Supporting Traditional Irish Music Sessions

From left to right, Brendan Bell, flute [facing away]; Nathan Gourley, fiddle; Sean McComiskey, accordion; Daniel Neely, banjo; Cillian Vallely, uilleann pipes; Sean Gavin, uilleann pipes; Josh Dukes, guitar performing a few years ago at the Saturday afternoon session at Lillie’s, 13 East 17th St., between Union Square Park and 5th Avenue, in Manhattan. (Photo by Jimmy O’Kelly via Irish Echo)

In an Irish Echo story calling on readers to support their local session spot, Daniel Neely reflects on the traditional musical performances taking place in pubs. With “Irish” pubs not as ubiquitous as before in NY, will these sessions disappear as well?

The reporter points out one performance – “one of New York’s nicest sessions” – that will no longer continue past Sept. 17: The “Sunday evening affair uilleann piper Kevin McHugh hosted at the Cuckoo’s Nest in Woodside, Queens.” Cuckoo’s, which gave musicians a stage for more than a decade, decided to “move in a new direction.”

Pub sessions like the Cuckoo’s are a relatively recent phenomenon. Largely the product of immigration, they originally provided a taste of home and were something of a necessity for musicians who had left Ireland only to land in places with far greater population density. (…)

Neely asserts that while the number of pubs has gone down, that doesn’t mean a bleak future for traditional music sessions, as emerging establishments “still provide the Irish community with a sense of the familiar, but they’ve also cultivated ways of attracting a broader and perhaps less exclusively Irish clientele.”

For more details on these sessions, including where to find them and how “today’s musical standard is as high as it’s ever been,” read the full story at Irish Echo.

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