Playing in an Irish session – Jericho Cafe Style

JCaT sessionPlaying at a session can be intimidating. It’s scary to start a tune or to hop in on one when you’re a newcomer. Know that you’re not alone and there is something you can do to ease your uncertainty.

Aside from learning the tunes, it helps to know what kind of session it is and what is expected of you as a player. Armed with this knowledge, you may just gain the confidence to start your favorite tune without having to worry about what is appropriate.

Every first and third Thursday of the month, the Jericho Cafe and Tavern plays host to a traditional Irish session open to all Irish musicians. Like all sessions, it has its own flavor. It is designed to be less intimidating and a comfortable place for people of various experiences to share a tune. The intention is to include all who want to play.

Here are some tips about this session directly from the hosts:

  • It’s moderately paced – This is a moderate paced Irish session suitable for advanced beginner to expert musicians. While many of us love bluegrass, Quebecois, old timey, New England or contra dance tunes, this session is focused on traditional Irish music to obtain a cohesive sound and avoid a splintered or disjointed session.
  • It’s specifically Irish music – If you know the tune in Irish style, please join in, and feel free to offer to play a set for us, and we will join in as able. We all share in starting tunes and follow the pace of the person who starts the tune. Please don’t speed up on those who started the tune. We want to encourage players of all levels to feel confident without intimidation or fear.
  • Listen to the music – Listening is as important as playing, sometimes more so. If you are uncertain or unfamiliar with the tune, we encourage you to listen, and not try to “work out the tune” during the session. To maintain a great listening experience for both musicians and the audience, we ask musicians in the session circle not to hold conversations while others are playing.
  • It’s mostly melody instruments – Irish music is primarily melody-driven, so as a group we are judicious with the addition of backup instruments. We have a few accomplished back-up players who can speak to Irish tunings and back up style and are excellent resources. Check in with your session hosts for more information. If you’re unclear who the hosts are, they are the ones typically sitting at the “top of the circle” in the center.

The Jericho session culminated out of a traditional Irish music class taught by Hilari Farrington and Benedict Koehler. Students of the class wanted to share what they learned with a greater audience in a welcoming and supportive environment, so they started a session at On the Rise Bakery in Richmond about five years ago. When the bakery closed Kevin, at the Jericho Cafe, invited the hosts to bring the session to his new establishment.

And so the session lives on. Happy playing!


2 thoughts on “Playing in an Irish session – Jericho Cafe Style

  1. Next session in Middlebury is May 6th wednesday at 51 main. This session will continue in September. The Waybury Session is May 20th. This session is expected to go through the summer. Thanks to every one who have come and played or listened and made these possible!

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