Generally on the first Sunday of each month, musicians from around the region gather for a music session at the Littlefield Celtic Center here in Mount Vernon, WA. The focus of these sessions is predominately Scottish music, although Irish and other trad types of tunes are played regularly.
This is an “Open Session,” meaning that anyone is invited to play (following our very basic guidelines explained below), and open to the public free of charge (we do have a donation basket out to collect to help cover custodial costs, etc.).
Over the years, we have developed a basic repertoire of what we call the “Tartan Top Twenty” of session tunes, comprised of music we regularly play at our sessions. Please contact us to find out about availability of the tune book. Typically 15-20 musicians attend, and 20-50 people come to listen.
We routinely see (and hear!) these acoustic instruments at our music sessions: Scottish Smallpipes (Reel/Borderpipes and Smallpipes) – primarily in key of A, fiddles, viola, cello, bass, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, citern, flutes, whistles, harp, accordion, piano, and bodhran (Celtic drum). The occasional Uilleann pipes, banjo, spoons, etc., make guest appearances. Some lovely Gaelic songs, and traditional Scottish folksongs, also sometimes appear.
Every music session has its own habits/culture/way of doing things (stopping short of calling them “rules”). We joke about “learning to play nicely, with others,” as being sort of what we’d like to be all about. Although not hard and fast rules, we do offer these suggestions to help someone new to the session scene fit in.
Listen to some tunes first, and join in on the ones you know.
Generally, the first 2 hours of our sessions are more wide-open, playing the “Tartan Top Twenty” material. This is not a “slow session” as plenty of jigs and reels are included, however the focus is on being more inclusive with slower tempos. The second part of the session (from 5:00 on) is when more advanced tunes are played
Folks are encouraged to select tunes/sets of tunes others know, especially in the first 2 hours.
Please be aware of some of the quirks of playing tunes with Scottish bagpipes:
-Modal A scale, 9 note range (C#, F# and G natural) (primarily – although “C” and “D” chanters are sometimes seen – they are the exception)
-Playing of notes requires airflow, meaning the instrument must be “struck in” (air from bag needs to flow across reeds) before the start of any tune
-Tuning of pipe drones is challenging, and players REALLY appreciate other instruments not tuning (including other pipes) at the same time
The pipers who regularly attend this session work hard at getting chanters pitched at A440, and having a nicely tuned set of drones.
We often pass the selection for the tunes, from one participant to the next around the circle. If you don’t have a tune, it’s certainly OK to pass. It’s great practice to lead a tune, starting by setting the tempo and calling it out “1, 2” etc. It’s also perfectly OK to ask someone else to lead the count off.
Some quieter instruments (harps come to mind) can be easily overpowered by instruments with more volume (pipes) – sometimes it’s OK to not play along and simply listen.
You’ll find the musicians who attend the Littlefield Celtic Center sessions to be fun, nice and approachable people–ask questions
We welcome guests who just want to listen to the music and clap, stomp or holler as the spirit moves you.
Please help us keep the beautiful Littlefield Celtic Center beautiful by helping get trash in its place, and putting away tables and chairs as needed and as you are able. Thank you for your interest in our music and sessions!