To the novice, Irish dance music often seems to be played at breakneck speed, pushing the limits of the performers, their instruments and perhaps even the laws of physics.
Fortunately there exists, for beginning and intermediate players, a non-relativistic approximation to full-tempoed Irish music, the so-called "slow-play session". Nick has been apprenticing on the pennywhistle at one of these sessions in Santa Cruz, CA for a few years. Our session started in private homes, resided for a long while at NOAA (the oceanic NASA) in Santa Cruz's West Side, then for more than a year we were hosted by the Windmill Cafe near Twin Lakes. Now the session has moved to a new location, The Buttery, Santa Cruz's landmark gourmet bakery at the corner of Branciforte and Soquel.
Our main tune book "Foinn Seisiun" is a Santa Cruz version of the official tunes of the international Celtic music society Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann. Its 116 tunes being a fair sampling of the music you are likely to hear in any Irish pub (including the three tunes played by the Irish lowlife in steerage in the movie "Titanic") supplemented with additional popular tunes such as "Butterfly", "Swallow Tail" and "Off to California" (which celebrates the Irish participation in the Gold Rush). Our sessions are occasionally graced by a professional Irish musician or two who's interested in learning a brand new instrument. It's a great place to indulge in beginner's mind. And, depending on the skill of the participants, the music at a slow-play session is not always played slow.
The pictures show four of the approximately dozen players who attended last Sunday's session. Jamey (fiddle), August (guitar), Nick (whistle) and Janet, who founded The Buttery, playing concertina.