Ceilidh Music Sessions, Thursday Night Fun For All
On Thursday nights as you pass the Saranac Lake Vistors Center office, you may notice a lot of cars in the parking lot and all the lights on and wonder what is going on. Most people would assume that it is something chamber related (maybe a board meeting or something) that is closed to the public, but that could not be farther from the truth. Each and every Thursday night (all year long), the Ceilidh Music Session meets. The Ceilidh Music Session is a group of men and occasionally women who come together to play their chosen instruments in an open jam session. An open jam session is a musical event where musicians are welcome to play in a non-rehearsed communal practice session. Allowing everyone to join in and show what can happen when people come together to create wonderful music.
This particular group of musicians has been meeting for about 12 years. They have changed locations a couple times within the Village of Saranac Lake, but have been settled into the Visitor Center open space for quite a while now. They'll make any space work, no matter how big or small and will always find space for more people. There are typically 12 to 15 local people (depending on the season) that show up every week to play, but strongly encourage new musicians to join in. If you are a local or a visitor passing through who would like a place to practice, this is something that you should seriously consider! Even if you do not play, they welcome with open arms anyone who would like to stop in and enjoy their music. They do not play professionally, since they enjoy the laid back environment that these jam session offers. You will not find them playing at the Rotary Show during Winter Carnival or in the Riverside Park bandshell in the summer, so make some time and come to Center on Thursday night from 7pm to about 10:30pm. They are just having fun playing some incredibly fun and beautiful music in the relaxed atmosphere that they love. After working so hard and being professional all week at work, you want to have some fun playing music, right? And these musicians deliver, without a doubt!
What kind of music?
They play traditional Celtic music, enjoying the tunes from traditional Scotland, Shetland Isles and Ireland. If you bring in a new piece of music that you want to try out with them, they will not turn you away, but just make sure you bring enough copies to share with everyone (and try to stay within the Celtic/Old Time genre). Most of the them use sheet music to play, but there are a couple of them who have all the tunes memorized. They welcome everyone, whether you can read and play from sheet music or can play by ear. There are no official rules to an open jam session, except to have fun and enjoy playing music. I’ve been told that they have over 300 tunes in their repertoire and if you see one of their binders full of music you would believe it! And in any given night they will make it through anywhere from 40 to 50 tunes.
This group is a sight to see. They have so many different types of instruments being played; I was entertained just by watching them play, let alone the sounds coming from the instruments. There were many people playing the acoustic guitar, one playing a hand accordion, an octave mandolin, a cello, an Irish tenor banjo, bodhran drum, a mountain dulcimer, resonator ukulele (see pictures below) and a couple violins. They were telling me that they welcome most any instruments, but would prefer to stay away from electric guitars and such (but how many people have heard of Old Time Celtic music being played with electric guitars anyway?).
As I was sitting there enjoying the music and taking notes, I noticed I was dancing in my seat to their upbeat, fun melodies. I don’t care who you are, you can’t help but bounce your leg or dance in your seat when you hear a fun Celtic Jig. I’ve always loved and appreciated good music, especially Celtic tunes, but these musicians make you feel at home. Whether they are playing a Celtic Jig or a soft melodious lament, they capture your heart and music-loving soul. With all this Free wonderful live music happening right in our own backyard so often, it’s a wonder that more people do not come to watch, listen and play. So whether you live close and just haven’t known about this opportunity or you are coming for a visit, make sure to stop by and catch an ear full of awesome free music or bring your instrument and join in on the fun!