With less than a week to go, I want to remind you all that the first session is on this coming Wednesday, March 6th at 167 Pearl Street in Holyoke. Please email me if you need directions. if you have a folding chair, do bring it. If not we’ll do the best we can! Session starts at 7pm.

See you there!


First session in t-minus 2 weeks!



(I realize this post is long, but please read to the end–there’s lots of important stuff in here! )

Our first session will be on March 6th, at 7pm, at my house! Exciting! Seems the Guilded Brick at the Canal Gallery here in Holyoke (our hopeful permanent venue) is doing some renovations, and although our man Christian Hine down there is excited to have us, the renovations are not going as quickly as he would like. So understandably he cannot guarantee that they’ll be ready for us on March the 6th. He is working on his boss to get things moving more quickly, not just for us, but for the business as well. I’ll keep in touch with him and update you all as i know more.

However, until then, I have a space that I (and my girlfriend) are willing to offer until the Guilded Brick renovations can be completed. It’s my home recording studio, a small room but decent sounding and there’s space for maybe 8 or so to fit comfortably. Well–we’ll test that out i guess. Not sure what our headcount is going to be just yet.

Facebook users, please visit , or message me, Mark Bodah and ask me to add you to the group. Also check out for info, links, tune files and more!


OUR MISSION is “To promote and foster the Irish musical tradition through teaching and supporting beginner and intermediate level players of instruments generally accepted in the Irish traditional paradigm, and to provide a session-like environment in which they can hone their skills.”  This may be developed and adapted over time, but for now i think this sums it up nicely enough.

WHERE–please email me for directions.

DONATION–We are asking each student to give a $5.00 suggested donation at each session. If you can’t afford it , please don’t let that stop you from coming! We know you’ll give what you can, when you can. This money will go directly to the anchors, for all their hard work. They are providing an invaluable service and without them this would not be possible, please, let’s make it worth their while!

So here are some guidelines. These guidelines are based on those found at the website, and pertain to slow sessions in particular, though you may want to peruse the site there and read what they say about regular session etiquette as well.

according to that site, the goals of the slow session and its musicians would be:

  • getting in some great craic, first and foremost!
  • learning to learn tunes by ear, on the fly
  • learning about session etiquette in preparation for moving to other sessions
  • getting tempo up to fast session speeds (or close to)
  • learning good session tunes from each other
  • learning more about the tunes and the tradition, where they come from, how they’re played in different places, etc.

I couldn’t agree more.

WHAT ISN’T THE SESSION?: There are limits to what the session can and should be. Here are some things we feel are outside the purview of the session:

  • SINGING–although some pub sessions DO include some singing, that isn’t the emphasis of this endeavor.


  • JAMMING there are specific tunes that we are trying to learn (we’ll only learn a very few out of the thousands that exist!) that are played in a very specific way. Jamming doesn’t have a place.


  • CERTAIN INSTRUMENTS (doumbek, bongos, shakers, zithers, tambourines, ouds, sitars, bass guitar, anything electric, upright bass, autoharp, trumpet, sax, other “band” instruments, kazoo, vuvuzela, drum set, conga, cajon, cuica, finger cymbals, those little wooden frogs with the ribs on their backs, etc…)
    • Exactly WHAT is considered appropriate for ITM (Irish traditional music) sessions is hotly debated in some circles, and while some instruments are tolerated or even welcome in many sessions, in others they would be strictly prohibited. the list above reflects instruments that are generally never welcome in sessions, or, if they are welcome, that session is no longer “traditional.”

To explain this “exclusivity” thing to others, I think of it as trying to preserve, enjoy and “reenact” (if you will) a specific cultural phenomenon–the traditional Irish session. To do that you need to try to keep it within certain boundaries. There’s room for going beyond the boundaries elsewhere, but not in the session. you wouldn’t wear an Imperial Stormtrooper or WWII uniform to a civil war reenactment. I hope that makes sense.

SHEET MUSIC: We’d like to discourage the use of sheet music at the slow session.That’s not to say that we discourage the use of sheet music EVER, but we’d like to ENcourage you to try your best not to use it first. If that doesn’t work for you, do feel free to use it to your hearts content. For many people it’s much easier to learn the tunes by ear–as explained over at

  • you’ll learn faster
  • you’ll retain the tunes better
  • you’ll be able to remember more tunes
  • you’ll get the rhythm and feel of the tunes more authentically
  • you’ll get the tune up to tempo more quickly
  • you’ll be able to concentrate on technique rather than remembering the tune
  • you’ll be able to work on variations of settings much earlier
  • you won’t have to find a place to store all that paper!


I’d like to emphasize that this session is first and foremost for learning tunes, meaning melodies.


It can’t be stressed enough that knowing the tune’s melody is crucial to knowing how to accompany the tune. Learn the tune at the first session it is presented. Don’t try to play chords–just stick to the melody with everyone else. Then take the tune home, work with the recording provided, and work out chords that you think sound good. Finally, try them at the next session. But not until you have the melody itself well in-hand. And remember that the anchors are not (unless I’m mistaken) accompanists themselves and therefore may possess no special knowledge of accompaniment techniques. So be warned–if you bring a guitar, bouzouki, banjo or mando intending to accompany, there may be no-one who can instruct you.

Now–in terms of instruments generally considered “accompaniment”–The site has this to say about general session etiquette:

If you are an accompanist, be sensitive. If there is more than one guitar or other accompanying instrument, play quietly so as not to drown out the melody instruments, or clash with another’s choices.*** If it’s noisy, you might even sit it out until it’s your turn. There should never be more than one bodhrán player playing at one time in a regular session of average size (under 10 players). If you’re a beginning piper, make sure that you don’t over-use your drones, especially when there are accompanists.

*** I would add that it may be a good idea to limit accompaniment to one of each type of instrument playing at one time. For example–only one bodhrán, one guitar and one mandolin each at a time for accompaniment, and played as quietly as possible. We can work this out as we go along. –Mark

I hope this isn’t too much for you all. We’ll have a  print version of some of this info for anyone who’d like a copy. But really it’s a lot of common sense. Mostly we just want to have a good time, learn some tunes, and hone our skills so we can be better session musicians.

With that in mind, take care till we see you. Expect more emails from yours truly before then, and as always, feel free to email me with any questions or suggestions!

Slán agus go n-éirí an ceol libh,

Mark Bodah