Here in Concord, you don’t have to wait until St. Patrick’s Day comes around to get in the Irish spirit. For more than 15 years now, the Barley House on North Main Street has hosted Irish traditional music sessions every Tuesday night from 7 to 10 p.m.
“When a set of tunes comes together, there’s nothing quite like it,” said Charlie Saletti of Concord, a flutist in the playing sessions for the past five years.
Traditional Irish music sessions are informal gatherings where musicians can get together to practice their skills. Players often sit in a circle facing each other rather than the audience. At the Barley House, local musicians volunteer to play for diners upstairs while another group hones their tunes downstairs.
The purpose of the session is less intended to provide music for the listeners, but more for the musicians themselves.
“We’re not a performance, that’s why we sit in circle around a table rather than facing out. We want to hear each other,” Saletti said.
Sessions on Tuesday nights are open to any instrumentalists who is able to play Irish music. Players will often arrive at the downtown pub early for friendly conversation and meal of favorite Irish cuisine. The group is always willing to welcome new members.
“Irish music allows for a wide range of instruments including whistles, flutes, accordions, concertinas, even pipes and harps,” Siletti said.
At a session, a musician will start a tune and those who know it will join in. Good session etiquette is practiced by not starting a tune if all other members do not know it. There is also no sheet music to refer to, nor is there a session leader.
“There’s no leader who decides what to play. Anyone may launch a tune and, there aren’t any musical bullies preventing others from starting a tune,” Saletti said.
When asked about having no sheet music, Saletti said it was both difficult and enjoyable. “We’re limited to tunes we know, but we can watch each other for a sense of timing and for the all-important nod to indicate a change of tune.”
“Also we’re not encumbered with music stands,” he added.
Musicians from around the state gather to join in on the weekly sessions. Some come to play every week while others stop in town to sit in. A few members include; accordionist Sylvia Miskoe; Chris Murphy who plays the bodhran, a traditional Irish percussion instrument; and Neil Kenny of Ireland, the group’s official representative from the homeland.
So if you’re willing to respect the session etiquette, don’t use sheet music and can keep up with the tunes, join the group on Tuesdays at the Barley House, 132 N. Main St. You don’t even have to be Irish.
“While I can claim some Irish ancestry, that’s not how I came to love the music. I suspect each of our paths to Irish music is unique,” Saletti said.