Thoughts on the Alehouse Session

Image from Alehouse at Osafestivalen 2012The last couple of years, I have been very interested in a certain periode of time in London.. A time where professional musicians were roaming the streets without a venue to play their music – because all theatres were closed and making money on performing music was prohibited. I picture these grey-cloacked figures; how they’re hiding their instruments to protect them from the rain and wind – but also to avoid confrontations with the authorities – and then moving into the town’s taverns or alehouses to meet friends, drink and most of all to play and sing music. These gatherings of proffesional musicians became so popular that some of these places turned into so-called «musick-houses»; and thus became the first public concert-halls in the history of western music.

It must have been an incredible atmosphere in these places – overflowing with music, alcohol, sex, gossip, fights, fumes, shouting, singing, laughing, dancing… how can we recreate some of this in our soapy-clean, filo-faxed, computerized, health-fixated, union-obsessed society? Well, first you have to have a group of well-travelled musicians and singers and let them play a whole serious concert at a high profile festival. Then you have to serve them beer straight after, teach them a couple of naughty songs and then ask them to join you in performing a second concert consisting of highly entertaining, touching, rude, beautiful, rough and virtuosic folk-like music. The venue needs to serve beer and wine to the audience and it has to be warm (or hot) in the room. Allow your audience to join in with comments and songs during the show – and before you know it, you have created a setting very different from today’s clean and formal concert-halls and turned it into something closer to a 17th century alehouse.

Bjarte Eike

“A house of sinne you may call it, but not a house of darknesse, for the Candles are neuer out, and it is like those Countries farre in the North, where it is as cleare at mid-night as at mid-day.” (John Earle, micro-cosmographie: Or a Peece of the World Discovered, 1628)