House sessions, or “hooleys” are a big part of traditional culture in Ireland. Locals would gather together with their instruments, libations and perhaps a dish to share, and play tunes, sing, dance, recite verses, and tell stories well into the next morning. The host would clear a space in the main room of the house (typically the kitchen), moving all furniture to the perimeter of the room to make room for dancing. Though we didn’t have any dancers last night, the music sure was fit for it!
Being a person who values community it makes me very happy to see this tradition carried on even here in Phoenix, Arizona. Despite being in a small two-room apartment, our friends Tom and Mary are glad to host a bunch of musicians in their home every Tuesday evening. Keeping with the spirit of Ireland’s hospitable culture, Mary always keeps the kettle boiling until the last musician goes home. While much of the hooley spirit lives on in the more common pub sessions these days, it grew out of community gatherings in homes and I’ll be the first to tell you there’s nothing like it! Some of the instruments being played in the photo are the uilleann pipes (these are the Irish bagpipes, much different from the Scottish ones you see marching at parades), the tin whistle, mandolin, banjo, Irish flute, fiddle, bodhrán (drum) and guitar. Other instruments that are common in the tradition but not featured here are the concertina, button accordion and harp. As they say, the craic was mighty!