|Friendly Quay Inn proprietor Rachel|
Is it a musician's session, singaround or open mic? Whatever its proper description, this musicians and singers gathering, with appreciative audiences, over recent weeks on the borders of Exmoor at the Quay Inn on Minehead sea front in West Somerset has steadily grown in popularity. Certainly, from my own point of view, as the winter draws in, it offers me a wonderful refuge from the wind and rain and somewhere to keep my Wandering Windstrel musical repertoire warmed up until next summer when I can hopefully get out to perform to the crowds on the sea front again opposite Minehead heritage steam railway station.
Who knows why events become popular? Perhaps, the early success of this music session is due to the immensely warm welcome of the Quay Inn's proprietor Rachel who, when I arrived, was found sitting and chatting with the other musicians and singers and who made a very nice little speech introducing us before we got started (and later also provided tasty roast potatoes and other munchies).
|Session host Richard Neil singing|
Another reason for the growth in popularity of this session amongst musicians as well as with the audience may well be the relaxed format and welcoming management of the session by newcomer to Minehead Richard Neil. Willing musicians and singers are invited in turn to start a tune or a song, after which everybody is welcome to join in. This has the advantage of avoiding the frequently found long periods of inactivity for performers that can sometimes be encountered at open mic or singaround sessions and makes the music session more similar to the traditional Irish music session found in many pubs and bars where it is possible for musicians to play more or less continually for hours. Although similar to an open mic in the type of musicians attending, currently the session is acoustic with amplification provided only by individual musicians to meet the needs of their own instruments or singing.
|Guitars, acoustic and electric and a uke at Quay Inn Minehead|
As far as the musical content is concerned, anything goes. Yesterday afternoon, there was myself on soprano saxophone, a chap called Normy who played sensational electric guitar, mouth organ and sang, three acoustic guitars, a lady Ukulele singer, a drummer from the local Hobby Horse traditional band, a double bass player who also sang a cappella and, of course, some a cappella singing from the session's host Richard Neil.
The musical content varied right the way through the musical spectrum from 16th century jigs and reels through ragtime and blues to modern rock and pop tunes to the great appreciation of a good audience who it seemed had mainly turned up to listen but readily joined in with some of the really well known tunes.
|Sunday music session at Quay Inn Minehead West Somerset|
Due to the popularity of this session / open mic / singaround, Richard Neil has now agreed with supportive pub landlady Rachel for the musical gathering to be scheduled on the first and third Sundays of the month, starting at 2.30pm. There is even the possibility, I am told, of further similar sessions popping up in other weeks, venue as yet undecided, if there is the demand from local musicians, singers and audiences. Given the statistical fact that 3% of the UK population are musicians or singers who have had some experience of live performance in front of audiences, there is plenty of scope for growth from performers and Sunday afternoon's in Minehead are certainly much improved by a venue offering some musical entertainment and fun.
|Musicians Sunday session Quay Inn Minehead borders of Exmoor|
Additionally, the music session is informal and does depend on musicians and singers turning up as it's very much a joining in session open to everybody with no musicians specifically booked. However, this new session seems to be going from strength to strength at the moment so the signs it will keep rocking are good.
From my own point of view, as a saxophone and flute musician, I am very much reliant on finding a supporting guitar or other chordal instrument accompanist at these sorts of sessions to be able to provide a complete duo, trio or band performance. Of course, I would love to be able to identify one or a couple of other local musicians to play with by arrangement more regularly. Hopefully, this music session / singaround / open mic perhaps will provide me with that opportunity so there is a good chance you will probably see me there again :-)