Interesting topic! Good debate ---
I'm living near Hampton Court Palace in England. Last weekend I toured
parts of the palace with the scholarly musicians who do the weekend gigs
Hampton Court was the home of Henry VIII. Palace kitchen records of the
1500s indicate that lively sessions took place after the work of the day.
Bones, spoons, instruments brought by traveling troubadours including
different kinds of pipes, stringed instruments from France and the orient,
the hurdy gurdy, wind instruments, jugs, etc. would have all been played in
the kitchen. Many of the exotic instruments were appropriated, or given as
gifts, and kept in the palace collection.
Sitting by the fire, in the chill of the gigantic Hampton Court kitchen,
watching them play the music of the 16th century, it was easy to imagine
that this place was a music magnet for intinerant musicians from all around
Europe. And with no amplification or recording equipment, music was played
in unison and repeated often enough that anyone with a good ear would have
the entire repetorie. Also noted was that this music was for dancing,
dancing being good for keeping warm.
The palace scholars discussed the types of tunes and time signatures which
would match up with what we know as reels at least. While this is not
recorded history of a session in Ireland, it indicates that sessions were
taking place in the best known house of it's generation, in a part of
Europe not far from Ireland.