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Jammed Up and Out

Posted by harwilli55 on Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wow.....this past week, I have been to a jam or seisuin every night, except for last Monday. 


Sunday's I tend to go to the weekly OT jam at a small bar/restaurant to play OT music in a jam lead by a most excellent husband wife team.  It is invariably well attended, the stage full, and the music is played up to speed tempo's.  Since they have returned from Clifftop, the new tune introductions have come fast and we have all been working to learn them during the week. I tend to split time between the fiddle and mandolin. The husband who leads the jam is a mandolin teacher. There are some tunes which it is just a blast to play note for note with him....such as Possum Up The Gum Stump.  This is the jam, where I get to really sit beside experienced fiddlers which is really helping me to develop the timing, rythmn, and bowings I want . Sometimes, I will just set the fiddle on my lap, to listen to what the fiddler next to me is doing. There is no better way I have found that pushes me forward than to get excited hearing and watching.

Tuesday night was a monthly OT jam that meets near my parents neighborhood. They love to come and listen for a while....and of course to see their eldest son play.  This jam has gotten rather large, often with 25 people playing in a very large circle.  The skill levels range from beginner to experienced.  Most of the time, I really enjoy this jam, but worry I am becoming a snob, because it can get too slow which takes the music out of the, then I remember, that I was needing that slow time....not that long ago....and hope that I am contributing to the growth and enjoyment of someone else who will develop a love for this music.

Wednesday night , went to the twice monthly seisuin at a downtown pub.  We have a fairly small group of regulars who play in other seisuins that will go down there.  This one is run more like a traditional seisuin. No calling out the name or key of a tune, any individual can just take off and the others will attempt to follow. Though I must say, that unless, everyone has the same repertoire for a majority of the tunes to be played, it becomes messy.  I use this seisuin less for acutally playing, and more to develop my ear/hand learning on the fly ability.  I am really struggling with that, even though I know that repetition is the key to getting can be frustrating  at times.  I am convinced that being able to join in jams and seisuins, developing the skills to learn with out the dots is where I really want to go.  I am getting more, but still the successes are fewer than the actual get-it's !!! 

Thursday - Thanksgiving was a fun exciting family gathering.  My brother and his wife host every year for family's, friends, and lost souls( such as I). Years ago, after a Thanksgiving dinner, my sis-in-law Vicki, who is a classically trained violinist, suggested that she and I play a couple of songs, or tunes together.  I only played guitar ( very badly too I might add) at the time. The ensuing train wreck prompted us to start meeting for two hours Sunday afternoons to work on playing together.  We were much more sucessful the following year.  Along the way, as we continued our Sunday afternoon practices, we started having some friends and the children come practice ( my niece included). We started playing for some church functions, then got invited to play for the local historical and arts communities. We became an official group playing for paying gigs.  Every Thanksgiving saw more music, better music, and the expectation of music :-D This Thanksgiving, the children of the children who practiced with us, are now participating and learning to play.  It was a wonderful evening of song, OT tunes, and Irish Trad.

Friday, I was invited to a house jam with some really good....I mean really really good OT musicians.  I perhaps, wondered how in the world I could fit in and was nervous a bit, even though I know everyone, have played with everyone, and learned from everyone of them. But this was smaller, and I knew it would be full speed ahead, and they would be playing tunes I knew not.  Once I got there, and we sat down to play, the nervousness melted, and the joy of playing tightknit well paced full dance music was incredibly satisfying. Thank goodness, there were enough excellent fiddlers to hide behind, so that when I had to struggle learning something I was not familiar with, it did not affect the sound....or at least I hope it didn't !!! We played for hours and sent everyone home happy, exhausted, and closer as friends that went beyond the music.

Saturday night, we played our second seisuin at a new venue. We had 10 of us jammed in a small corner of the pub.  We rocked the place, had the patrons dancing, and singing the songs when we sang !! The energy was incredible, the group tight, and the camraderie full of laughter, joy, and cheesy jokes !!!  I am really proud of this group, for the majority of us, started two years ago as novices to the Irish Traditional music. I would put this group ( with it's limited repertoire) up against most seisuins I have been too.  We seem to be attracting passerby's from other areas who have heard that it is a seisuin, and they come to play with us, then leave with a smile on their face :-D  We really love that !

Today, Sunday, I am going to the regular weekly OT jam again this afternoon, and so the week comes full circle, with a twist.  Originally, I was invited to a house jam and gospel sing-along, but on Friday night learned that the leader of the Sunday jam, was the professor who taught the daugther of a close friend, who both played in the group Vicki and I started.  Christy, is in the area for a short time, and was excited and wanted to come play with her mentor( professor & my friend) again. So, I will meet her, her banjo boyfriend, her parents to play down at the bar !!

Being out so much this week has been a good exercise learning my strength's and weaknesses playing fiddle.  I've made a lot of gains, especially in repertoire from memory.  I found that I am much better at learning something new, when it is an OT tune, and that I have a lot of learning to do, before that will really work for me with IRTRAD.  I, believe, that some of that, is continuing to learn as many Irish tunes as possible to put in the bank, which will give me experiences to draw upon. The more phrases I know, the more I will hear them in the tunes...sorta thing.  I really am working on holding the bow differently, not choking up, keeping my wrist flexible, and rocking.  My left hand has made incredible gains, but I can still be pretty sloppy. So, I need to work on getting cleaner, clearer, notes, plus, really take a look at the phrases which give me the most trouble....separate them from the tune....and just slow them down till I can play them cleanly.

I also, realize, that I am at a point where lessons need to happen. So, I am considering attempting to find a teacher, that can work with my crazy work schedule. Hopefully, that will happen sometime at the first of the year !!

Happy Holidays FHO members....the discussions here, even though I rarely participate, educate me and propel me to continue learning, and growing.  Thank are a much appreciated part of my life !!!

2 comments on “Jammed Up and Out”

TopCat Says:
Sunday, November 28, 2010 @3:18:54 PM

What a great blog full of interesting news, thanks for sharing that. I'm sure that there must be some great fiddle teachers in/near Richmond, VA? I look forward to reading more of your fiddle adventures.

bj Says:
Monday, November 29, 2010 @6:38:30 AM

Wow, makes me wanna move to Richmond! The action around here is once or twice a week, though I admit I only participate in OT, and could jam more if I wanted to include IT or BG, but just have no real passion for either of those, only OT. I was called out on that recently by someone who straddles the OT/BG fence regularly, and who wants me to come to his BG jams. I told him I'd gladly come if one room was designated for crosstuned fiddlers who didn't wanna play with singers in the key of Bb.

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