Session (Irish Folk)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Irish Traditional Music Session in the pub The Old Dubliner Hamburg

In Irish Folk , a session is a relaxed gathering and making music of musicians who have dedicated themselves to traditional Irish music. Sessions mostly take place in traditional Irish pubs, the Irish pubs . In Ireland the terms Irish traditional music session (short: trad session ) or pub session are used. When musicians invite their colleagues and friends to their home, this is usually called a kitchen session .


The session has become such a dominant form of Irish music that many people assume it has a much longer history than it actually does. Irish dance music was mainly played by solo musicians until the late 19th century. With the first sound recordings by Irish emigrants in the USA after 1900, the accompaniment of the melody instrument by piano or guitar spread. The first music groups formed around 1922, and their recordings made up the bulk of Irish music during the shellac era .

In Ireland, commercial céilí bands developed after 1920 , who provided the music for the newly emerging céilí dances . This form of music had little impact on the amateur field.

The session's connection with Irish pubs has a special meaning, both of which played a major role in the development of social life in Ireland after World War II. An exact origin of the pub session cannot be given. Traditional Irish music was played in some pubs on the border between Counties Cork and Kerry as early as the late 1930s, but this was still an exception at the time. In the late 1940s, sessions were common among expats in Irish pubs in England and were brought back to Ireland by returning expats. The session has been popular as a form of music in Ireland since the 1950s .

Originally only pure amateurs played in sessions . After the session became a well-known standard format of Irish music, Irish pub operators began paying one or two musicians to play regularly as the "core" of a session in the 1970s . From this "core" a regular session with additional amateur musicians should develop and make the pub a name as a place for good Irish music.


To an outsider, a session may seem like a random event, but there are controlling factors that regulate the process and the choice of instruments. This includes the respective status of the musicians, whereby musicians with a higher status exercise more control. The status of a musician is determined by his instrument, age, ability and reputation. Irish musician Con Ó'Drisceoil writes in his remarks about his song The Spoons Murder  : " There are some obvious rules ... For example, anyone who wants to join a session should ask permission from the already active members ... and of course you should don't try to play a piece that you don't know. "

The music of the sessions is based on a basic repertoire of tunes . This repertoire is supplemented by new or rarer tunes, which often result in a lively exchange of new melodies. Popular tunes can be incorporated into the standard repertoire of the respective session . Several tunes are combined (as short pieces of music) into a set . A musician with a melody instrument starts a set, the others join in - if they have mastered the respective tune. Each tune in the set is repeated (typically twice). The musician who started the set determines the further course (number of repetitions of a tune, sequence of tunes). Communication is often only done through eye contact, but also by calling out a tune title or just a key for the next tune.

It is not played by notes, but by ear and from the head. A potential fellow musician must at least master a basic repertoire. The music of the sessions has no polyphony , all melody instruments play the same note at the same time, except for decorations ( heterophony ). The common play of all musicians is often interrupted by solo interludes. Songs can be performed by a musician (and possibly accompanied carefully), or players of the Uilleann Pipes are often asked for a solo due to the richness of their instrument.

There are also sessions where almost exclusively songs are sung ( song session or ballad session ).

Other genres of music

The idea of ​​the session is by no means limited to Irish music. It can be found in almost every country that has an active folk music scene. In addition to Ireland, this is particularly the case in England, Scotland, France and Spain. Sessions are also known in jazz, such as jam sessions . The process can be very different.


Barry Foy: Field Guide to the Irish Music Session Second Edition 2008, Frogchart Press Seattle, ISBN 978-0-9817590-1-2

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin : Pocket Guide to Irish Traditional Music , Third Edition, O'Brien Press Ltd., ISBN 978-0-86278-820-9 , pp. 188f
  2. a b c d e f Fintan Vallely (editor): Companion to Irish Traditional Music Second Edition, Cork University Press, ISBN 978-1-85918-450-9 , pp. 610f
  3. ^ A b Ciaran Carson: Irish Traditional Music , Appletree Press Ltd., ISBN 978-0-86281-168-6 , pp. 55fff
  4. The Spoons Murder, Dublin Library. Retrieved September 21, 2015 .
  5. Con Ó'Drisceoil: The Spoons Murder and Other Mysteries , Checkpoint Press 2013, ISBN 978-1-906628-51-2 , p. 24 (quote translated)