Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December Slow Session Wednesday, December 17 2014

Hi, gang! We're having a Slow Session tonight at the Old Songs Building, 37 South Main, Voorheesville from 7:30 - 9:00 PM. $4. Unless there is a problem, I think we will be downstairs in the office area tonight to save on heating costs. It's cozy down there.

Come one, come all, and bring your tunes along! Bring  a tune to share if you've been working on something new...

I'm on my way home from out of town and I forgot to bring my slow session tune bag with me, so I'm brain-cramping on what we worked on last time. I do remember that we learned the 2-part Geese in the Bog jig by ear (some of us pulled the music up on our smart phones). I think we also worked through Sailor on the Rock. We will review these two tunes.

Tunes of the Month: Within a Mile of Dublin (reel), Up Against the Buachallans (reel), Planxty Irwin

If you want to take a look at Within a Mile of Dublin before tonight, you can use the O'Neill's yellow book version. It is the closest to what I have. The version I have has a few variations in it and plays around with the structure of the tune a little bit! It's fun. Up Against the Buachallans is a tune I got by ear from my friend Peter Jones. I finally found the sheet music in the Fionn Seisiun 4 book (based on the style of the Kilfenora and Tulla Ceili Bands).  Comhaltas put that tune in a set with The Heather Breeze - it's a nice set and I think we'll tackle them both!

See you Tonight!!! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

November Slow Session Wednesday, Nov. 19

Hiya, friends!

Woops! Forgot to tell you that there's a session tonight, Wednesday, November 19. Bring your music, and if you're working on something, bring it along to share!

Looking forward to seeing you!

- Hilary

p.s. last month we were kicking tune ideas around, and here's what people have asked for (or I stuck them on the list):

Snowy Path
South Wind
Planxty Irwin
Harvest Home/Off to California
Out on the Ocean
Kesh Jig
Cliffs of Moher
Inisheer (Hilary's version)
Geese in the Bog
Sailor on the Rock /Maid Behind the Bar
Maid on the Green/Saddle the Pony
Eddie Kelly's #1 & #2
O'Malley Waltz

I'll try and dig it up before the session... See you tonight!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Starting Up Again for 2014-2015 Season!

Hiya Friends,

We're going to start up again for the year. Our first fall slow session will be held on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 7:30 PM. I hope you're all enjoying the beautiful weather we've been having. Tunes to come soon!

See you soon,


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Quick Follow-Up on the February Slow Session

Hi, Folks,

Thanks so much to those who came out to play tunes, and to those who sent me emails or texts - we missed you! It was a lovely night...the picture below was from our trip to Kerry a few years ago. Last night reminded me of a fun night we had in a pub in Cahirciveen, where the local musicians are friendly and quite accomplished. Thank you for the tunes and chat!
A picture of the hills in Co. Kerry, Ireland

We played through all of our tunes, with some discussion about versions and some explanations from me. Transcribing a tune using your strongest instrument is recommended - I modified the ABC of a version of The Milliner's Daughter from and missed a few critical notes because I was using whistle instead of fiddle to check the melody. I don't  yet know how to properly play f# and f nat on whistle. Yeah! That actually makes a difference! (Um, and David - I was consistent - I left the wrong note in twice just to be sure! ;-)

So...we played that tune in a set that Samantha heard on a recording: Flax in Bloom / Milliner's Daughter / The Old Bush. We also stuck A Peek Behind the Curtain AFTER Taims in Arrears. We played Alexander's Hornpipe (yeah, yeah, both versions I posted are the SAME. I know... ) followed by The Friendly Visit. And finally, we played the lovely jig Humours of Lisheen. I can't remember if we put it with anything.

Corrected versions of things will be up shortly! And we're working on a list of tunes for next month, which will also be posted soon.

Enjoy every day, no matter what it brings! See you soon,


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Slow Session Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Old Songs Slow Session - Playing Irish Music Medically Necessary - Warms Hearts and Hands Says Fiddler.

What is this deep freeze? And a storm a week? Enough already!

The spectacular full moon on Friday evening
You know it is cold outside when a discussion thread on is "To Drive the Cold Winter Away". (click to enjoy the wealth of music videos posted on this topic!) It truly is cold, but playing tunes with our friends warms the heart, and if you can keep your hands from freezing that's just a bonus!

"Critical listening [to Irish music] makes one think deeply about phrasing and style and tone and so many other elusive elements of this beautiful genre of music"

This month's learning tunes feature a jig and reel contributed by Melora Wolff. She suggested we learn The Milliner's Daughter (reel) and The Humours of Lisheen (jig) (I have this tune as Thrush on the Strand). I seem to recall back in the day playing The Milliner's Daughter with The Torn Jacket. We might try that...

I've been thinking a lot lately about the tunes I already know, and how it seems like it is time to expand my repertoire a little bit. Our good friend Dave Smith said the other day that he has been trying to go through his spreadsheet of tunes as a matter of course to keep up with all the music he has been learning. He told me he was wondering how other people keep track of their repertoire. Well? How do you do it?

Reader's Poll: What methods do you use to keep current on your repertoire? How do you keep track of all your tunes? How often do you practice different parts of the list? Post below and tell us how your strategy!   

I'm nowhere near as methodical as Dave. I guess I find that playing with different people brings up tunes I haven't thought of in a long time and that spurs some exploration of the hidden or old tunes. If I don't have access to people to play with, I rely on listening to Paula Carroll's show or Claire Keville's show on The West Wind on ClareFM. I find it is just so enjoyable to listen to a musician I don't really know playing a tune I don't know at all. Critical listening makes one think deeply about phrasing and style and tone and so many other elusive elements of this beautiful genre of music. And because the music and musician are not familiar, I don't go in to auto-pilot with the music. I soak it up and then, if I really like what they're doing, I'll try to recreate the feeling in a tune I do know.

In searching for new hornpipes, I discovered one that I must have heard in the past, but didn't remember at all. It is a lovely tune called "Alexander's Hornpipe" (#1683 in O'Neill's Music of Ireland). It is one of the top 150 hornpipes on the site. Most recently, this tune was recorded by Sligo fiddler Tony DeMarco on The Sligo Indians. Tommy Reck and Charlie Lennon also recorded it.

The only real discussion on The Session about this tune involves the fact that is NOT associated with other tune names listed on the page (i.e. Never on Sunday, Ballymanus Fair, etc.). I've included a version from The Session as well as a Liam O'Flynn version that someone posted. That version seems to be closest to the notation in O'Neill's, minus the dotted eighths. The syncopation of the hornpipe is simply implicated and not stated. I noticed that in listening to a version of the tune played by a contradance band that the emphasis was more "reel-like" in placing a emphasis on the One and the Three, which smoothes the tune out more. It seems like the Irish traditional way to play a hornpipe would be more with the syncopated emphasis on the "Two-and" and the "Four-and".

Finally, I've been having some fun with different polkas and slip jigs, and was looking for something brand new to try. In honor of the Olympics in Russia, I thought we might enjoy a new little ditty called "A Peep Behind the Curtain"!

OK, that's really not what it's about. Besides you wouldn't expect Russian music to stay completely in the major key, would you? And it ain't new neither. It was composed in the 1780s by a cornmiller and fiddler from Yorkshire named Joshua Jackson. (Yorkshire? That's not Ireland! - Yeah well, maybe it's the 33rd county, and anyway excuse me if I'm eating homemade Shepherd's Pie for lunch as I write this because I'm half English and it's my damn birthright and everything, and just try the damn tune, already!)

Reviewers of a 1970s recording of his music (Trip to Harrowgate: Tunes & Songs from Joshua Jackson's Book 1798) note that they can hear the "forerunners of Irish and American, as well as English, folk music" in his tunes. This tune sort of has the bones of an Irish tune, but it is clearly missing the modal feel of some of our most favorite slip jigs. Nobody I know has a copy of the manuscripts, but my spies are digging around for information. Updates will come if secrets are revealed!

The real reason I selected the tune is that I've been working on playing whistle and this tune had a whole bunch of fun arpeggios and little shifts inside the melody and it was just plain fun. Let's try it! I promise not to torture you with my whistle playing at the session, though.
I'll see you Wednesday evening, February 19, 2014 at 7:30 PM at Old Songs! ($4 per person)  I think we'll play downstairs again this month, unless it warms up considerably. Let's conserve energy!

In the meantime, stay warm and enjoy yourselves no matter what you do,


NOTE: I've officially increased the suggested donation for the Irish Slow Session from $3 to $4. It's been at $3 for the past seven years, and operating costs certainly haven't decreased! Thanks for understanding.  (Your donation of $4 for photocopies/heat/lights goes to Old Songs to help support the Make Your Own Music program.)

February Learning Tunes:

Milliner's Daughter (reel) / [Torn Jacket]
Humours of Lisheen (jig)
Alexander's (hornpipe)
Alexander's - Liam O'Flynn's version
A Peep Behind the Curtain (slip jig)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Good Fun Had By All!

Remember to rest after you have tunes! :-)

Thank you for a wonderful evening...

Tonight's slow session (1/15/14) was a great deal of fun. Thanks to the folks who came out and made music! It was an absolute pleasure.

We played all four of our learning tunes and made several new sets out of them. We put the Boys of 45 (or "Micho Russell's Favorite") after The Flax in Bloom. We stuck The Lilting Banshee on before The Humours of Glen. We made Mrs. Crotty go before the Friendly Visit, and finally we just plain played the heck outta The Maids of Mitchelstown (don't tell their dad).

Next month's session will be held on Wednesday, February 19. We'll work on these new sets, plus sets from the playlist and a bunch of new learning tunes. Melora says she has a few in mind, and I've got some up my sleeve, so between us we'll have a nice evening of music planned. Look for the tunes in the next few weeks.

A big Slow Sesh welcome to George B., who joined us for the first time and really rocked out the accompaniment. Lovely playing, G-man!

Thanks again to all who came out! See you soon!


p.s. April Verch, Cape Breton fiddling phenom, will be wowing the crowd with her trio on Saturday night, January 18, 2014 at Old Songs. Tickets are for sale, and can be purchased by calling the office at 518-765-2815 or by visiting

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

January Slow Session on Wed., Jan. 15!

Eric doing our other favorite thing...

Happy New Year! It's Winter!

or rather, it was winter last weekend!

How was your New Year's? Hope you had tunes and fun with friends and/or family! Seems like things have warmed up a bit since then - that deep freeze took its toll on all of us, I'm sure. Hopefully this brief thaw will mean clear roads and safe driving just in time for this month's session.

Anyway, this Wednesday evening, January 15 at 7:30 PM, we'll continue our tradition of gathering at Old Songs to have some Irish tunes.

Hope you can make it!

Tunes? Mrs. Crotty's Hornpipe, Micho Russell's Favorite reel (aka "The Boys of '45"), The Lilting Banshee jig, and a surprise tune! We'll go over the tunes from this season's list, as well, so print 'em out and bring 'em along!

See you soon,