Slow Session in Boston
Apropos of the considerable discussion over in "Slow Sessions in London", you might be
interested in our experience with Boston’s Original Slow Session (BOSS) as we approach
our second anniversary. Here’s a small chronology that might be useful to recap our journey
Boston’s Original Slow Session had its origins at Gaelic Roots in June, 2000. Among all the
wonderful experiences that comprise that week-long festival, Seamus Connolly had the great
vision to schedule a slow session each afternoon that attracted a rather large but reticent
gathering. He also had the great forethought to assign Mike Dugger, from Kansas City, to lead
this slow session. Mike, an excellent musician, is a man of great charisma and even greater
patience. He spun some yarn about wanting "to convert everyone on Earth to play a tune".
By the end of the week he had turned the reticence into unbridled enthusiasm and confidence.
The injection of The Music by Doctor Dugger had garnered another three dozen souls to
spread the word back in the hinterlands after they left Boston College.
One hinterlander was me. My marketeer’s instincts sensed the huge pent-up demand for
learners wanting to play in a session. My Irish heritage was appalled at the rough treatment
given, in general, to beginners by some players in some sessions. Clearly, ITM is one of the
few genres to treat learners this way. So, my love of The Music forced me to consider
alterations to "the traditional session format" which would make a session more approachable
and comfortable for learners. Mike had added another missionary to his cause and so I set
about build a platform to convert others.
Our first meeting of BOSS was the first Monday of August, 2000 at the Green Briar in
Brighton, Massachusetts. There were a dozen people in the room and we barely were able
to put together four tunes that everyone knew. Our numbers grew steadily as did our repertoire,
confidence and enthusiasm. Now, twenty months later, we typically have over 40! regulars each
Monday and a repertoire of more than 100 tunes! Our website has over 80! subscribed.
But more than that, the people have developed a commitment to excellence and a pride in
their playing and in their expertise. If they come to the room with their troubles, by the end of
the first few sets they’re smiling and happy as The Music washes over them and soothes
another soul as it has done for centuries. It’s far cheaper than therapy and much more fun.
At the beginning, many used sheet music because no issue was made of it. Now, it is rarely
seen; some will never be weaned. Still, there is no issue made about it because we’d rather
have them there playing than at home watching television. We are now able to play at session
speed but choose not to so that we can fully enjoy the nuances and intricacies of The Music.
So we tell others that we play at "listening speed". The players as well as onlookers seem to
enjoy it fully. Most of our players stay on for the CCE late (9 P. M.) session that plays at
"session speed". Now, some of the late session players show up early to play with us.
Many teachers send their students to see what it’s like to play with others in a welcoming
environment. Naturally, many of the Comhaltas students attend. But the group is made of
diverse people who can only be characterized as wanting to play in the comfortable setting
that we’ve built together. The intent is to honor the tradition and to elevate the genre; I believe
we’ve done that.
The similarities and differences between our BOSS session and others is another lengthy
tome that I hope to finish someday. We’re always happy to spout off about BOSS to whomever
cares to listen. If you have any questions I’ll gladly respond. And by all means, stop in to see us
on some Monday night whenever your travels take you to BOSSton. We’re at the Green Briar
Pub, Brighton at 7 P. M. every Monday come hell or high water. Following us is the Comhaltas
session with Larry and Mike Reynolds
at 9 P.M.
Bill — Boston