Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Session Tonight 12/20 - Downstairs!

Hey, Music Buddies!

Slow Session will be held downstairs because it is already warm down there!

See you at 7:30 p.m.



Tuesday, December 12, 2017

CORRECTION: December Old Songs Slow Session Wednesday Dec. 20

Take the Snowy Path to Old Songs for some Shlow Chunes!

Happy Holidays everyone! I can't believe that I made this mistake - but our Slow Session is NEXT Wednesday, December 20th. (Thank you to Nancy for pointing it out!) If there's a need to cancel for any reason, check back here on Wednesday (12/20/17) at 6:00 p.m. That is when I will post a cancellation notice if any is needed.

Last month's session was very laid back and fun. We did not do a Learn by Ear tune and just launched into playing tunes.

Here's the list from last month:

Ships are Sailing (reel)
The Wind that Shakes the Barley (reel)
Jerry's Beaver Hat (jig)
John Ryan's Polka
Mickey Callahan's (hornpipe)
Spotted Dog (jig)
Christmas Eve ("Tommy Coen's") (reel)
Swallowtail Jig / Road to Lisdoonvarna (jigs)
Man of the House (reel)
When the Cock Crows it is Dawn (slide)
Maguire and Paterson (waltz)
My Darling Asleep (jig)
Moloney's Wife (jig)
Boys of Bluehill (hornpipe)

I'll see you all next week if the weather cooperates!



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

First Thursday Slow Session on December 7

Time for Tunes in Delmar!

Hey, music buddies! It's time for our First Thursday Slow Session in Delmar on Thursday evening, December 7, 2017 from 7:30-9:00 p.m. Email me at or join our email list in the link in the sidebar and find out where we meet.

Hope to see you there!


Monday, November 13, 2017

Old Songs Slow Session Wed., November 15, 2017

Hey music buddies,

Quick reminder that this Wednesday is our Old Songs November Slow Session. We will be upstairs because George Wilson is giving his fiddle classes downstairs.

I hope more folks will join us this month! There will be a learn-by-ear tune to start and then we'll do Round Robin, so get started thinking of the tune you'd like to play.

A couple of little pieces of news:

1. Songs of George Ward - Until the Black Flies Go at Old Songs on Saturday, November 18 at 7:30 PM. Featuring Dave Ruch, John Roberts, George Ward, and special guests.
Facebook Event:
Old Songs is celebrating our dear friend (and one of my musical heroes) George Ward in a star-studded retrospective of his music. We have all enjoyed his songs and learned so much about music and history from him. Let me encourage you to show your respect to a great man and a great musician. Get your tickets today!

2. Copley Street House Concert in Chatham, NY on Friday, November 24 at 8 PM. 
Facebook Event:
Joey Abarta (uillean pipes) and Nathan Gourley (fiddle) are Copley Street, and they'll be performing a house concert at Neal Warshaw's home in Chatham, NY. It's on Woodbridge Avenue in Chatham, and you can make your reservation by emailing Neal at Reservations Required, space is limited. $20 at the door. CDs will be available for purchase.

See them on YouTube:
See them on the web:

3. We will be excited to hear all about Susan Bippus' trip to Boston CCE Convention!

4. I will have news shortly about Gangspil, the Danish Grammy-winning duo, who will be coming to the area on Saturday evening, November 25. Details TBA.

See you at Old Songs on Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

First Thursday Slow Session in Delmar on Thu., Nov. 2nd

Hey music buddies,

Quick reminder that our second First Thursday slow session in Delmar is going to be held on Thursday, November 2nd, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.

We don't list the address here, so if you're interested just email me at hilary [dot] schrauf [at] gmail [dot] com and I'll send you the directions!

Hope to see you Thursday!


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

REMINDER: Slow Session Tonight - Wed., October 19

Hi, gang,

Quick reminder that there's an Irish traditional Slow Session at Old Songs Community Arts Center tonight. David Pease, flute, will lead. $4 suggested donation.

See you soon!


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Slow Session Update October 7 Edition

Magical Evenings of Music in October and Beyond

Harvest Moon blesses the new Delmar Session...

New Delmar Slow Session Off to Great Start!

A small but upbeat group of folks gathered this past Thursday at the lovely home of flute player Gary's house in Delmar. Self-led, with lots of questions, discussion and laughter, the group played tunes from the Comhaltas, Old Songs, and Fiddler's Tour lists with and without music as desired.

The group has decided that unless the space is not available for some reason, the session will remain at Gary's house. The alternate place is also in Delmar, which seems to be central for most people in our group.

There is plenty of room for more people to attend, so if  you think you'd like to be part of this relaxed slow session, please join the email list and you'll receive the location and information about the next session. We would love to have you join us! Our next "First Thursday" slow session will be on November 2nd from 7:30-9:00 p.m..

The tune list from our first "First Thursday" slow session was as follows:

  • Planxty Irwin 
  • Kesh Jig
  • Christmas Eve/Father Kelly's (reels, as a set)
  • Fanny Po'er (Planxty Fanny Powers)
  • Swallowtail Jig/Road to Lisdoonvarna (jigs, as a set)
  • Julia Delaney (reel)
  • Man of the House/Miller of Droghan (reels, as a set)

September Slow Session Recap

The last Old Songs Slow Session was held on September 20th. We had the great delight of being joined by our Boston friend Roseanne Santucci, who happened to be in town and stopped by. She is a lovely piper, but this time had only brought her whistle. Luckily, David Pease brought an extra flute, and loaned it to her, so the group was serenaded by four flutes that night!

Our learn-by-ear tune was a great tune I learned at the Catskills from fiddler Nollaig Casey: When the Cock Crows It Is Dawn. An internet search showed lots of people playing it as a jig (6/8), but it's so much cooler when played as a slide (12/8).

Our round robin play list was as follows:

  • Spotted Dog / Kinnegad Slashers (jigs, as a set)
  • Blarney Pilgrim / Cook in the Kitchen (jigs, as a set - Boston set)
  • Miller of Droghan (reel)
  • Christmas Eve / Father Kelly's #2 (known as Rossmore Jetty) (reels, CCE set)
  • Mickey Callahan's / Humours of Tullycrine (hornpipes, as a set - East Clare set)
  • Promenade (hop jig) - Sue Bippus showed us a dance she learned from flute player/sean nos dancer Michael Turbridy to the tune
  • Lark in the Morning (big jig)

What a lovely solid evening of tunes! More of you should come and join in! We WILL play tunes from the CCE list if you introduce them.

Our Next Slow Session - Wednesday, October 18

Our next Old Songs Slow Session will be held on the third Wednesday of October from 7:30-9:00 p.m. David Pease will lead the session. As always, $4 requested donation for lights/air/heat/copies if needed/desired.

Music from the past few sessions is not loaded up to the Google Drive folder yet but it will be soon. I'll put a note up when it's there. (p.s. the November Old Songs slow session will be on Wed., November 15. Save the date.)

Hope to see you out at the next session!

My Best to the Family,


Friday, September 29, 2017

First Thursday Slow Session

New Off-Site Slow Session begins Thursday, October 4, 2017

First Offsite Slow Session: Thursday, October 5 from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m.

The newest addition to our slow session family is the off-site First Thursday slow session. It will be held each month at a house in Delmar. We have two hosts who have offered to open their homes to us. The location will depend on the availability of the host. The format is simply "Play Tunes Slowly". No teaching, no history unless you want to share where you got a tune, round robin - here's your chance to bring or share a tune and/or play one or more off the lists, no cost to attendees.

Please contact Hilary for the location:

Our Next Old Songs Slow Session: Wednesday, October 18th from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Our next regular Old Songs Slow Session will be held on the Third Wednesday at the Old Songs Community Arts Center. The format for this regular session will remain the same. It will start with "learn-by-ear" tune and then we'll go around the circle picking/playing tunes from our lists. Cost is $4 for heat/lights, etc.

I'm so excited to have two (actually three if you count the popular CCE Slow Session held on the Third Sunday in Albany) sessions going now. Join us for friendly people and fun tunes.

Hope to see you there!


Monday, September 18, 2017

September Slow Session Wed., Sept. 20!

What's Up, Peeps?

Almost time for pumpkins? As long as we're not decorating for Christmas yet!

It's been an odd "end of summer" - suddenly we're nearly into the end of September and wearing short sleeves. I don't know what Wednesday will be like, but at the Old Songs Community Arts Center, we'll be comfortable no matter what.

Come join us for some trad Irish tunes. Last month we learned a Slip Jig by ear - Nollaig Casey called it "Last Night's Fun", but Sue Bippus found it listed as "Wink and She'll Follow". Sue played a slightly different slip jig that she learned from Kevin Crawford. Recordings will be in the Google Drive by Wednesday.

August Tunes

Some of the tunes we played in round robin (thank you Nancy Crowther) were: 

Boys of Blue Hill (hornpipe)
Lark in the Morrning (jig)
Maid Behind the Bar (reel)
Maloney's Wife (jig)
Man of the House (reel)
Ships Are Sailing (reel)
The Spotted Dog (jig)
Wink and She'll Follow (slip jig)

If anyone remembers what else we played, let me know!

CCE Tune Set & New List

My apologies - I was wrong about the Comhaltas set for this month. Nancy let me know that it was in fact Christmas Eve/Father Kelly's - two lovely reels. We will play these as well!

Colleen handed out a NEW TUNE LIST. I put it in the Google Drive.

Wednesday's Plan

So, on Wednesday, September 20th from 7:30-9:00 p.m., as always, we'll have a learn-by-ear tune, we'll play the CCE Set (Christmas Eve/Father Kelly's), and then we'll do our round robin. Would someone like to volunteer to keep track of what tunes we play during Round Robin? It would be such a huge help!

See you soon,


Friday, September 1, 2017

Dance Workshop, Slow Sesh and More...

It is dance music, after all...                                                      photo by Neal Warshaw
Hey, Hi, Howdy, friends! Can you believe it is already September 1st? I'm in denial, or I would be if the weather didn't absolutely insist that it is fall in full swing.

I'm just checking in here with a few beginning-of-the-month announcements! Most important of all - there is a sean-nos (old style Irish) dance workshop being held in Albany on Friday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. The teacher is amazing and it will be a ton of fun! Please check it out, print a flyer and share!

I hope that those visiting the blog through Old Songs will take a moment to consider coming to any of the following events:


Friday, Sept. 22, 7 p.m.: Sean-nos Dance Workshop

Irish wooden flute player Sue Bippus has coordinated to bring Rebecca McGowan, her Sean Nos dance teacher from Boston, to Albany to give a workshop this month. Comhaltas and the Irish American Association are sponsoring the sean-nos dance workshop on Friday, September 22, from 7:00-8:30 pm at 375 Ontario Street, Albany.

As Sue explained to us at the August session, sean-nos dancing is more like improvisation than set- or step-dancing where the steps are choreographed. You learn several types of "steps" and then put them together in the way that suits you and the music to make your own dance. She suggests that you wear comfortable shoes with smooth soles. You don't need to buy tap shoes or have anything special. If you have questions, feel free to contact Sue directly at



Sunday, Sept. 3: Hooley on the Hudson, Memorial Park on the Rondout, Kingston, NY

Our friends Toss the Feathers (Amy Schoch, Dave "Banjo" Smith, and Liam O'Neill will be on the trad stage at 2:30 pm followed by Dylan Foley and Dan Gurney at 5:00 pm at the Hooley on the Hudson in Kingston, NY. Go see them if you can! It's a FREE event! for more info.


Sunday, Sept. 17, 2 p.m.: CCE Slow Session 

CCE will be starting up their regular meetings again in September on Sunday, Sept. 16. They hold their meetings/sessions on the third Sunday of each month at the Capital District Irish American Association (formerly known as the Albany Hibernian Hall) at 375 Ontario Street, Albany, NY.

In the hope of getting some more slow session participants to stay a little longer to join the regular session, they will be playing some of the tunes that have been played in the slow session. For September, the "transitional" set of tunes is Father Kelly's/Silver Spear! Give it a practice and stay for the start of the regular session. And hey - the gang in the regular session plays most of the tunes we have played in the Old Songs Slow Session! You can play Spotted Dog, or Ships are Sailing or Mickey Callahan's! Or any of the tunes in our folders on Slow Session Google Drive!

The Slow Session is led by Colleen O'Sullivan and runs from 2-3 p.m. and the regular session runs from 3-6 p.m. It's free and all are welcome.

Wednesday, Sept. 20, 7:30 p.m.: Old Songs Slow Session

The Old Songs Irish Slow Session is held at the Old Songs Community Arts Center, 37 S. Main, Voorheesville on the third Wednesday of every month, weather permitting. We start the evening at 7:30 p.m. with a Learn-by-Ear tune of the month. Even if you don't learn well or quickly by ear, the best thing for developing your ear is to come and listen and give it a try. 

We then move on to a round robin - pick a tune from the lists (go to the link to the Google Drive) or a common session tune and we'll play it through all together a bunch.

Led by fiddler Hilary Schrauf. $4 to Old Songs for heat/air/lights/copies. 

To look at lists and past tunes: Slow Session Google Drive

Hope to see you all soon! Enjoy your long weekend...

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Old Songs Slow Session - Wed., August 16 at 7:30

It's Not "Fair" - Summer's Almost Over!

Making your own music in summer is magic! (photo credit:
We'll be holding our monthly slow session tomorrow, Wednesday, August 16. Join us for a "learn by ear" tune and our round robin. Pick some Irish tunes for us to play in the group! Review the popular tune list  or the Comhaltas/Old Songs tune lists for ideas.

Hope to see you on Wednesday evening upstairs at Old Songs Community Arts Center, 37 South Main, Voorheesville.



Wednesday, July 12, 2017



So, hey there music buddies! I'm just taking a brief respite from fiddle and concertina classes to pop my head up for air and say that next week we will have our first ever July slow session (or maybe we've had one in the past, but I honestly don't remember).

Mark your calendars for Wednesday, July 19 at 7:30 PM for a fun evening of Irish tunes. 

Send me some ideas of tunes you'd like to learn: hilary (dot) schrauf (at) gmail (dot) com.

Click over to the Google Drive to pick up the last two learn by ear tunes:

MAY: Spotted Dog Jig (A)
JUNE: Mickey Callahan's Hornpipe (Em)

In the meantime, I'm at Catskills Irish Arts Week in East Durham. It is a wonderful week chock full of music and dance and art and language classes, lectures, dances, sessions, CD launch parties, and main stage concerts - all capped off with a day-long music and dance festival on Saturday, July 15.


Hope to see you next week!



Tuesday, June 20, 2017

June Slow Session NEXT Week

Come to the Old Songs Festival this Weekend! June 24-25-26, 2017

Next Slow Session Wed., June 28

Hiya lads! Long time no talk. I've been all over the East Coast playing music and meeting people. I'm back now and it's time to prep for the Old Songs Festival. 

In the interest of keeping the chaos to a minimum, we decided to hold the slow session next Wednesday instead of this Wednesday. We have too much going on out at the Altamont Fairgrounds getting ready for this year's Old Songs Festival - the slow session would fall right in the middle of our set-up shift.

Want to Help Out the Festival? Volunteer!

On the plus side, if you're thinking of coming to the festival, can lift moderately heavy things and are willing to volunteer this Wednesday or Thursday evening (from 6-9 PM) or Sunday afternoon/evening, our Old Songs Grounds Crew could really use you. In an unusual turn of events, we are down to half of our regular crew size. Many hands make light work, so if you're interested in helping out, give me a call at 518-424-8701 (mobile). Bonuses? You get an awesome festival t-shirt at a discounted cost, and you get into the festival in exchange for your help on our crew.

See You Next Wednesday, if not before!


To volunteer on Grounds Crew or get more info, call 518-424-8701 (mobile)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tunes Tomorrow...

Let's Play Some Tunes at Old Songs!

Festival Season is Coming! Yay - Outdoor Music!
The May Old Songs Slow Session will be held on Wednesday evening, May 17, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. We'll be starting off as always with a teaching tune (learn-by-ear), and we'll play a few of the tunes we had on the list from earlier this month. Then we'll be doing Round Robin. New folks should check out our lists (click on "recent tunes" and "get all the tunes" on the menu above) and pick out a few tunes for us to play together. You are always welcome to send me ideas for new tunes for us to add! You can reach me at hilary.schrauf [AT] gmail-dot-com.

Hope to see you on Wednesday evening! 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Slow Session This Wednesday 4/19/17

Sometimes It Is Enough to Just Play.

It's OK to just be with the music...
Each month, I try to send you some new tunes. This month, I'll direct you to the Google Drive. Pay it a visit. Check out all the tunes I've uploaded. Some have chords, most don't. There are a few audio files, but not many. It's an attempt at capturing some of the tunes we've worked on over the years.

Nancy requested a couple of tunes, but Google seems to be giving me some trouble tonight, so I will upload on Tuesday mid-day and send out the info to everyone.

See you Wednesday evening, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Old Songs Community Arts Center.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Slow Session Cancelled for March 15, 2017


No Slow Session in March

When the Voorheesville CSD is closed, so is Old Songs. Therefore I am cancelling the Old Songs Irish Slow Session for tomorrow. Besides, I'm not sure I'll be able to get out of my driveway until next week.

I hope you are all faring well in this weather. Please take care and remember that the Albany CCE Session (slow and fast) will be held on Sunday, March 19th at 2:30 p.m. at the Capital District Irish Center, 375 Ontario Street, Albany, NY 12208. Learning session at 2:30 p.m. followed by regular session at 3:30 pm. People attending the sessions are encouraged to bring snacks to share. Admission is free. 

I'll see you in April for the next trad Irish slow session on April 19th.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!



Monday, March 13, 2017

The Snowy Path...

What Wicked Weather This Way Comes?

As I write this blog post, the sun is shining outside. It's brutally cold, but the sun is shining. By this time tomorrow, it will probably look like the photo above. I guess we always say this, but doesn't it seem like this winter has been very weird? 70 degree days followed by below-zero cold snaps and then right back up again! The flowers and trees must be as confused as we are. If you made it out to the St. Patrick's Day parades this past weekend, more power to you! Eric and I were traipsing around the area playing music all weekend but all that happened INSIDE.

Professional Hazards Can Be Fun!

Sorry I missed you all the last two weeks, but the days were crazy and I just didn't have time to blog. I think that's the hazard of being an Irish musician during St. Patrick's month. The good news is that once this craziness is done we can keep on going with our tunes and our craic!

Wednesday: Impending Doom or Just Another Winter Day?

I'm really looking forward to Wednesday, but it's hard to tell what the weather will be like and whether or not the roads or the parking lot will be clear enough for us to brave the elements. I will decide whether or not to cancel by 6:00 PM on Wednesday and I will post here, in my email list and on the Old Songs Facebook page, so stay tuned.

First Things First!

First of all, Happy St. Patrick's Day! If you are looking for something to do around this time, fiddler/singer Padraig Timoney will be playing at Noon at Stoney's Irish Grill in Schenectady, at 4 PM at the Pig n' Whistle in Burnt Hills, and at the Rivers Casino & Resort at 9 PM (with Emerald Dawn) that day. Also, The New World Celtic Band (Ian Warpole, Sarah Underhill and special guest Aldo Lavaggi) will be playing at New World Home Cooking on Friday. Tickets are essential - get them on Facebook or call the restuarant. The Comhaltas ( Session will be held this coming Sunday, March 19 from 2:30 to 6:00 p.m. Also, announcing CD Release Party/Concert featuring Copley Street (fiddler Nathan Gourley and piper Joey Abarta) on Friday, March 24th at 7:30 PM at The Hangar, 675 River Street, Troy. A session will follow the concert. 
Website:   Youtube video:

Plans for Wednesday

OK,assuming we meet - we will start, as always, with our learn-by-ear tune. Then on to our new tune "The Flowers of Red Hill", a revisiting of last month's tunes, followed by a round-robin. Please think about what tunes you'd like to do. Take a look at the tune repository and the old lists. Work on the new tunes without sheet music if you can. I've included sound files for most of the new tunes, so you have that to start with.

So...assuming the weather is good, I hope to see you:

Old Songs Trad Irish Slow Session
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
Old Songs Community Arts Center
37 South Main St., Voorheesville, NY 12186
Questions? Hilary at 518-424-8701 or



Monday, February 27, 2017

February Wrap-Up

A quick look back at February's fun at the monthly Old Songs trad Irish Slow Session.

Image of an Irish colleen in a shawl by Photoglob Z├╝rich, reprinted by Detroit Publishing Co. [Public domain], <a href="">via Wikimedia Commons</a>

Yeah, I went there. It's been a crazy week. Crazy month, really. We've looked at reels, polkas, hop jigs and an even a practice tip. I've got three things for you this week:

  1. the link to Flowers of Red Hill PDF (sorry, Gary told me I linked both links to the audio file. But it was really nice playing by Paul, wasn't it?)
  2. an audio file of February's Learn-by-Ear tune, the Clare Polka #1, and
  3. a question that I'd love to hear your answer to...

Flowers of Red Hill

Here's the link to the sheet music. (PDF) I'm really looking forward to playing this tune with you next month.

Clare Polka #1

I did a little more close listening to some of the recordings I have for The Clare Polka, and discovered that I had been playing a few notes differently from the recordings. It's a G tune, so you start on a "middle" G, and go up from there. The most notable difference is in the A part, second phrase. I WAS playing a DED but I believe I am playing a DCD instead. (That's a C natural, I believe). Note that the first phrase in the A part is NOT syncopated.

Here's the link to the audio file (m4a) of the Clare Polka

And here's a great video that John found on YouTube:

This fellow has some pretty nice versions of tunes on his channel. It's just solo concertina and the tunes are played really clean. 

Question of the Month

Hey, gang. I'm really curious about what methods (tricks? bribes? treats?) you all use to get yourselves to practice. And stay motivated to practice. Would you share with me? Or all of us? You can email me at or share in the comments below! I'm really interested - it can be hard to stay motivated, and hard to keep up with the repertoire when we're all so busy.

I hope I hear from some of you!

Happy Monday!


Our next Trad Irish Slow Session will be held on Wednesday, March 15 at 7:30 PM.

I'm working on securing a location for our First Wednesday Slow Session. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday Re-Cap

This week's Monday Inspo Blog Post is last week's trad Irish Slow Session in Review: Polkas and Playback...[READ MORE]

Did You Get Your Shot for Polka Season?

What? Joe Bane AGAIN?

As you know, I'm what I like to call "Clare-nerdy" and I keep bringing these tunes I learned from folks in County Clare. The "Clare Polkas" (a/k/a Joe Bane's or Bill Malley's) seemed to be popular on my trip to East Clare this year. And yes, here's Joe Bane again! I don't know why. I'll try to share something about him in an upcoming post.

Why did I bring a polka for the "learn by ear" tune for last week's February Irish Slow Session? Glad you asked! (You didn't really care, did you?) Firstly because I've always wanted to learn those tunes, and secondly so I could torture you all (of course).

Q. Why was the River Shannon Invented?

Polkas are pretty much associated with counties Cork, Kerry and Limerick, according to Fintan Vallely, and also the Cork-Kerry border area called Sliabh Luachra (say SHLEEVE LOO kruh). You don't hear a lot of polkas in the east of county Clare, but go out to the western side to Miltown Malbay where Jackie Daly lives and you'll hear plenty. Sadly, I couldn't find a recording of Jackie playing them. Listen here to Paddy O'Brien and friends playing Joe Bane's #1 in G major (really nice bouzouki work on this track):

Start at :50 seconds to hear Joe Bane's (p.s. Sue and John, you were right about the more square rhythm of the first few phrases of the tune)

On the subject of Polkas, Fintan Vallely also had this to say:

A popular dance form which was developed in Bohemia in the early 1800s, gained popularity and spread epidemically all through Europe. It reached England by the middle of the century, and there was called the 'German polka'...Introduced to Ireland in the late 1800s, two distinctly different kinds are now found - the simple polka of Sliabh Luachra music, and the 'double' polka associated with such as John McKenna.
       - The Companion to Irish Traditional Music (1st Ed.), Fintan Vallely

A. To keep the Polkas out of Clare!

So, how in the heck did this polka break into county Clare? No clue, because I've heard it said that the River Shannon was invented to keep the polka out of Clare. They probably just forgot to get their polka shots to keep the epidemic under control... Just a joke, folks, just a joke...

[Read all the way to the bottom for a special surprise]

It's all just to say "Thank You" to you all for going with me on this! It was really fun to work on the tune, and I'd like to continue working on it some more next month, if you all don't mind.

Anyway, Moving On...

I'd like to recap what we did last week at the February session so there's some institutional memory for it! Also, thank you very much to Paul for giving us next month's Reel of the Month! Keep reading to find out what it is...

Learning Tunes

Learn by Ear Tune: Clare Polka #1 (Joe Bane's Polka/Bill Malley's Polka)
Promenade - This was so much fun! You all did so well. Here's a clip of us playing it together
Reel of the Month: Man of the House sheet music w/chords (PDF)

Tunes We Played in February 2017

Clare Polka #1
Promenade (Hop Jig)
Father Kelly's (Reel)
Kinnegad Slashers (Jig)
Mug of Brown Ale (January Learn by Ear Tune)
Connaughtman's Rambles (Jig)
Torn Jacket (Reel)
Trip to Parliament (Reel)
Boys of Blue Hill (Hornpipe)
Man of the House sheet music w/chords (PDF) (February's Reel of the Month)
Merry Blacksmith (Reel)

Question of the Week: Are Polkas Easy or Hard?

Post in the comments below! Please send me tune suggestions! You can get me at I'm loving that you guys have cool tunes you want to work on. Thanks for sharing them.

If you haven't come to our slow session yet, but you've been reading the blog or you are on the email list, we'd love for you to come join us! We're having a lot of fun learning one tune by ear and then playing our learning tunes and finally ending up choosing music from our repertoire. There's a chair for you in the circle so come join us!

All I can say is "Keep on playing!" and...

Happy Monday,


You Found It! Here's the special surprise!

March's Reel of the Month - Flowers of Red Hill Sheet Music w/chords (PDF)
Flowers of Red Hill M4A (melody only)

Monday, February 13, 2017

This Week: The Realz about Reels? And Slow permitting!


Getting Ready for the February Session?

Hey there! Here's a a firehose of musing about reels just in time for the Old Songs Irish Slow Session this Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. 

Hey, Tune-Buddies! 

What a crazy weather week - 50 degree weather followed by tons of snow...followed by tons more snow. Of course we only get winter AFTER Punxatawny Phil popped his head out of the ground to tell us "six more weeks of winter." I guess what he meant to say was, "Six weeks of winter starting....NOW!"

What's with the Obsession with Reels? 

Of all the types of Irish "chunes" there are to play, the reel is the one people tell me they have the most trouble with. And I get it. I do. Some reels just make sense and others...well... If I could avoid ever playing The Salamanca, I would. In fact, if you asked me to play it right now, whatever came out of the fiddle would be a hot mess and not sound anything like the tune is supposed to sound. 

A friend of mine has played Irish concertina for a few years. She loves jigs. They make sense to her. "I don't ever get lost playing a jig." But reels? "Well, it's like you're going upstairs to get something. You get halfway upstairs and forget why you were going up there. So you stop for a second in the middle and then forget what you were doing altogether."

Playing a reel is like going halfway upstairs and forgetting why you were going up there in the first place.

Her trick? She tries learning the tune as if it were played in twos instead of fours: one and two and one and two and....  Like I mentioned last week, there are words that perfectly illustrate the reel rhythm: rutabaga rutabaga, for instance, or as a piper friend says "animated alligator animated alligator." We are not alone in our confusion around reels. Seems like everyone has this question at some point. Listen to what fiddler Natalie MacMaster has to say about it.  

Natalie MacMaster explains the difference between a jig and a reel:

Jump to 3:03 to hear Natalie's answer 

Where do Reels come from?

Brilliant Donegal fiddle player Liz Doherty, in Fintan Vallely's "The Companion to Irish Traditional Music," explains the reel as "...2. The most popular tune-type within the Irish tradition. In 4/4 time it consists largely of quaver movement with an accent on the first and third beats of the bar. ...It is likely that the reel originated in France in the early 1500s as the haye. It was being played as 'reill' in Scotland in 1590 and its modern form was brought to Ireland from there in the late 1700s. Many of the older reels in the tradition are borrowings from the Scottish tradition and the tunes are often found in more than one variant in different parts of the country...."

How do I love to play a reel? Let me count the ways...

There are quite a few ways to play a reel: smooth, rolling, jaunty - some of it is personal style, and some is regional tradition. Here, Slaibh Luachra musicians Matt Cranitch, Jackie Daly and Conal O'Grada play a set of reels with a slight bit of a bounce. Lovely stuff:

Can you play it straight?

My first teacher was (still is) a huge fan of The Bothy Band. He didn't give me the philosophy of playing reels, he just taught me the reels. Speed notwithstanding, listen to the flow of the music. The reels flow like rushing water - onetwothreefour onetwothreefour - there's a drive to this approach, right? 

Punch It, Willie!

Johnny Doherty is a brilliant Donegal fiddler who plays reels with a more single-bow style associated with the north: and  

And favorite...

French-born Irish fiddler Patrick Ourceau has won the hearts of fiddle players and music lovers the world over. Can you tell why? His music just floats, and is full of magic and lift (and Laura and Josh ain't half bad either!). 

What's Your Favorite/Least Favorite Reel?

Thanks for checking all this out! I hope you found something to love in here. If you are so inclined, share why you love or hate reels in the comments below! Could you tell us which reel is your favorite or least favorite? 

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

Happy Monday,


February's Reel of the Month - Man of the House sheet music w/chords (PDF)
Man of the House mp3 with chords (NOTE: the chords should fairly closely match what's on the PDF)

Monday, February 6, 2017

Reels and Hop Jigs and Chords, Oh My!

Some Tunes for a February Night...

A little musing about types of tunes below. And the tunes that inspired the musing. Grab them today. We'll be using them next Wednesday, Feb. 15 at the Slow Session.

Hey, Tune-Buddies! I hope you had a great week since I last posted...
Was it my imagination, or did we play almost entirely jigs last month at Slow Session? I think if I hadn't introduced the Man of the House reel that night, we might have played entirely in 6/8 time! That's all over now. Time for some weirdo tunes: a hop jig and reel. I know, I can hear you all scream in horror! Read on for scintillating details...

A Hip to the Hop to the Hippity Hop Jig?

At the end of group last month, Susan B. introduced "Promenade", which she called a "Hop Jig." She said she learned it from Boston flute-player Shannon Heaton. I first learned it from the playing of Sligo fiddler Kevin Burke. Curious about the origins of the tune, I did some poking around, and here's what I found out about hop jigs in general, and Promenade in particular.

Hop Jigs, Generally

While has its faults, I often find it a perfectly acceptable starting point for learning tunes. And this time, I dug around and had a look at what everyone was saying about hop jigs and slip jigs. Some people said that hop jigs were basically slip jigs in 9/8, some said hop jigs should be played in 12/8 like a slide, others insisted they were "single jigs." The best description in the whole lot was a comment by "Gord" that was reposted by Virginia flute player Matthew Olwell:
"It’s all about where you place the emphasis. In a slip jig (which will be MOSTLY groups of three quavers) the rhythm will be ‘pineapple, pineapple, PINEapple’, while in a hop jig it’s ‘HUMPty, humpty, humpty’, or even ‘HUMPty, humpty, pineapple’. In fact, the pineapples might appear more or less anywhere but they’ll be outnumbered by the humpties. 
I’d also add that hop jigs tend to be played faster, which is fine if you’re talking humpties, but you do have to be careful with your pineapples."

The Tune: "Promenade" 

The tune "Promenade" was actually named by Kevin Burke. Prior to his rediscovery of the tune on an old Folkways record played by Clare piper Willie Clancy and Sligo fiddler Michael Gorman (recorded in London), the tune was known as "Coleman's" or "Coleman's Slip Jig."  Blarneystar (Don Meade, I believe) posted this on

This tune was made popular as the title track of a Kevin Burke/Micheal O Domhnaill Green Linnet LP. Kevin picked up the tune from a ten-inch Folkways disc recorded in London in the 1950s by the piper Willie Clancy and fiddler Michael Gorman. The liner notes described it as the music for the "promenade" or first figure of a set dance once common in south Sligo, and even provided a description and diagram of the dance. There was no real title on the disc, but Kevin called it "Promenade" for this reason. It has been published as "Coleman’s," but was never recorded by Michael Coleman, only by Gorman.

So much back and forth. All I know is it's a great tune. Click the links below to dig in a little deeper:
Here's Kevin and Micheal playing the tune in Emin I think.
Here's a fiddle lesson of Promenade by Kevin Burke
Listen to Susan's beautiful flute version 
Here's an mp3 version of Promenade (amin) with the chords (NOTE: the chords may not match what's on the PDF)
Here's the Promenade sheet music w/chords (PDF)

Like I said before, the gang has a definite preference for jigs. Here's the thing: reels are groovy. They're cool. They're sexy. They're a little bit rock 'n roll. Here's a quick tip: if you can say "rutabaga" to the's a reel. Try it!

February's Reel of the MonthMan of the House sheet music w/chords (PDF)
Man of the House mp3 with chords (NOTE: the chords should fairly closely match what's on the PDF)

Happy Monday , Gang!


Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday Practice Tips

Good morning, friends! I hope you had a great weekend. Did you play tunes? We did. Eric and I pulled out the button accordion and concertina and went over the very few tunes we have, including "Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part"! In working with a new instrument, I find I have to make myself aware of a different posture and a different approach to the tunes (that's a discussion for another day). That got me thinking about practicing. Even a short ten minute practice can leave you feeling "creaky" if you aren't paying attention to your posture or your technique.

“Strain and fatigue are often caused by rigidity. The more you allow your body to move and breathe, the greater your stamina.” – You Are Your Instrument, Julie Lyonn Lieberman

How many times have you finished up a practice session or rehearsal and struggled to get up out of the chair or had to stretch or massage your jaw/hands/shoulders? Chances are that when you are practicing, you are tensing up as you focus on intonation, technical mastery, or just memorizing a tune. 
Make breathing, gentle movement, and mindfulness a part of your practicing and you soon train yourself into a more dynamic yet relaxed way of playing.  A great way to start sorting that out is to play/practice one tune or set and then stop for a minute. Scan your body to see if there is any discomfort. Is my neck sore? My jaw tight? Hands tensed? Shoulders hunched? Did I forget to breathe during the tune(s)? If the answer to any of those questions is "Yes", you have your marching orders. As you play the tune or set of tunes, scan your body again for signs of tension. When you discover one, slowly breathe in and out as you play and make a conscious effort to loosen your grip, straighten your spine, unclench your jaw, etc. Work with gravity not against it. 
Have a great week!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

January Session a Success!

A Joyful Evening of Music and Chat...

On Wednesday evening, January 25, 2017, a small group of traditional Irish musicians gathered in the basement office of the Old Songs Community Arts Center to share some Irish dance tunes. Old Songs, an arts organization that presents concerts, music classes, and an annual summer festival, hosts "Make Your Own Music" nights each month "...intended to foster community participating in music making." Make Your Own Music nights include an Open Mic, an African drum class, a contra dance tune group, and a meeting of the Capital Region music group "The Pickin' Singin' Gathering" - a group of folks who love to sing and play guitars, banjos, mandolins, fiddles and more.

Also part of the MYOM nights, the Traditional Irish Slow Session is generally held on the third Wednesday of each month with the idea of learning some new tunes, working on tunes attendees already know and just mainly getting comfortable playing together in a group. Everyone is welcome to come and bring a tune they'd like to share. Tunes from each month are listed on the blog along with a link to the music.

Last night, eight musicians of varying levels of accomplishment on an assortment of instruments (to be honest, mainly flutes and fiddles) arrived at Old Songs around 7:30 and arranged themselves in a loose circle. The leader started the evening by teaching a tune by ear. "I chose 'Mug of Brown Ale' because it has quite a bit of repeated parts and isn't too complicated," said session leader Hilary Schrauf. "People seemed to pick it up pretty quickly and it got us all warmed up and on the same page before getting into the heart of the evening."

The group continued with a tune called "Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part," which was introduced by one of the group members last fall. Next up was the Foxhunter's Slip Jig. There was some discussion about the sheet music version and how it differed a bit from how people actually play the tune. After playing the tune a number of times, one musician noted that there is a reel by the same name. "If you only went by the name," she joked, "you'd think there was only one tune. Aside from the fact that one is a slip jig and the other is a reel...and they are in different keys...and I know one of them but not the other...!" The group burst into hearty laughter.

As is customary in sessions, it was time to take a little break and have a bit of a chat. While in pubs, the conversation tends to be local and gossipy, the leader instead asked a new member of the group how he came to play the music and how he chose his instrument. This prompted a bit of round robin with people telling a little bit about how they came to the music and their instruments and where they first started out. After a nice interval, the rest of the evening was then spent with everyone selecting a tune they wanted the group to play. On the list were The Carraroe and The Rambling Pitchfork, Connaughtman's Rambles, Road to Lisdoonvarna, Banish Misfortune, Man of the House and Woman of the House, Cooley's Reel, Kinnegad Slashers and The Haunted House,

As the evening wrapped up, the leader asked for tune suggestions for February's gathering. Among the planned tunes: A hop jig called "Promenade", a replay of "Kinnegad Slashers", "Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part" and "The Foxhunter's Slip Jig", as well as a promise to bring a reel for the group to work on by ear in February. The group chatted congenially while putting instruments away and headed off into the night until next month's session.

The next scheduled Traditional Irish Slow Session is Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. $4 suggested donation goes to Old Songs for heat/lights/copies. Questions: Call Hilary at 518-424-8701 or email 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Irish Slow Session January 25

New Year, New Tunes?

Hey, gang! Hope you had wonderful holidays and that you're looking forward to our first slow session of the new year tomorrow, Wednesday, January 25, 2017.

In thinking about what you might like to do at the session or get out of it, I asked John Conway what you'd worked on at the Comhaltas session this month. By way of explanation, he gave me the spots for The Foxhunter's Slip Jig from the Comhaltas Slow Session, which we will play tomorrow. I also appreciate that Paul Derby brought the jig Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part in November. We'll play that tomorrow too. In addition, I'll have a tune for us to work on by ear, and we'll go around the circle, so bring a tune or two that you'd like to start.

For the new year, I want to encourage everyone to bring a device that you can record on, whether it is a tape recorder, a mini-disc recorder, a phone, a tablet, a computer. I don't care. I want you to be recording tunes that you don't know and listening back to them to try and get them in your head without the sheet music. My expectation is that as we go through the season, you'll be starting to play more tunes by ear and from memory rather than from the page.

As to tomorrow night, I believe that the contra dance group will be at the building for their regular date tomorrow evening, so we will be downstairs in the office area starting at 7:30. I'm looking forward to seeing you all.

See you Wednesday!