Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Acoustic jam session - Monday at Ye Champion of Wales pub, Meeting Street, Appledore, Devon, UK

I was still champing at the bit for a no holds barred stomping flute and sax playing pub session after finding that the Sunday session at the Coach and Horses, Appledore was sadly discontinued (see previous post).

So I decided on Monday evening to leap into the rickety old Ford Escort and hightail it back down to Appledore to visit another pub where I'd heard there was a music playing session.

The good news was that crossing the lofty heights of the Torridge Bridge was much easier. Those who are knowledgeable about irrational fears such as height phobia often recommend desensitisation, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) or Cognitive Behavior Modification (CBM). They believe giving in to fears and phobias leads to a spiral of reduced activity. Confronting fears leads the opposite way, removes self imposed limits and leads to a fuller and more satisfying life. It sure seems to work for me.

Ye Champion of Wales is to be found just a few yards up Meeting Street, which leads off the harbour front at Appledore. This friendly traditional pub looks tiny from the outside but once you are inside you find it is quite deep with lots of space and a long bar that runs down one side.

When I arrived at 8.30 pm, there were musicians there already sitting in the window area by the entrance who immediately made me feel very welcome. Over the next hour or so there was a regular stream of musicians turning up and joining in until there were about eight in the session playing and singing.

Most of the people had acoustic guitars with them. There was also a chap playing a mandolin (I think) who doubled on the fiddle (violin) and another who played a sort of floor mounted bongo drum (nice sound) and mouth organ (also nice sound).

The main focus of the session was acoustic guitar with accompanied singing but the group was very friendly and joined in when I played a couple of tunes on the sax and flute.

The standard of musicianship was incredibly high. The songs were tuneful and varied (folk / rock / country / blues) and their accompaniments were sophisticated. Judging from the applause, it was also appreciated by the regulars, The landlords were friendly and supportive too (I actually got a free drink).

Keys played in varied. B major was popular but there were some strange keys too like C# which is easy for guitar players because they just move the capo which is a sort of clamp that is fitted across the strings. (I'm sure they can do it by fingering too).

For wind instrument players, playing in different keys involves knowing which sharps and flats to play to get the notes pitched the same as the other players. For this reason most of the 'Irish' folk music sessions tend to stick to the keys of D (two sharps - F# and C# ) or G (one F# sharp). The other reason keys tend to be fairly limited in 'Irish' sessions is that many melodeons and whistles only play in the keys of D and G and melodeons and whistles are very popular folk instruments.

Keyed flutes, violins (fiddles) and other 'orchestral' instruments, of course, can play in any key but, because doing so excludes some squeeze boxes and whistles from the jam session, they tend to stick the the main keys.

Another reason for limiting the range of keys is to keep it simple for the less experienced player. Folk music is very inclusive and there is nothing a folk musician likes more than to see a newcomer joining in more and more until they become a rocking and reeling full partner in the session.

So, for yours truly, the session was pretty challenging. When the keys of D or G were in use I could play along but otherwise the old sax and flute rightfully had to keep pretty quiet lest I spoiled the performance.

All in all, it was a nice evenings music and I got to have a blow with some friendly and very able acoustic guitar players.

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1 comment:

David W. Kralik said...


I came across your blog in a technorati search about saxophones and thought you might be interested in a blog post i have on my blog: a video on how Selmer makes Saxophones.

here's the link: