2nd Thursday: Session at The Crown

Jos Mahon writes from both phone and computer, to chat, off the cuff, about the 2nd Thursday Session at The Crown in Catton:

“First, what’s a session!? We’re talking of a traditional music session, when people get together with their instruments, fiddles, accordions, flutes, guitars and play tunes. There is a certain etiquette to how it works: it’s not good, for example, if one person or a group hogs (dominates) a session. That is to say, if they keep setting tunes off and others don’t get a chance to play or begin a new tune. But neither do the musicians formally take turns. It’s more about informally starting a set of tunes (usually a set of three) and the other musicians join in if they know the tunes — then another person thinks of a set and starts up.

Secondly, how does the music evolve through the evening? At the Crown, we play lively  jigs, reels, hornpipes (all tunes / rhythms to dance to) and sometimes more melancholy, evocative slow airs.    The mood of the session evolves over the evening as the musicians gel or loosen up (perhaps — but not always — especially if you’re driving home! — depending on how many pints might have been imbibed!). The tunes may start off with steady, laidback jigs and build up to cracking fast-pace reels, fingers flying over strings and button keys, feet tapping to the rhythm. We play mostly Irish tunes as well as some Northumbrian and Scottish ones.

Thirdly, how did this session start, and when does it happen? The Crown session on the second Thursday  of each month, from roughly about 8:30pm until closing, has its origins in a session begun in the late ’70s at the Carts Bog Inn. Local singer Terry Conway, now no longer with us, but sorely missed, was involved, along with members of a Hexham-based folk band, The Marras.

Musicians came and went over the years, as they do. I started going around 1990 when I began learning the box (button accordion). Musicians came over from all directions to the Carts Bog, the pub in Langley in the middle of nowhere, from Cumbria, Tyneside, Weardale, all over Tynedale and Hexham and us locals from the Allen Valleys. They were lively nights of tunes plus a few songs from Terry and any other singers there. Over time, numbers have dwindled somewhat; two fine fiddlers died in uncanny separate bike accidents, for example.

When the Crown re-opened , and the regular players were now the locals from Catton and Allendale, we decided to change venue and The Crown was happy to take us on. . . (I can hear a sarky comment from owner Andy as I write!).

The session now is both a core of locals and regulars from Tynedale: Bob Mahon on banjo and bodhran (Irish drum); me on the box (button accordion); Andy Morgan on fiddle; sometimes Dave Crellin on guitar. Then Derek from Prudhoe is a regular on guitar as is Grania from Hexham on flute. Kevin Doonan used to come but he’s on Grandad duty now on Thursdays! We’d love to welcome more players  to join us. We’ve all been in ceilidh bands, so the tunes go with a swing and tap of feet — well, we hope they do!

However, it always adds to the atmosphere of the night if people come out just to listen, enjoy the tunes, have a drink or two. Often folk say they didn’t know it was on so all the more reason to put it out there. Good for the pub for hosting this live music session, for the benefit of everyone!”

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