Heart of Louisiana: Irish Jam

It’s a different kind of musical jam session in south Louisiana.
Published: Jul. 9, 2023 at 9:59 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 9, 2023 at 10:32 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It’s a different kind of musical jam session in south Louisiana. Instead of a Cajun two-step, musicians gather once a month at a St. Tammany Parish brew pub to play their favorite Irish tunes.

This is not the typical music jam session that you might expect in south Louisiana. It’s not Cajun bluegrass or country. This is the music of Ireland, and it’s being played on the third Thursday of each month at the Abita Brew Pub in Abita Springs.

“Anywhere where there’s human culture and tradition, you’ll have a traditional music of some sort,” said Christopher Talley.

Christopher Talley is president of the North Shore Traditional Music Society, which organizes the monthly Irish music session. I’ve been all over the state to a lot of Cajun music jam sessions, a few zydeco jams, bluegrass jams, but this is my first Irish jam. Are there just not any others around?

“They’re around and actually I learn about ‘em. Folks who come to our session tell us what’s happening in Baton Rouge or across the lake or in Lafayette,” Talley said.

At this session, you have fiddles an accordion, mandolin and acoustic guitar, an Irish whistle and wood flute, and the steady rhythm of the bodhran. A traditional Irish hand drum, the musicians take turns picking the tunes.

“The person starts it off, and whoever can play it will play it. If you haven’t played it, you’re supposed to listen to it and maybe figure it out by the time we’re finished, so we repeat it several times,” Annie Young Bridges said.

Annie Young Bridges, who teaches string music in Mandeville schools says this type of session is more about playing songs you’ve already learned and practiced at home rather than trying to learn here.

“Some of the older musicians know more of the tunes by ear and some of the younger ones like myself are playing by reading so that we can get more comfortable with the tunes. We can remember it. They call it reading the dots,” Bridges said.

What is it about the music that people enjoy about playing it?

“It’s very soulful. It’s very light. It’s also happy and very sad. You know, I think it’s a very natural kind of music,” Bridges added.

These informal performances are a gathering of friends brought together each month by a love of playing music.

“It creates a space where people who are different, people who have different opinions can come and still agree with each other to make music and and experience being human to each other,” Talley said.

Here people are playing different instruments, blending rhythms and notes and melodies, creating a special harmony that sounds very Irish.

Click here to report a typo.