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Fairhope Irish Trad Workshop Players 'Slow Session' Going Strong

Posted by flyingfrog on Saturday, March 9, 2013

With its beginnings in December 2009, we are now well into the 4th year for my Irish Trad ‘slow session’ group, the Fairhope Irish Trad Workshop Players, meeting every other Sunday afternoon in the choir room at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Fairhope, Alabama.

The group started with requests from a few of my adult fiddle students who wanted to play some of the jigs and reels that my friends and I play at the long-standing Irish trad sessions at McSharry’s Irish Pub in Fairhope. “Can’t we play together but more slowly than that?” they asked. Well of course they could!

The first session drew about a dozen players, mostly fiddle students or former students, plus a couple people on other instruments. It quickly grew to an open community session. (I was fortunate to be a presenter at the 2012 American String Teachers Association conference in Atlanta where my talk was about growing a community group like this.) Most weeks, the session draws around 15-20 players, ranging in age from 15 to 80. They love the opportunity to play together, but it’s incredibly rewarding to me as a teacher to have this impact—and to see a teenage boy playing alongside a guy in his 60s and both having a great time.

I teach with a combination of written music and ear training but always encourage the students to work on playing the tunes by heart as well. It’s a challenge for most of them, but they’re learning!

Fairhope isn’t Boston—by a long shot! There’s no established Irish community and until Ronan McSharry moved here from Sligo and opened his pub about 6 years ago, there were no local sessions. Now, we have a thriving, growing community of both musicians and fans, and I’m pleased to be part of it.

Have any of you similar experience, either leading or taking part in a slow session like this? What’s your best advice to keep it going?

7 comments on “Fairhope Irish Trad Workshop Players 'Slow Session' Going Strong”

richdissmore Says:
Saturday, March 9, 2013 @5:52:13 PM

the group i jam with is open to all that want to play size of group goes up and down every one has things they need to do. so when they all show up what a jam we have. some of the member ship teach others to play. they all seem very friendly and willing to help we have a very large age group 16 --over 80 we had a teacher that played almost every instrument excpt fiddle his wife played that. he fell down his bassment steps and is now deaf he can still play but don,t hear a thing his timeing is gone but he watches his wife bow her fiddle and ken keep some what in time. its hard for me to keep time after i had a stroke i,m ok on playing the waltz i,m sure if i stay at it will get better. if you have slow players slow down for them then speed it up telling the slower player just try and keep up just do your best and its best if they can record what is played i use a old tape player for this for my use irish fest in milwaukee is comeing up this year see you we will be one of the side acts wyild thyme band

flyingfrog Says:
Saturday, March 9, 2013 @8:11:15 PM

Sounds like you have a great 'jam session' going there, Rich. I'll remind you here that an Irish session is not a jam session-with Irish traditional music, each player must know the tune by heart to be able to contribute & play along. If you don't know the tune, you sit respectfully and listen, maybe finger along silently & start to learn what's being played. My slow session students have learned the etiquette and have been busy learning the tunes in my book from heart. The most advanced of them now come to McSharry's Irish Pub most Sunday nights and sit in a second row of their own, and play along with us 'regulars' whenever they know the tune. I try bery hard to play many of the tunes they do know, so that they have a rewarding time feeling like they can contribute. So the Sunday afternoon slow session is where I lead the big group of intermediate players and teach them new tunes most every time...and then they probably think of sitting in at McSharry's real session as their 'advanced' class. Thanks to the series of events that happens here in Fairhope on Sundays, I have helped start a whole new crop of irish Trad lovers!

richdissmore Says:
Sunday, March 10, 2013 @12:47:08 PM

to me a irish jam is just as good as a old time i like and play both on my guitar not on my fiddle that i,m very weak thats why i play guitar. and be for i could play irish tunes i had to learn them. i could play them alot better then. then i can now but i can . the leader that we had was from the old sod and we trained under him and his wife tell we could play with the group. once a mouth at toad hall here in racine they have a irish jam the tunes played are mostly irish tell it gets later in the nigth. i just love to play any way you call it what you will i call it fun

richdissmore Says:
Monday, March 11, 2013 @10:23:19 AM

to day i got your book and CD very good a few tunes i know and other ones i don,t i will be turning the songs in to TAB for my use. i don,t read notes. i would like to but i just seem not to able to remember. i will get together with my fiddle teacher and then we will play them thank you for your wounderfull book be for this we used (the fiddler fake book)

flyingfrog Says:
Tuesday, March 12, 2013 @7:13:16 AM

Rich, thanks for letting me know my book & CD arrived safely. My CD includes some original tunes that I wrote, so of course you would have never heard those before anyway! Best of luck learning some of the Irish trad tunes from my book, it may take some time to translate them to TAB but whatever works for you, that's how you should do it. You can also try playing along with the CD and learn them by ear, too. Above all, have fun with them and I think you will really enjoy the wonderful Irish melodies of the jigs, reels & other trad tunes I picked for the book.

richdissmore Says:
Tuesday, March 12, 2013 @8:34:49 AM

i tryed the frist tune in your book its easy by ear i think this can really help me i will practice them be for i get with my fiddle teacher frist i have to finish treatment for this cancer i have in two weeks i have another chemo to go through it all seems to be working then radion for a mouth and may be more chemo its up to the Doctors i feel i have the best from around Milwaukee hosptils working for the VA

richdissmore Says:
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 @4:51:29 PM

Tom good news for me only one more chemo and i,m done then radion they got to me in stage one and i will be cured of this cancer 3/19/2013 i started to use the book i got from you

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