: Starting a Session from almost Zero

If the issue is ppl, find a bunch before you announce a sess. Play privately with them? Ask each about all their musical friends. If you have say 30 ppl on your list you can count on maybe 8-10 regularly being there.

You also want to think about musical standards. Johnny may be chomping at the bit to play, but if Johnny sucks and does not improve, do you want him at your sess? What if you get two melody players and four guitarists (yes I saw this in New Orleans): do you want that? If not, do you have the manners/balls to say "only 1 guitar player (and bodhran) at a time"? Do you want to be a musical Nazi re: sets, who starts tunes, bla bla?

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Mostly people here tend to play Old Time ish music, Acadian music, and Cape Breton tunes. There’s nothing wrong with that, obviously, other than it’s not Irish.

As for the Old Triangle session, they do have it, but the majority of the music is French Acadian, French Acadian songs, Old time tunes, and some Cape Breton stuff. I went a few times and played a few jigs, reels and a few polkas solo, but they don’t know any of the tunes and my French isn’t good enough to engage much. Someone played John Ryan’s polka in a really weird, non-polka tempo. Anyway, nothing wrong with it, they’re doing their thing and they’ve done it for a long time, it’s hardly right to expect them to play Irish tunes. It’s advertised as an Irish session but it really is far from that.

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@chris and everyone else, good points: I posted an already for musicians, making it clear that I’m looking for melody instruments, not guitars. The idea is I’ll find a few people interested in learning tunes and we’ll sit together privately and learn sets, then later move to a public setting.

I actually don’t mind putting the law down on accompaniment instruments, really if there are 2 or 3 players (fiddle, box, etc) that are committed to the tradition, I wouldn’t even want to advertise the public session much, because for sure that’d be a flood of guitars. This is all about the tunes to me, I love the tunes and it’s a shame to me that there isn’t something going on already. I remember growing up and there was a ton of fiddle and box players playing almost exclusively Irish tunes from the older generation (my grandfather being one of them), but that’s pretty much gone. Really huge shame that I want to do my best to change.

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Was that in the Moncton area? Just curious.

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Yup that’s Moncton. I’m from Kent County, which is very rural, just in Moncton now for work

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I meant where your grandfather et al lived and played music. So, uh, Kent County, I take it. Do you know if there are any recordings on-line of players from that area and generation, the kind of music you remember? Again, just curious - sorry for side-tracking the discussion!

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I suppose one can start off (in a remote place) playing along with musicians on your cds/other media. Then, a bit of confidence gained, you could advertise in the local paper or talk to people at any possible venue?

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Which is more important? To have a session or to have people to play with? If there is no session, you can always advertise that you’re looking for people who would be interested in starting one. However, I don’t think that a pub or café is the proper venue to teach tunes (I wouldn’t like to be the teacher/the learner/the owner in such a context). There’s nothing wrong with two or three person meetups.

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You could try poaching the local existing sessions. Go to a few, suss out the promising musicians and quietly invite them to a house session to focus on Irish repertoire. If that gels, move it to a public venue.

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William, be sure to update your member profile here with your location (using the "add your location" button). Once you do that, there’ll be a "nearby members" link under the map—you might find some likeminded people in your area who’d be up for getting together for some tunes.

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Maybe you could start a slow learning session open to melody instruments only, and then eventually you’d have melody players!

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Start a fiddle and accordion club and advertise any sessions as such.

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All of you thank you so much for all the very useful comments. I’ll let you know how it goes