Traditional Irish Music Sessions Headed to Staten Island Brewery

By Nicholas Rizzi on August 29, 2014 9:19am | Updated on September 2, 2014 8:56am

Staten Island Irish Session
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TOMPKINSVILLE — An open session of traditional Irish music, food and plenty of beer will come back to Staten Island next month.

Staten Island Arts will host a monthly "Staten Island Seisiún," a traditional Irish practice and performance of music at bars and pubs, at Flagship Brewery starting on Sept. 7.

The event will be led by Douglas Barr, Linda Hickman and Bob Wright, who specialize in Gaelic tunes from East Galway and Claire, who aim to show Staten Islanders there's more to Irish music than "Danny Boy."

"It kind of teaches people in Staten Island that Irish traditional music is more than just show bands and sing-along music," Hickman said.

Aside from music, the seisiún — Gaelic for session — will have an Irish brunch and a chance to sample the new brewery's three beers, including their "Dark Mild" stout.

While people can come by to just enjoy the free music, seisiúns are largely for musicians to share and practice Irish music, Naomi Sturm, director of folklife for Staten Island Arts, said.

A seisiún is not a concert, the real crux of the seisiún is that people who play at different levels will come and say 'I would like to do this tune or that tune' and everyone will play it," she said. "It's really a time for the practice of the music as well as the performance."

With the large population of Irish immigrants and descendants in the borough, the group tried to bring the seisiúns to the borough in 2011 at the Wild Goose Pub. But they said they had to suspend the practice due to lack of awareness among musicians.

"We got a lot of musicians but very few that had any idea of what traditional music was," Hickman said. "It just kind of fell apart a little bit because we didn't really have a strong core."

When Sturm started at Staten Island Arts this year, she got in touch with Hickman and Barr and they decided to give it another go and retool the event. Hickman and Barr will give a history of Irish music and the tunes they play for the first hour of the seisiúns and give attendees a song of the month to learn for the next one.

Staten Island Arts also plans to create a website and Facebook page where musicians can get more information about the genre and learn the song of the month.

"The idea now is to make it music and a cultural event," Sturm said. "[Barr and Hickman] can upload tracks. People can kind of feel connected through that, make it a little hub for Irish culture."

Staten Island Seisiún will start on Sept. 7, from 2 to 5 p.m., at Flagship Brewery, 40 Minthorne St. Entry is free, and the brunch will be $19.99 a person.

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