A plea for new players at traditional sessions

January 2008


There are many traditional sessions, open stages and sing-arounds in Kent these days, with the traditional sessions covering styles from English to Celtic to French/Breton/Eastern European to Renaissance - some have been running for decades, every week/month - I have trouble keeping up with them, I have just been updating them for the New Year and still there are some I am chasing the latest details on :

However while some of the young people's open stages are doing well, there is a worry that there are a lack of new people, particularly young people, particularly fiddlers, at the traditional sessions. There are some young people, including some fiddlers from over-seas, but not as many as there used to be. Perhaps this is just a sign of the changing times, but from comments received it may be that they do not know of these sessions (it took me 30 years to find them). Certainly sessions in Scotland that I have been to recently have a much wider range of ages.

I was asked at the most recent Celtic Wednesday session (currently in flux between the Anchor in Wingham and the Olde Beverlie in Canterbury) if I could apply myself to this and see if there was anything I could do.

I have discussed this situation with the most excellent BBC Radio Kent presenter Simon Evans (Sunday 9.00pm - 10.00pm BBC Radio Kent), and he comments :

Hi Beau
Coincidentally I have been plugging sessions more on my show of late and it certainly would be good to feature some in greater depth. In the first instance could you burn me a CD of some recordings you have already made? perhaps a selection of what you consider to the best numbers from a few sessions.

So I will be transcribing some of my already-recorded music, and making some fresh recordings at future sessions.

If you know of any players that may be interested, please pass this letter to them, do emphasize how welcome they will be - yes the music is usually learned, but learners often play from sheet music - yes this is music that was handed down over many hundreds of years by ear - however it is now all written down and available over the web in both staff notation and ABC notation, as well as on CD and MP3 download - in addition most of the session leaders keep voluminous folders of written music, which they are very happy to pass on, as well as lists of some of the traditional combinations in which these tunes are played, as sets.

Instruments :
Most instruments are welcome at traditional sessions, sensitively played - certainly fiddles are needed desperately as well as flutes, whistles, recorders, clarinets and like wind instruments (and there are shawms, racketts and saxophones at the French/Breton session). Guitars, mandolin, bouzouki, and banjos are staples, but there are also harmonicas, Northumbrian and Uilleann pipes and of course a range of percussion.

Traditional sessions are an excellent method of gaining familiarity with your instrument, and of learning to play in public in a friendly environment that makes a less formidable setting than a concert stage.

So, come along, to play or listen, you will be most welcome.
Dr. Beau Webber