Our traditional Irish music slow sessions began in 2001 as a once a month opportunity for beginning musicians and accomplished musicians new to the Irish tradition involved in the Melbourne branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann to play at a session. The regular weekly sessions were much too fast for beginners to play along. We established a set of core tunes and played them very slowly many times while gradually increasing the tempo. Unlike many faster sessions, we accommodated musicians that needed to read the sheet music, but provided them the support to ultimately play the tunes by ear. This session format has been very successful at getting most of the musicians playing most of the tunes.
Our slow session has since developed independently from the Melbourne branch of Comhaltas and it is now held twice a month at The Corkman Irish Pub on Monday nights. The 1st Mondays are very slow for beginning players while the 2nd Monday nights of the month are pitched toward the intermediate and advanced players. It is organised using email and the web, as well as word of mouth. Read ‘What Session Should I Attend?‘ for more information. The Pub kindly provides the venue, but there is no financial or other arrangements between the slow session and the pub owners. The slow session has no organisational structure or official membership and is run solely as a hobby to facilitate the passing on of Irish traditional music. There is no charge, but we encourage everyone to buy food and drinks at the pub in order to support the establishment.
Our musicians have a range of technical and musical skills. We have a number of classically trained musicians that want to learn to play tradition Irish music at sessions and we also have complete beginners. To enjoy the session it is best if you have enough skill on your instrument to play a few tunes on your own. The session should not be viewed as a music lesson and we encourage beginners, and more accomplished players to seek music tuition (ie, lessons) to improve their technical skills on their instruments. As you can understand, it is hard for us to include complete beginners who are just learning where the notes are on their instruments. Because you need to hear the music to play it, we strongly suggest that everyone come to the sessions and just listen while continuing to improve your playing with a music teacher.
To facilitate musicians joining our sessions we have a list of tunes, tune books and sheetmusic booklets, MP3 downloads and an Irish rhythm tutor available to assist you in learning the tunes and play up to session tempo. Again, review the information in ‘What Session Should I Attend?‘ for the resources you will need to fully enjoy our sessions. The key to learning to participate in traditional Irish music sessions is to practice the tunes at home and come to our slow sessions as often as possible to play with the group. You will be amazed at how quickly the tunes begin to roll off your fingers.
The interest in our slow sessions has grown steadily over the years and we currently have well over 150 musicians that play a variety of common Irish traditional instruments on our mailing list. Typically, we have between 25 and 40 musicians at our sessions. In addition to just playing at our Monday night sessions, we occasionally play at charity events and festivals under the name “Flanagan’s Mob”. Click on the Kerry Polka Set to hear the group play for a Benefit Concert at the Normandy Hotel in October 2007. The tunes are played at our performance tempo. This provides another opportunity for our musicians to improve their skills and share the music with a greater audience. To avoid the complications of financial reporting we do not accept money to play at these events. Our goal is to keep the session and our other activities simple in order to maximize our music playing.