Magnified societies: A closer look at TradSoc

Livy Wren explores the sessions community of TradSoc

Illustration by Fiona McGowan

Looking for a place to either participate in or watch an Irish traditional music session? No need to continue your search. We have the answer courtesy of TradSoc. Every few weeks TradSoc organises a session at Chaplins Bar. Less than a five minute walk from Front Gate, on Hawkins Street, Chaplins plays host to students coming together to listen to and play some tunes.

Beginning around 9pm on a chosen Wednesday, the arrival of the musicians is steady and before long, what once seemed like a sizable back area of the bar, is overflowing with musicians and listeners alike.

Individuals who happen to have chosen Chaplins as their watering hole on a Wednesday night are treated to the beautiful instrumental entanglement of accordion, flute, concertina, fiddle, tin whistle, bodhrán, uilleann pipes, guitar, and piano. The musicians and instruments differ at nearly every session, allowing for a unique experience each time.

“Depending on who is there, it could be a sweet, mellow session or it might be a lively foot stomping night of fast reels and jigs. The nice thing about our sessions is that you get a nice mix of new faces,” said Maeve McCann, the treasurer of TradSoc.

It is this environment that entices international students, such as Laurence Castaigne, who began attending the TradSoc session during her Erasmus year in Trinity during 2016. After learning about TradSoc during Freshers Week, she was able to keep up to date with the society’s Facebook page, which is very active in promoting the events hosted.

“Chaplins is cosy,” Castaigne expressed. “It is not crowded, you can sit and enjoy music without having a hard time finding seats.” When asked why she enjoyed attending the sessions Laurence answered: “The music is always nice – beautiful. You can chat with the committee members and ask questions about music.”

Others, such as Brian Harraghy, who plays in the sessions, answered the same question by saying: “I go to meet up with friends, play some tasty tunes and drink some just as tasty Guinness!” The secretary of TradSoc, Ríoghnach Hyland, who plays the tin whistle at the sessions, described them as “a means of bringing every member of the trad community together, whether a listener or a player. It doesn’t matter how talented you are, everyone is given an opportunity to play. They’re very sociable events where you get to meet people with similar and completely different interests and viewpoints.”

“The sessions are intended for the members of TradSoc, however, anyone is welcome to join in,” explained McCann. The evenings embody the spirit of all Irish traditional music sessions in this way, being an inviting space where friends and strangers can come together and be connected by music. Sessions allow for the spread of new music, as they provide a platform for learning for new and old players alike. Traditional music is often learned by ear; individuals have a song library in their heads. It is at sessions where there is a transfer of this information through the introduction of new tunes.

The TradSoc sessions have been taking place in Chaplins for the last two years, relocating to different pubs in the area every so often. In regards to how those at Chaplins view the sessions, McCann explained that, “‘Martin or ‘Murt,’ the bar manager is great and enjoys us coming in and playing a few tunes”. Hyland lent some wise words stating that “the only guaranteed connection is a love for trad”.