If you have traveled to Ireland, you no doubt have hunkered down in a pub and had yourself a pint of Guinness. You have also likely been treated to traditional Irish music, performed by a group of young and old, belting out songs older than you and me.
This music is kept alive in Irish pubs worldwide, including Durango’s Irish Embassy. Every Sunday for the last six years, the pub has hosted a jam session, with music performed by numerous musicians, seated in a circle, performing traditional reels, jigs and songs.
While there are many things that make an Irish pub an Irish pub, two key components are Guinness and Celtic music; otherwise, you’ve just got a bar. Many of the participating musicians come from the handful of Celtic bands active in the Southwest, including Giants Dance, The Kitchen Jam Band and Patrick’s Crossing.
“There are a few core people who really brought this thing together,” said musician Terry Double from the KDUR studios, who plays tenor banjo and mandocello. “All of these folks are real active in the Celtic community musically.”
Double also plays in the band An Sliabh, along with Tom Byrne and Colleen Manfredi. That band formed from these Sunday sessions.
One of the factors of this or any jam thriving was to have a competent leader directing what will be played. Fortunately, the growing number of players has resulted in numerous people capable of leading the music.
“Leading a session is a hard thing. There are a lot of people that show up to play, but to lead a session is a talent in and of itself. You have to be a competent musician to lead a session,” said Byrne, also from the KDUR studios. “The great thing about it now is there are so many great players that show up. No one person has to take the onus on of leading the entire session for four hours.”
It is a music session open to all ages and experience levels, featuring a diverse number of players. If you want to jump right in, you can; if you want to hang back, you can do that, too.
“It’s exactly what you want to make of it. When I first arrived, there were only six people playing. I had to find a place to be and then make a place for myself,” Byrne said. “Other people with more experience in Celtic music walk in and are there and present, and vital and dynamic right from the start.”
Really, the idea behind these is playing music for the sake of playing music, and that’s present at jams like this in Irish pubs everywhere. If there are 2 million professional musicians on Earth, there are another 200 million musicians playing music for the love of playing.
“My friend says music is far too important to be left to the professionals,” Byrne said. “That’s the key to the session and a lot of Celtic music – it’s just people who can play and want to play.”
Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu. Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.