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On social playing in ‘trad’ and ‘folk’ sessions


Playing with others in the session where each participant can excite themselves and all around them by participating at their level of ability – each ornamenting and variating and arranging differently to the other – is one of the exceptional glories of Irish music-making – making it unique among traditions and ultimately socially inclusive. A complete stranger can wander into a session in New York and sit with the musicians there and play away as if they had been neighbours for generations. This is the special aspect of the session –

But the ‘folk’ session also has its place and will suit the solo players well. Here everyone offers their ‘party-piece’ to the gathering and each participant takes ‘their turn’ – possibly joined in by the others if the tune or song is known – but it tends to be a session of singers and guitars with the occasional fiddle, flute or accordion – with songs or tunes from a wide variety of sources – country and western music, pop music, music hall, balladry.