Guidelines for Concerts and Sessions

Guidelines for Concerts and Sessions at the Newcastle & Hunter Valley Folk Club


For: Concerts, House Concerts, Sessions, Blackboard Sessions, Come-all-ye Sessions, Open Muso’s sessions, Fireside Sessions and at SessionFest.

These notes have been prepared to assist with peoples’ enjoyment and understanding of the way things are currently done at our Folk Club. It has been written in response to enquiries we have received in this regard. Generally speaking, if it is a Concert the performer has the floor and can invite people to join in if they choose. If it is a Session, the performer at the time has the lead but people can join in as long as they respect the performers lead, version and turn.


Generally these events have an MC and the actual performance is not participatory. We don’t join in the performance unless invited to do so and this usually just means the chorus only. Where invited, harmonies are often appreciated but please don’t sing or play louder than the performer. A house concert is an intimate way to enjoy a performer. With only limited places, it is an opportunity to be up close and personal with the artists but please respect the owners’ house, personal property and space, as well as that of other members of the audience.


Sessions are usually participatory in a ‘take your turn around the circle’ style of event, however they don’t normally have an MC. Please don’t drown out the lead player or singer, or impose your own version on the way the music is being played or sung if you are not leading the piece being performed. A person who is next in the circle may choose not to participate but can request someone in the circle to sing or play in their stead, either so that they can join in or have something they like performed. When this happens, the next performance should come from the next person in the circle from the one who made the request.


A blackboard session event is usually MC’d where a performance time is allotted, and each performer is given a nominated start time for a specified period of performance. It will often be 15 minutes or 3 songs but this can vary according to the MC. The performance order will usually be written, having been recorded in advance, where performers choose their desired time slot. They can be participatory or non participatory, depending on the MC or the performer whose turn it is, or whether the particular event is a formal or informal one. Where the audience is invited to join in, remember to respect the fact that it is this performers turn and participate reservedly. Participation is usually just in the chorus.


Performances at Come-All-Ye Sessions are always participatory unless the performer whose turn it is requests otherwise and often feature chorus songs for people to sing along with. They are often lead by an MC who will ensure that everyone gets a go so please respect the version being performed. Come All Ye Sessions are usually a ‘take it in turns around the circle’ event although people may choose not to participate but remain a member of the audience.


Open Music Sessions are usually a general free-for-all, usually have no MC and mostly apply to the playing of tunes. This is the type of event that one might find in the bar at the National Folk Festival. It is often a jump in when there is a break in the music between tunes situation, where you start the next tune and every one will then join in with what you are playing.


Fireside session is usually one where people may contribute (jump in) with a song or tune whenever a gap in performance occurs. There is no MC and whilst it often goes around the circle, the idea is for those who want to perform to do so whilst the others remain audience (and try to keep warm). It is generally a Come All Ye type session where everyone may join in at any time unless it is requested otherwise.


Where there is a ‘structured event’ at SessionFest, (eg blackboard concert or theme concert etc,) please participate where possible. If however, you chose not to be part of one of the few structured events, please ensure that your sessioning does not interfere in any way with those events OR other people’s sessioning. The wishes of the many must outweigh the wishes of the few sometimes. People with loud instruments such as accordions and percussion items etc, please show consideration for fellow sessioners by playing reservedly, OR far enough away from other sessions to ensure it won’t interfere with the enjoyment of others.

  • If unsure about the etiquette at any event, please check with an organiser or a local to such an event.
  • Please give special encouragement to newcomers and first-timers.
  • Playing and singing in the correct key is preferred. If you are unsure of the key, ask someone or simply watch or listen until you get the hang of it before joining in.
  • Remember no-one likes a performance hog!
  • We try to avoid performing a piece that is part of someone else’s usual repertoire – ie we don’t sing the song they are most well known for if we can help it but there is a bit of lee-way there. (It is a bit hard if you don’t know the group of regulars so sometimes it is best to ask if anyone knows the piece you want to perform and if anyone minds if you do it.)
  • We request that people with loud instruments show consideration for quieter instrumentalists during performances.
  • Please try and stay within the various folk genre when you are at a Folk event.
  • Except for some concerts, backing tapes and electronic instruments are usually not appreciated as these are generally acoustic events.
  • Please avoid talking during ‘performances’ or at least do it out of earshot of the performer and audience.
  • If you feel that someone is crossing any usual etiquette boundaries, please let them know quietly and respectfully. We are all here to have a good time.
  • Please try and remember to switch off your mobile phones at organised events, particularly during concert performances.