The story of a session killer
Sessions have rules, usually polite rules, usually subtle rules, sometimes not so subtle, why is it that some people don’t follow them. Nothing worse than someone overpowering other players in the session, and the results of poor session manners can result in the death of the session.
A true Irish session, one that is Irish tune based and played to do justice to the music and the seamless coordination of their fellow musicians, will have a person in charge. To the new, the uninitiated, or the clueless this leader of the session doesn’t have a badge, a special chair, or a funny hat to point him/her out. In the really good sessions the leader may be so comfortable with the musicians that a nod or pause will start the session in a certain direction. The problems arise in the less than really good sessions where people assume their own rules. Even in a starter session their should be someone who makes suggestions, things like music selection, when different people will start off a tune, and the most important- glaring at someone who doesn’t really know the tune. After all the session is to do justice to the music.
Fine example of trad music
Most will do fine, when you first learn to play go to a slow session. This refers to the beginners session, they take things a bit easier, most will mess up a bit, the tunes are easier to learn and join in with. If you are unsure of the tune you play softly, in the background, teaching your hands to listen to your ears. If you just bull your way through someone else’s tune, you will not make friends. You also would have to be a real inconsiderate jerk to have anyone speak up and tell you directly to stop, most will say things in a more subtle way. ” You might want to listen to the tune a little closer” “are you just beginning to learn Irish music” “I wasn’t sure how the tune went so I just listened a bit” Be sure to know that even though there normally won’t be too many harsh words aimed at you, once you leave the harsh words and ridicule of your actions will fly.
The tough problem is when the session leader doesn’t know the rules or doesn’t take control. When this happens players with talent that practice the courtesy and etiquette of the session are driven away. the session ends up being poorly played tunes and ego driven songs, Pub patrons stop showing up, and inevitably the session ends. A situation like this has just happened at one of my session stops. A perfectly good singing session had been going strong for several years, what was nice was that there were several talented musicians who provided great tunes as well as some background music for a song or two. the session leader moved on and the group I think could have continued on except that a new session leader was ask to take over. Things were a little bumpy, some of the better singers weren’t ask to participate, regular attendees hoped for improvement. One night I witnessed a girl who brought her fiddle and talent to this session and never had an opening to play. There was some session killer of a singer with his folk guitar in hand who dominated the night. In most cases I would have left as most already had, but I wanted to see if he would ever shut up and let this girl play. Finally I could take it no more and from the bar I asked in a slightly loud way if this girl with the fiddle could play a tune, really not the thing to do in a controlled session. The non leader, leader of the session says “oh sure” and she played a lovely reel, but right after she ended Mr. session killer started again. It really was funny except for it being so sad.
After the session starts to break up some of the musicians came over to thank me for speaking up, again something that never happens. We chat for a minute or two, ask if they have any tunes left in them. An after session impromptu session breaks out, two fiddlers, three ballads, a bunch of laughter, and a few pints of guinness, and constant ridicule of the session killer. Which in this case is true as the scuttlebutt is that the session will be ended, kinda tough for the players, singers, and listeners who have gotten used to spending one or two nights a month together.
So don’t be that guy. learn your session rules. Be polite and aware of your fellow musicians. Or you will find yourself shunned from something you surely love.