Slow Session in Boston

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
to date.

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.

Best regards,

Bill — Boston

Re: Slow Session in Boston

BOSS, by the way, is another SlowPlayers.org session. You can find them at http://www.slowplayers.org/BOSS/index.html

Hope to make it out there at some point, Bill. Mike will be back in town for GR2002, and has already said that he’ll be trying to make the session on Monday.

Zina

Re: Slow Session in Boston

It will be great to see Mike again and I hope he will lead us on a few tunes with the new box. For those of us that are regulars at the BOSS session at the Greenbriar, we owe a lot to Mike’s engaging style and his willingness to even associate with beginning ITM musicians and to encourage folks like Bill Firla to even take a chance on starting a slow session.

Bill, as always we appreciate your energy and willingness to encourage the beginners among us.

By the way Bill, Zina and Shannon Heaton are best of friends and Zina has been working on the latest release for the group Shannon plays with. Hope that you will continue your lessons with Shannon at CCE in the fall.

Also Bill, will you be at the Irish Cultural Center Festival at Stonehill next weekend, June 7-9 ? www.irishculture.org
Hope to be there myself on Saturday to play with CCE in the dance tent for a while.

Play on !!!

Bob "The Hitman"

Re: Slow Session in Boston

Bill-
This Boston Slow session sounds wonderful. I’ve seen it on the internet and have wanted to make the drive down from Vermont. But a Monday night is not easy for me. Are there any other similar sessions happening on a Saturday?

I tried starting a "Learning Session" at my house but had trouble getting people to make the drive up my steep, dirt road, especially in the winter months.

I hope to make it down to Boston someday. Both the slow and faster sessions sound great!

Joyce

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Re: Slow Session in Boston

Shannon’s a great teacher! I (and many CO players) really miss having Matt and herself living here. She and Matt were just in town for the release party for Siucra’s latest CD — "Here Among Strangers" — and they come back this week with George Keith, Sean Gannon, and Dave Cory, playing as An Cuigear (the five of them). I’ve got two lessons set up with George this weekend, and am very excited about it.

Joyce, have you thought about trying to start your learning session in a church basement in the nearest town or some such?

Zina

Re: Slow Session in Boston

Hi Zina,

Now that it’s finally spring, I’ve thought about hosting a learning session at our house again. We renovated our basement into a cozy Irish Pub (that stays cool in the summer heat). We even have homebrews on tap. This might be an incentive for folks to make the trek up our mountain : )

Joyce

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Re: Slow Session in Boston

Bill, thanks so much for the info! When i was studying in boston a number of years back the green briar was my home base session. loved it. but this was before the slow session had been started. i don’t think i’ve ever been at a slow session, but i look forward to stopping in again during gaelic roots and checking it out.

I wanted to ask if you or someone else by any chance have a tune list of sorts for that session; so perhaps i could do some woodshedding before i arrive. thanks in advance for your assistance!

Re: Slow Session in Boston

It’s on their website, Brendan… 🙂

Zina

Re: Slow Session in Boston

By the way, Joyce, Shannon and Matt have told me that there are any number of sessions running at any given time during the week, so I’m sure there must be something in Boston on Saturday evenings. I’ve no idea what, but I’m sure they’re out there.

Zina

The Gannon Family

It’s not a slow session - but it is in Boston & it’s on a Sunday afternoon. The Gannon Family (Button Boxes & Concertina) do a great session at the Burren in Davis Sq. in Somerville. The Burren’s sessions are for fairly advanced players, but they are great for taping, learning & meeting folks. They have great sessions every night of the week. It’s well worth the drive

Re: Slow Session in Boston

Brendan: As Zina points out, you can see the BOSS playlist at:

http://www.slowplayers.org/BOSS/index.html

Even though it’s from last year, it’s still fairly current. The new one will be out by Gaelic Roots.

Joyce: Our good friend Chris Burke runs a slow session at O’Neill’s Pub in Salem, MA on
Sundays at 1:30. The pub is on Washington St., a short walk from the train station. Chris says
a dozen or so regulars show up of all abilities. Also, there’s nothing like beer and food to
add needed energy to a session, mountain or otherwise 🙂

Regards,

Bill — Boston

Re: Slow Session in Boston

Ah! that’s awesome. Thanks, Zina and Bill, for pointing me in the right direction. I look forward to playing some chunes with you all.

BTW: i remember that there is this handy publication that comes out every week called ‘the irish immigrant’ that, among other things, lists various sessions taking place around boston. Sunday is a big day, of course, but i recall that almost any night of the week there was a session somewhere, often more than one. This publication could be found pretty consistently at irish pubs around town; it is (or at least was) published on green paper.

Re: Slow Session in Boston

Joyce: Send me your e-mail address so I can get you hooked-up with Chris for the Sunday
Slow Sesh.

Regards,

Bill — Boston