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 

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