The first Newport Celtic Session was organised by Simon Leverton at the Newport Bowls Club in 2011. It brought together club members with a love of this music (and some tune playing skills), who wanted to create a local monthly session. Since that time we have maintained a vibrant group of regular players, joined on occasion by many “out-of-town” visitors, and a dedicated group of people who come to listen (our fans!).
We welcome new members.
Davy Knick Knack
Britches Full o’ Stitches
Rakes of Mallow
Our sessions are not ‘led’ by any one person (Simon or Alison, our co-organiser, will usually start things off); anyone can start a tune or set of tunes. We follow a few simple ‘rules’ of good manners to make sure everyone enjoys themselves and gets to participate, no matter what their level of proficiency (whilst recognising that you do need to have at least a basic level of instrument familiarity to be able to join in with most of the tunes we play).
First, make sure your instrument is in tune – there are side rooms to do this away from the group (or do it in between tunes/songs, not during them)
We usually play each tune 3 times through (except for really long ones, which are played twice). This rule can sometimes be a bit unruly!
There are a number of sets of tunes we play regularly, and we will go directly from one to the next. If the group finishes playing and you know another tune that follows on naturally, then launch into your tune.
The pace set by the person that starts the tune is kept throughout. This gives less accomplished players a chance to start tunes at a pace that suits them.
We try not to play so fast that hardly anyone else can join in – our session is about participation. Beginners may find many of the tunes are too fast for them, but with practice and in time they will be joining in more and more – playing an instrument is a journey.
We like to share the tune starts around the group, but no pressure – if you don’t want to start off a tune that’s ok.
If you’re introducing a new tune, tell us the key and tune type (eg. a jig in D). You may hand around copies of the sheet music (with chords), although learning by ear is the preferred approach and this does take some time and practice.
If you’re uncertain of a tune, play a little quieter than normal, playing the bits you know. Avoid playing random notes in the hope that some might be the right ones!
Songs are very welcome, and some of us will join in choruses etc. and maybe add some instrumental backing if we can.
Don’t worry if you forget these ‘rules’ – we do too (occasionally)! We’re a pretty relaxed bunch, so just come along and have fun.
Simon has been a member of the Newport Fiddle and Folk club since it began. He has played and sung folk and other kinds of music since his teenage years (when photos were black and white!). He sings, plays guitar, mandolin and fiddle and performs with a range of friends at all sorts of places. He has been in numerous bands over the years, including the bush band Black Sheep where many Celtic tunes were learnt and played.
Alison is another original member of the Fiddle & Folk Club as well as one of the founding members of the NFFC’s committee. Alison has played music with a passion since she was a child and thanks to the Celtic Session her tin whistle has improved leaps and bounds. She also sings and plays ukulele with the Ukulele Dolls and every Saturday morning with SUNG (Saturday Ukulele Newport Group) at a local café. Coming from an Irish family, Alison grew up with Irish tunes, rhythm and song.
All the tunes in this list can be downloaded as PDF files.
The following tunes are ones we play either regularly (in bold), or from time to time. The session repertoire is constantly changing as members learn new tunes and bring them to the group.
Bird in the Bush
St Anne’s Reel
Maid Behind the Bar
Off to California
Boys of Blue Hill
The Home Ruler
King of the Fairie
Kid on the Mountain
Over the Oceans
Rakes of Kildare
Merrily Kissed the Quaker’s Wife
Miller of Glanmire
Top of Cork Road
Cock o’ the North
Where to find even more tunes
One useful source of simple Celtic tunes that has been around for a long time is the publication Begged, Borrowed and Stolen compiled by Chris O’Connor and Suzette Watkins, which can be purchased at Celtic Southern Cross. It’s a good place to start.
Another fabulous resource is The Session, where almost any tune available is listed, along with downloadable sheet music and a MIDI file.
The Newport Craic
A sub-group of Celtic Session players has formed a performing band called The Newport Craic, which is open to new members. For more information on this group, go to the Performers page.