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Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions

Les in Chorlton 20 Sep 12 - 09:17 AM
treewind 20 Sep 12 - 09:35 AM
Stanron 20 Sep 12 - 10:36 AM
Brian Peters 20 Sep 12 - 10:47 AM
Mr Happy 20 Sep 12 - 10:55 AM
Les in Chorlton 20 Sep 12 - 11:24 AM
Wolfhound person 20 Sep 12 - 01:09 PM
Brian Peters 20 Sep 12 - 01:39 PM
Brian Peters 21 Sep 12 - 05:14 AM
Les in Chorlton 21 Sep 12 - 05:41 AM
Will Fly 21 Sep 12 - 06:02 AM
selby 21 Sep 12 - 06:56 AM
selby 21 Sep 12 - 07:03 AM
IanC 21 Sep 12 - 07:22 AM
Jack Campin 21 Sep 12 - 08:41 AM
Les in Chorlton 21 Sep 12 - 08:55 AM
Phil Edwards 21 Sep 12 - 12:05 PM
Paul Davenport 21 Sep 12 - 12:10 PM
Wolfhound person 21 Sep 12 - 12:57 PM
Les in Chorlton 21 Sep 12 - 01:23 PM
Jack Campin 21 Sep 12 - 03:43 PM
Manitas_at_home 22 Sep 12 - 02:35 AM
Mo the caller 22 Sep 12 - 04:06 AM
Les in Chorlton 22 Sep 12 - 07:10 AM
Paul Davenport 23 Sep 12 - 04:52 AM
ripov 23 Sep 12 - 11:51 AM
McGrath of Harlow 23 Sep 12 - 01:11 PM
GUEST,jim bainbridge 23 Sep 12 - 03:17 PM
GUEST 23 Sep 12 - 07:15 PM
ripov 23 Sep 12 - 07:26 PM
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Subject: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 20 Sep 12 - 09:17 AM

I don't know when I first came across "Tunes Sessions". By that I mean those sessions where people with intruments gather, usually in pubs, and play jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas and such like.

I certainly remember them at Whitby Folk Festival 1972 and guess they were well established by then.

The Album "Paddy in the Smoke"

Here

shows Irish music being played in a Pub Session format.

Is their any evidence for English tune session of a similar kind before the 1960s Revival?

Best wishes
L in C#


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: treewind
Date: 20 Sep 12 - 09:35 AM

I'm sure the East Anglian pub "sing, say or play" sessions of the sort that were famously filmed by the BBC in the Blaxhall Ship in the 1950s were going on before then, and certainly had nothing to do with the '60s revival.

They seem to have been a mixture of song, music and dancing (social and step dancing) so maybe not quite the sort you meant, if you are talking about tunes-only sessions. But I expect that, as now, the format and content would vary from one pub to another.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Stanron
Date: 20 Sep 12 - 10:36 AM

Research people like James Hill and Billy Pig. I'm no expert but I understand that Billy Pig learned a lot of tunes from Irish players playing in pubs and that would have been before the 1950s.

James Hill was a kind of king of the fiddlers where only the best got paid to play in pubs. Were these sessions as we now know them? Perhaps research can tell.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Brian Peters
Date: 20 Sep 12 - 10:47 AM

From the Independent, 24/3/99, and article on Irish culture and speficially traditional music, that refers to the London Irish session scene and 'Paddy in the Smoke':

For the social historian Reg Hall, however, Irish music isn't what it was. Hall is giving an illustrated lecture at the Barbican on Saturday entitled "Paddy in the Smoke", which will look at the heyday of Irish music in London in the Fifties and Sixties. "The music in the pub scene of London then was a transplantation of rural music from the West of Ireland, and it began after the war as a new phenomenon, for traditional music was never played in Irish pubs at that time," Hall says.

"What you had then was tens of thousands of Irishmen living in London, mostly from the rural West and South. As mainly labourers working on the building sites, they evolved a whole social system in the Irish settlements of Kilburn, Paddington, Kentish Town and Dalston, and also in Hammersmith and Fulham, where they colonised run-down pubs. In those days, none of the Irish professionals working for Aer Lingus or the Irish banks would be seen dead there, for they regarded the musicians as louts. It was instrumental music, with fiddle, flute and accordion, and piano and drums added if it was a dance. There was no guitar, never mind a bouzouki, and the name "bodhran" hadn't even been coined. It was still a tambourine."


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Mr Happy
Date: 20 Sep 12 - 10:55 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dws185EvRoQ


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 20 Sep 12 - 11:24 AM

Thanks treewind, I am a little familiar with the old music of East Anglia, although I have never been there.

It seems reasonable to assume that if the sort of sessions you describe had lasted into the 1950s the were at least connected to the 19C if not earlier. If village life rooted in agriculture had survived the Industrial Revolution then the roots could go much further.

Satnrom, I was not aware that Billy Pigg had learned tunes fro Irish musicians. In what context did BP play his pipes as a younger man? As for James Hill (James Hill (c.1811-1853) was a British fiddler-composer and publican who lived in Newcastle and Gateshead) - clearly a much earlier period and an urban setting?

Thanks again Brian, the quote from Reg Hall, as we might expect, is priceless - that whole business of relating the music and the people to the social and work situation draws a much bigger and more informative picture.

Can we shine this kind of light on the growth and development of "Tunes Sessions" in the UK - some of which were Irish and some drawing on English tunes?

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Wolfhound person
Date: 20 Sep 12 - 01:09 PM

Billy Pigg did not play in pubs - or folk clubs - as the smoke was bad for his health. The sessions in which he was involved mainly took place as part of musical evenings at his - and others' houses.

These were a mixture of solo tunes and inclusive sets for anyone who wanted to join in. Guests to his house included on occasion the McPeakes, Leo Rowsome and the Doonans. Some of the Irish tunes in the North-East repertoire came from Radio Eireann which could be heard in the hills, some had been there for much longer than the C20.

Otherwise he played with The Border Minstrels - himself, Annie Snaith, John Armstrong of Carrick, and later Archie Dagg, or performed in various combinations or solo.

Musical evenings of this type certainly happened in the North-East through most of the C20, it was one way that pipers learnt tunes.

James Hill was a professional fiddler who entertained in the pubs of Tyneside where he and other top fiddlers were the jukeboxes of their day. Request your favourite tune, and wait for it to be played. A publican himself for a while, it is not known what other events he played at.

Paws


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Brian Peters
Date: 20 Sep 12 - 01:39 PM

Scan Tester was of course a pub musician, although as I understand it initially more of an entertainer, or step-dance accompanist, rather than a participant in a musical come-all-ye.

There's a very interesting interview with Reg Hall about Scan on Mustrad. It seems that after Reg and found out about him, he and others like Mervyn Plunkett would join Scan to play tunes, but that previously he'd only been accompanied by percussionists. But others will know much more than I do.

I'm told that Joseph Kershaw, the Saddleworth fiddler of the early 18th century, played in local pubs but, again, as a 'turn'.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Brian Peters
Date: 21 Sep 12 - 05:14 AM

Oops - Kershaw's tunebook is from the early 19th century.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 21 Sep 12 - 05:41 AM

Thanks Wolfhound person and thanks Brian.

Loads of really interesting information on musicians playing these great little tunes anything up to nearly 200 years ago - and what a range of places, contexts, and indeed tunes and instruments feature - interview with Reg Hall is so informative.

Cheers

Les


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Will Fly
Date: 21 Sep 12 - 06:02 AM

My album of Billy Pigg includes a few tracks recorded by Forster Charlton at "Alnwick gatherings" - evenings of food, drink, conversation, music and dancing. Sounds very much like the original concept of a ceilidh. If memory serves (and I don't have the sleeve notes to hand), these took place in the 1950s and were presumably part of local tradition.

The tracks recorded at the gathering included Billy on pipes with other musicians such as flautist and fiddler.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: selby
Date: 21 Sep 12 - 06:56 AM

Somewhere I have a Walter Bulwer LP on Topic. I think that he played in sessions around where he lived with Daisy (his wife) on pub piano. Off into loft to find LP.
Keith


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: selby
Date: 21 Sep 12 - 07:03 AM

A quick look on the internet located this well worth a read I think
http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/bulwer.htm

Keith


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: IanC
Date: 21 Sep 12 - 07:22 AM

This previous thread may be of some interest ...

How old is British tradition of music in pubs?

:-)


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Jack Campin
Date: 21 Sep 12 - 08:41 AM

There is a common trend in human thinking to seek reassurance in the belief that what you're doing is the same what people in the distant past used to do, thereby giving your actions the implicit approval of a respected authority from the past. This makes its largest impact in religion and politics, but we're seeing it here too.

We have a practice of unpaid amateurs getting together in regular gatherings in a pub to play music from a repertoire selected as "traditional", "folk", "Irish" or some related category, in performances where the audience is not all that important to them and where the tunes are mostly dance music in 8-bar phrases. It's a rather specific institution, but is there some intrinsic problem with that? Why not just let it be modern? Why the need to prove the apostle James picked up a bodhran to play along with the accordionist at the wedding in Cana to make it okay?


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 21 Sep 12 - 08:55 AM

Thanks Ian - when I have a few days I will read that thread!

Jack - I agree with pretty much all you say. I think I am sorting out in my own mind how what we do - use dots in our tune sessions - which most sessions don't - relates to what other people do in sessions currently and how this relates to a heritage of thousands of tunes.

Does it matter - no not really.

When drawing on the song heritage - I would be happy to draw on anything - but particularly old English and anything whatever, but particularly stuff that was sung in Folk Clubs since about 1955

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 21 Sep 12 - 12:05 PM

Jack - reminds me of a story I heard from a friend who plays in 'Celtic' bands in Texas. She was watching another band when somebody said to her, "This must be just what it was like 500 years ago!" The band included guitar, bouzouki, concertina and of course that most ancient and venerable of instruments, the bodhran. But I think I agree with you - for those of us who know the "500 years ago" line is rubbish (which includes my friend), what difference does it make? It doesn't make the music any better, or any worse.

Les - I think the Beech session has dots because some of the players are beginners and others are sight-readers. The beginners have got better, but the sight-readers are always going to want dots. As for why there are sight-readers, I guess it's because the dots were there - and the dots were there because of the beginners.

particularly old English and anything whatever, but particularly stuff that was sung in Folk Clubs since about 1955

It's the 1955 Definition! Progress at last!


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 21 Sep 12 - 12:10 PM

Pepys remarks in his diary on going to the coffee house to play music with his mates. He played recorder and comments on the company of John Blow, Daniel and Henry Purcell et al. The suggestion is that he is going to a recognisably modern 'session'. My researches on the community of muisicians known as the 'Blind Fiddlers of Sheffield' (despite their playing flutes, singing etc.) also show that the practice was prevalent in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. My considered opinion is that the 'session' has been with us for a hell of a long time!


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Wolfhound person
Date: 21 Sep 12 - 12:57 PM

The Alnwick gathering started in 1949, and went on until 2 years ago, when it finally died due to lack of support from punters, both musicians, dancers and audience.

One of the factors is supposed to be the sheer number of other events available now. Lack of support for competitions was another - in the 1950s competition classes could last several hours, whilst in the last ten years one person per class was often the norm.

In the 50s buses were put on from local communities to get people to and from it.

Forster Charlton's recordings - about 1200 reel to reel tapes and several hundred cassettes are in the process of evaluation, though there is much material not relevant to anything trad. or folk. None of them are labelled, so the whole lot have got to be checked.

Paws


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 21 Sep 12 - 01:23 PM

Is the relationship between the dots and the tune players more than a bit like the relationship between singers (pre-20C) and broadsides and their publishers?

Not joined at the hip but clearly in contact with music and songs passing in both directions?

Les


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Jack Campin
Date: 21 Sep 12 - 03:43 PM

There is essentially nothing being passed back from sessions to professionals.

CDs, iTunes, Spotify and YouTube are perhaps more important than printed dots now, but only YouTube allows session musicians to communicate their versions of tunes to each other. There's nothing more spontaneous and historically authentic about learning a tune off a CD than out of a book - the learner is equally likely to play the tune by rote, or not.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 22 Sep 12 - 02:35 AM

Dunno about that Jack, I've passed tunes onto to people that have then appeared on albums. Can I really be the only one?


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Mo the caller
Date: 22 Sep 12 - 04:06 AM

What is a 'professional'? Does that include groups that take the occassional paid booking.
'Cos it's very frustrating to go to an open session and a group that got a tune from me play it 'fancied-up' so that no-one else can join in.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 22 Sep 12 - 07:10 AM

"Is the relationship between the dots and the tune players more than a bit like the relationship between singers (pre-20C) and broadsides and their publishers?

Not joined at the hip but clearly in contact with music and songs passing in both directions?"

Sorry the point I failed to make here is that historically ie 19C and earlier is that songs passed in and out of the oral tradition via Broadsides and tunes passed back and forward via little books of tunes

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 04:52 AM

I agree with Manitas, I've run sessions to promote a local repertoire in Sheffield in the past and many, many professional and semi-pro performers use those tunes and have recorded them.
Also, Les is right, the written note has and does travel further and faster than the less evidenced oral/aural modes of transmission.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: ripov
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 11:51 AM

Some books of dots are published by the musicians playing in sessions, eg Greenwich and Lewes, and no doubt many others (Basis for another thread maybe?). Useful guides for those of who know a tune, but only after someone else starts it off!


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 01:11 PM

Surely it's not so much a matter of continuity of a particular social activity. Human beings don't change too much, and we will reinvent stuff like this time and time again, even if we've never come across other people doing it.

When people get together to enjoy each others company they are liable to make music together, and that probably is something we were doing before we were humans.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: GUEST,jim bainbridge
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 03:17 PM

Billy Pigg was by no means a 'pub musician' and was notoriously difficult to get out of his home area. However, it is wrong to say he never appeared in folk clubs. I can recall quite clearly a night he did at the Marsden Inn club near South Shields in the late 60s (thats as near as I can make it at this stage)Also there was nothing he liked more than 'sessions' with his good friends Forster Charlton (fiddle) AND John Doonan (piccolo)- they were both with him at Marsden- I'd imagine he hardly ever played in a pub.
They did play a LOT of Irish tunes, partly because in the early days of the BBC Home service (now Radio 4)- Northeast England and Northern Ireland had to share a wavelength for 'local' content, so there was a high content of Irish music beamed to the Northeast (nowt to do with RTE)- in exchange, Ulster got the Barry Sisters and the Five Smith Brothers.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 07:15 PM

Paul Davenport mentions Pepys; and I have previously, when this subject of sessions in the past arises. But having given much thought to what Les was actually asking, I've had to change tack a bit. Pepys never mentioned playing "old" music, and having friends like Blow and Purcell it seems very likely that they would be playing new music ("Hey I've just written this, can we have a go and see what it sounds like?"). And it is most unlikely that their ladies would want anything but the latest dances.
And in another thread where I mentioned Beethoven, again he wrote pieces for the "folk musicians" and they played them, presumably from the dots and without complaints that "We don't play that modern stuff".
So perhaps what we see here is closer to a few of the lads going down the pub and playing pop music, easily understood (at the time) by the average pub-goer. We may be playing the same tunes as Pepys, and probably some much newer, but they are no longer "pop-music" as they once were.
Of course in those days there was no TV or even a juke box. so any live music may have been more acceptable in the taverns and coffee shops, or elsewhere. I read somewhere of a tailor whose had several viols in his shop, so that customers could play to pass the time while they waited for their fitting!


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Subject: RE: Origins of 20C Tunes Sessions
From: ripov
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 07:26 PM

sorry that was me!


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