Greenshoots Music Group

Traditional folk tunes, played slowly to learn, then faster for fun.

Welcome to Greenshoots

What Are We?

We are an amateur music practice group, with origins and focus in folk music, particularly British Isles traditional dance music, but sometimes playing a wider range of music. You might also think of us as a 'slow session', or a 'Beginners and Improvers Tune Session' (BITS). These days we are more improvers than beginners, but always willing to slow tunes down.

We also have developed since Covid lockdowns, a set of online resources as Virtual Greenshoots, with slow/fast recordings of tunes and videos of our sessions.

Who Are We?

It varies week to week, but usually between 12 and 25 people of all ages. There is a core group who have been coming (on and off) for years that gives continuity and stability, and then newcomers join every few months - some stay for a few months, and others stay for years (or leave and come back again later). See 'Why' section below.

At a collaboration concert in October 2010 (concentrating too hard - normally happier!)

When, Where and How?

We meet on alternate Monday evenings, from 8pm to 10:30. In 2023, the first sessions were 2nd and 16th Jan, then strictly every other week through the year.

We are based in the villages to the south and southwest of Cambridge (UK!). From 9 October 2023 we returned to our winter home at the All Saints Community Hall in Melbourn. This is in the centre of the village next to the church. The address is Station Road, Melbourn but the vehicle access is off the High Street by the red telephone box.

Depending on time of year, Covid risks, and room availability, we have also used other venues, e.g. Comberton Village Hall, The Lord Byron Inn at Trumpington, or the Black Horse at Melbourn (our summer home).

New players are always welcomed! Cost is zero! Contact details are at the bottom of the page.

What Instruments Do We Play?

Currently the group wields concertinas (Anglo and English), fiddles, guitars, bass guitar, mandolins, dulcimers, flutes, whistles, recorders, plus occasional melodeon, accordion, bodhrán etc.

What Music Do We Play?

Over the years we have built up a large list of tunes to which we have the music. Most are British Isles traditional music, particularly folk dance tunes. However there are exceptions ranging from Lily Marlene to American Patrol and Ashokan farewell. The majority are single line melodies with chord accompaniment, but we do also use some harmony settings (mainly 2-part).

Most of the tunes (660+) are available in Paul Hardy's session tunebook, which is free as PDF to download and print, and also in abc format to play and manipulate. You can also there order a printed and spiral bound copy via's print on demand services.

To help with learning tunes, During Covid lockdown Paul has recorded the tunes in his tunebooks, so see the alphabetical index to session tunes. There is a similar alphabetical index to Xmas tunes.

What Is The Standard?

Variable! We are a mix of abilities and experience, but are all better than when we joined. We start tunes slowly, and then speed up gradually. We are not afraid of stopping and practicing difficult bits several times. We support learners through the process of joining in tunes.

Why Do We Exist?

The group started in about 1995 at the Wheatsheaf pub in Eversden, and has been meeting fortnightly ever since. The idea was to play tunes slowly and speed them up, starting off reading the music from the 'dots', and moving more to playing by ear. The target was to ease players into the main folk sessions that ran at that pub at that time.

The pub name gave Greenshoots its name, as the new 'green shoots' of the wheat. When the main Wheatsheaf session closed in the late 1990s, then Greenshoots moved to the Red Lion at Whittlesford where it occupied a back room for many years. In Autumn 2011, the Red Lion was being redeveloped, so we moved to the Black Horse at Melbourn. Covid took us virtual and to village halls for space. In 2023 we moved to the back room at the Lord Byron at Trumpington, as people prefer the pub ambiance. When that room was withdrawn, we moved back to All Saints Community Hall in Melbourn.

What Do We Sound Like?

There are some MP3 recordings of tunes recorded in our usual Greenshoots sessions, plus ones of some of us playing sets at two of the local collaboration concerts. Or see a video recording of a recent session.

How Is It Organised?

We are a self-help group, with no single boss (a benevolent oligarchy?). Paul is the usual leader when he's there, because of the use of his Session tunebook as the core repertoire, and because his concertina can be heard! Mike as long-term secretary handles the finances (minimal) and accommodation arrangements, and organises if Paul is not there. Paul currently has the master email list and sends out the reminders and lists of tunes for the next session, although others have held this role in the recent past. Chris has been continuity and the musical director. Matthew, Bruce, and Clive have deputised as primary leader, and they and others lead tunes most weeks. Others chime in as needed.

Do We Perform in Public?

Rarely! We exist to play for our own pleasure, and to improve our playing. However, we normally do a carol session for charity each year before Christmas, and have been known to do occasional half hour spots at local folk events.

Performing at the Red Lion folk day in July 2002

Current Music Session Contents

Sessions in 2023 are currently running alphabetically through the next dozen or so tunes from Paul Hardy's Session Tunebook. This is free to download in PDF or ABC formats, or you can order a print on demand spiral bound copy.

Other Info

Coronavirus and Virtual Greenshoots

Greenshoots 16/3/2020 was cancelled, and physical events were suspended for 18 months. However, through lockdown and its aftermath, we met virtually using Zoom weekly on a Monday evening, to play the week's selection of tunes, led by Paul. Paul also recorded nine or so tunes each week played in the Greenshoots style of slowly, then faster, to learn. See the page on Virtual Greenshoots which has over six hundred recordings.

We restarted physical session in August 2021, but in Comberton Village Hall or Melbourn All Saints Hall as a more Covid-secure envirnment than the rather cramped back room of a pub. From June 2022 we returned to the Black Horse in Melbourn, but meeting outside in a covered but open area. As winter approached we reverted to Melbourn All Saints Hall. Some of these sessions were also streamed by Zoom, so see a video recording of a recent session, and previous sessions.


Webmaster: Paul Hardy, 15 Kentings, Comberton, CAMBRIDGE, CB23 7DT.
Secretary: Mike Rawlings

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