Folk music has found a home in the Village of Webster

20 Feb

Anyone familiar with the Village of Webster probably knows by now that our corner pub, Barry’s Old School Irish, is THE place to find authentic Irish music. Fewer people realize, however, that every weekend Barry’s is also home to the best folk music in town, performed by the Webster Saturday Folk Jam.

Stop into Barry’s Old School Irish any Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. and you’ll find a group of folk musicians circled around tables in the bakery side of the pub. They’re mostly playing guitars, with an occasional mandolin, banjo, bass or ukulele joining the mix. But they’re all playing, and they’re all singing, jamming to tunes we all know and filling the pub with beautiful music.

The Webster Saturday Folk Jam was established just over five years ago by Webster resident Dave Wyble, who’s led the weekly sessions since day one. He was inspired by a similar group hosted by the Golden Link Folk Singing Society, which has been holding Tuesday-night “sing-arounds” for more than 50 years.

Wyble, a self-described Golden Link “lurker” and folk musician himself (he and his wife Patty have their own duo, Doctor’s Orders), liked the idea of bringing more music to the pub. At the same time, he added, hosting a weekly jam would help him improve his own musical skills, learn more about folk music, and share that knowledge with others.

The Webster Saturday Folk Jams, however, have always been different in one big way from the sing-arounds which inspired them.

The Golden Link philosophy focuses as much on the history of the music as the music itself, Wyble explained. “It’s more about the culture of folk music, what folk music has brought to the culture in addition to the actual tunes.”  

“Their focus is more on keeping alive the folk tradition,” he added. “When you sing a song (at the sing-arounds) you’re more or less expected to introduce it in some way,” telling of its history or where you learned it, before playing the song for the assembled musicians. Sometimes others will play along, but mostly everyone else just sits back and listens. 

It’s not unusual for up to 25 musicians to join the sing-arounds, which mean that usually there’s only enough time for each musician to perform once. Wyble wanted his Webster Saturday Folk Jam sessions to offer more playing opportunities than that.

“I wanted a new form of group where all in attendance had the opportunity to play along if they so desired,” he said. To facilitate that, everyone works from the same two songbooks, Rise Up Singing and Rise Again. That way, everyone has the chords and lyrics in front of them for every song played.

Between them, the books have about 2500 songs, and they’re not all what you might consider “folk classics.” For sure, folkies like Pete Seeger, Peter Paul & Mary and Woodie Guthrie are well represented. But you’ll also find Jason Mraz, Mumford & Sons, Ed Sheeran and Green Day. There’s even a whole chapter called “Millenial Songs.”

Working from common songbooks also makes it easy for anyone in the listening crowd to join in.

“If someone comes along and looks interested,” Wyble said, “I will hand them a book and say, ‘Here, pick one of these and we’ll do our best to play it with you. … I might not know the song, but if you can sing it and I’ve got the chords in front of me, I will play it for you.'” 

“That’s the kind of inclusivity that we’ve always tried to maintain here. Make it so that it’s a group environment. Because folk music by its definition is the music that the folk sing,” a description he attributes to Pete Seeger.  

The group was successful from the very beginning, drawing musicians from all over the area, including several Golden Link board members. The first session, held on January 7, 2017, attracted nine musicians, most of whom still attend regularly. Since then, the circle might have as few as four or five, whereas other weeks as many as a dozen musicians and their instruments have had to squeeze into the bakery corner.

The pandemic didn’t even slow them down too much.

Like everything else, the Webster Saturday Folk Jams took a big hit from COVID. The sessions moved to Zoom for several months when the pandemic began, then returned in-person for a few months over the summer until Delta and Omicron drove them back online.

In-person sessions have returned to the pub again, however. For two hours last Saturday, Barry’s Old School Irish was once again filled with folk harmonies, getting toes tapping and the pub singing.

Being part of the crowd was kind of like sitting around a campfire with good friends. And that’s exactly what the Webster Saturday Folk Jam is all about.

Click here to find out more about the Webster Saturday Folk Jam, or better yet, stop by Barry’s Old School Irish any Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. to see what it’s all about. Bring your voice, bring an instrument, or just bring your love of folk music. You’ll be welcome no matter what.

Barry’s is located at 2 West Main St. in the Village of Webster.

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4 Responses to “Folk music has found a home in the Village of Webster”

  1. Kathy Taddeo February 20, 2022 at 6:56 pm #

    This sounds wonderful, Missy. Can’t wait to try it!

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. villagehandworks February 24, 2022 at 2:36 pm #

    I’ll be there soon! What a GREAT Community gathering thing to do! Thanks to Barry’s for hosting!

  3. Lauren Ornstein February 26, 2022 at 8:03 am #

    I’ve been lucky to join the Webster Sat. Folk Jam on Zoom, from far off in Israel. It helped me to reconnect and play music with old and new friends. With some more luck, I’ll get to Webster this summer and join the jam face-to-face.

    • websterontheweb February 26, 2022 at 8:05 am #

      I do believe that Dave told me that you often Zoomed in. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I’m going to stop down to the pub this afternoon and will mention to Dave that you wrote 🙂

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