Irish Traditional Session News

In Santa Barbara, California, & wherever our friends are playing

  Regular Irish music sessions in the Santa Barbara area and wherever our friends are:

Session at Muddy Waters

A Muddy Waters session in summer 2007,
and one at The James Joyce, summer 1998.

Santa Barbara: Sorry, there’s currently no regular session in Santa Barbara.

Agoura Hills: The session at Brendan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant is now every first Tuesday from 6–9 p.m. Remember to come early for a meal if you can. Location: Brendan’s Irish Restaurant & Pub, 30315 Canwood Street, Agoura Hills, CA, located just off the 101 freeway at Reyes Adobe. Google Map: Brendan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant.

San Luis Obispo: The session is now at SloCo Pasty Company, 1032 Chorro St., every Wednesday evening from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. It’s across the street from the SLO Mission, with free street parking after 6:00 p.m. and a parking lot around the corner (entrance on Palm St.). For more information, contact SloCo Pasty Company at 805-540-7278. Google map: SloCo Pasty Company.

Ashland, Oregon: The Black Sheep Pub, 51 North Main St., has a session on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, contact the Black Sheep Pub at 541-482-6414. The pub is on the I-5 freeway corridor, conveniently located for those traveling between the Seattle/Portland area and the SF/LA area.

Several sessions are happening in the Los Angeles area:

  • The Lash in Los Angeles has a session hosted by uilleann piper Patrick D’Arcy and fiddler Kira Ott, Sundays 8:00–11:00 p.m. The Lash, 117 Winston St., Los Angeles, 213-687-7723. Map to The Lash.
  • Timmy Nolan’s in Toluca Lake (Burbank) has a session Tuesdays 8:00–11:00 p.m. hosted by Patrick D’Arcy and Dan Conroy. Timmy Nolan’s, 10111 Riverside Dr., Toluca Lake, 818-985-3359. Map to Timmy Nolan’s.
  • O’Brien’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in Santa Monica has a session Sundays 7:30–11 p.m. O’Brien’s, 2226 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-829-5303. Map to O’Brien’s.
  • The Celtic Arts Center hosts a session every Monday night 9–11:30 p.m., very friendly and inclusive and social. There’s also an Irish Dance workshop every Monday night from 8–9 p.m. The Celtic Arts Center is at T. U. Studios (Theatre Unlimited), 10943 Camarillo Street, North Hollywood, CA 91602. That’s just east of where Camarillo Street crosses Lankershim Blvd. and Vineland Ave. in the middle of the NoHo Arts District. Map to Celtic Arts Center, and Google’s Street View.
  • Auld Dubliner in Long Beach also has a session on Sundays from 4 to 7 p.m. Auld Dubliner, 71 S. Pine Ave., Long Beach, 562-437-8300. Map to Auld Dubliner.

Social Aspects of Sessions: Stewart Hendrickson’s Session Etiquette page is recommended reading for those wishing to avoid embarrassment. He’s also written about the history of session playing, which is more recent than we might have thought.

Wikipedia describes the social, cultural and musical aspects of the Irish traditional music session, including this charming quote from Barry Foy’s Field Guide to the Irish Music Session: “… a gathering of Irish traditional musicians for the purpose of celebrating their common interest in the music by playing it together in a relaxed, informal setting, while in the process generally beefing up the mystical cultural mantra that hums along uninterruptedly beneath all manifestations of Irishness worldwide.”

Tunes: The Session has links to sessions, tunes in ABC and traditional staff notation, as well as discussions and info about the music and recordings. “The exchange of tunes is what keeps traditional Irish music alive. This website is one way of passing on jigs, reels and other dance tunes. Some of the tunes are well known, and some are more obscure. It’s this mixture of the familiar and the new that makes for a good session.”
     To search for a session, click the “Search” tab at the top of the Sessions page. Important: Click the “Comments” tab above a session listing to see the latest info about the listed session – the info on the Details tab is likely out-of-date.

Andrew Kuntz’s The Fiddler’s Companion is a valuable index of tunes and tales for performers looking for something to say to introduce the next tune. Many of the entries give the history of the tune, a list of printed and recorded sources, and one or more versions in ABC notation. See The Earl’s Chair, for example.

Need titles of a set of tunes on an album? Use’s Album Search and Finder. Album details give titles as listed in the album, along with verified titles (which are sometimes different) with links for info on the tunes.

The Virtual Session

The BBC’s Virtual Session is a collection of sets of tunes played by Ian Carr (guitar), John McCusker (fiddle), Michael McGoldrick (flute and whistle), Tomai Taylor (bohdrán) and Karen Tweed (accordion), with the sheet music and chords displayed so you can play along. The subtle background images are a delightful accompaniment.

Michael Eskin’s offers “a collection of short videos demonstrating tunes commonly played in San Diego and Los Angeles Irish sessions.”

ABC music notation is a simple way to type out a tune using the letter names of the notes. John Chambers’ ABC Primer is an easy-to-understand introduction, and Chris Walshaw’s ABC Music Notation site has a more complete tutorial and links to tune collections and ABC music software.

Language: Michael Robinson’s Beginner’s Guide to Irish Gaelic Pronunciation is a simplified guide for “traditional musicians, radio announcers and anyone else who is interested in traditional Irish music.”

Google has a language translator that does a quick job going from Irish to English. You can even enter mixed Irish and English, though the results are sometimes amusing!

A better translator for single words and some phrases is, a collaborative dictionary with hundreds of members continually adding words and translations.

Irish Gaelic offers free help on its Irish Gaelic translations forum. Here’s a discussion of the chorus of Siúil a Rúin, one of our faorite songs, for example.

Irish Culture and Customs has, among many other interesting things, a Basic Irish Language reference, handy for a quick word or phrase (with pronunciations) such as “ceoil na hÉireann” (Irish music), “Slán go foill” (“Bye for now”), or “As Béarla led thoil?” (“Could you say that in English, please?”)

Et cetera: TradConnect is a new social network for people who play, listen to and enjoy traditional Irish music. Launched in April 2011, the aim of the site is to connect people who are learning and playing traditional Irish music with other players in their own area. In addition to discussions and news pages, members have their own profile pages and blogs where they post photos and videos. More info on Why Join TradConnect?

Michael Eskin’s Traditional Irish Music page has lots of interesting links for session players.

FolkWorks has calendars of ongoing sessions and suchlike, and all of the Folk news you need (including dance, music and art) for the greater Los Angeles area. Formerly a bi-monthly newspaper, FolkWorks updates its calendar and other resources frequently.

  Radio and Trad Online:

Thanks to Chris for telling us about, a website launched in March 2010 “dedicated to the live web streaming of traditional Irish music sessions, concerts and festival events online.” See their Videos page for an index of their videos.

Brian O’Donovan’s A Celtic Sojourn explores traditional and contemporary Celtic music on WGBH in Boston. Archives of recent shows can be heard on the web, and you can find the show in iTunes – look in Library > Radio > International > Celtic Sojourn.

Our friend Patrick tipped us off to Clare FM Trad Podcasts, several weekly programs each about two hours long. “This is seriously the best trad music online,” says Patrick.

The Roadtunes Sessions, hosted by Andrew Doerr, features Irish music and a variety of other genres, with singer songwriters and tunes, both acoustic and electric. The time and date have changed: it’s on Tuesday evenings from 7 to 10 p.m. on KCSB 91.9 FM in Santa Barbara. Roadtunes Sessions is simultaneously webcast at KCSB’s Webcast page. The phone number in the studio is 805-893-2424 for questions, comments, or suggestions for future shows.

Thistle & Shamrock, Fiona Ritchie’s weekly radio program of music from Celtic lands, is no longer broadcast locally but is available streaming on the web for 3 weeks after broadcast. Thistle now has its own website with a listing of stations carrying Thistle & Shamrock in California and elsewhere.

FolkScene, hosted by Roz Larman, is still on the air, Sunday nights 6 to 8 p.m. on KPFK-FM, with traditional and contemporary live music, interviews and remote recordings. Tune in at 90.7 FM in Los Angeles, and 98.7 FM in Santa Barbara. See the Folkscene web site for more information, and how to hear the Folkscene webcast.