Sunday session at Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden

Photo by Grady


The Santa Barbara session is again every Sunday at Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden, 3–5 p.m. DST. Bring a chair or stool and look for us on the east side of the big tree in the middle of the park. Map to the park. — July 28, 2022

And a second session is now Monday evenings 6–8 p.m. at Wylde Works Meadery, 609 State Street, Santa Barbara. Map to Wylde Works. — August 15, 2022

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

Session at La Arcada Bistro

A session at La Arcada Bistro, Feb. 2018, a Muddy Waters session in summer 2007, and one at The James Joyce, summer 1998.

Santa Barbara: Sundays 3–5 p.m. DST at Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden. Bring a chair or stool and look for us on the east side of the big tree in the middle of the park. Map to the park. — July 28, 2022
And a second session is now Monday evenings 6–8 p.m. at Wylde Works Meadery, 609 State Street, Santa Barbara. Map to Wylde Works. — August 15, 2022

Some of the listings below date from before the pandemic – note the dates! They will be updated as we get the news.

Ashland, Oregon: The Black Sheep Pub 51 North Main St., has a session on Sundays from 2–6 p.m. For more information, check their Events calendar or call 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. — June 3, 2021

You can also search for sessions by day and location on The Session.

Several sessions are happening in the Los Angeles area:

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.
This page, Session etiquette? on The Session, has links to further discussions of the subject.

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.”
You can also search for sessions by day and location.

The Music section of the Comhaltas website has audio, video, sheet music and more. Here’s a video of reels played by the Mulcahy family.

New Zealand Irish Sessions has over 480 tunes played in sessions in New Zealand. Its tune archive has music notation and recordings to make it easy to learn the tunes by ear. Here’s one: An Buachaill Dreoite.

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.
Also see The Traditional Tune Archive, a modernization of The Fiddler’s Companion with tunes in sheet music form as well as ABC notation. Some tunes you’ll find on the older site, some only on the newer one, and some appear on both sites.

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

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.

ABC music notation is a simple way to type out a tune using the letter names of the notes. A good place to start is The ABC Plus Project. 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.

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 (bodhrán) and Karen Tweed (accordion), with the sheet music and chords displayed so you can play along. The subtle background images are a delightful accompaniment.
Unfortunately, the Virtual Session is archived and no longer updated, and requires Adobe’s Flash Player plugin, support for which was dropped by mainstream browsers and Adobe in 2020.

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 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 AppCordions website is all about his traditional musical instrument apps for iOS and Android.

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.”

Brian O’Donovan’s A Celtic Sojourn explores traditional and contemporary Celtic music on WGBH in Boston.

Thistle & Shamrock, Fiona Ritchie’s weekly radio program of music from Celtic lands, can be heard streaming on the web. You can find recent shows and playlists here. The show is also broadcast on the Central and South Coasts on Saturdays, 5–6 p.m., on radio station KCBX.