Fiddler Eileen Ivers plays Beaver Creek
Vail, CO Colorado
Recalling the roaring hearths and roars of laughter that are part and parcel of every Irish Christmas, virtuoso fiddler Eileen Ivers interweaves age-old Wren Day songs, beloved American carols, and even a jigging Bach in “An Nollaig: An Irish Christmas.” Ivers returns to the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek Wednesday evening. She recently took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily.
1. Vail Daily: When did you first become interested in music?
Eileen Ivers: Recently, an uncle in Ireland recalled a vision of me “playing air violin” with a pink plastic guitar and wooden spoon when I was around 3 years old; I suppose I had the music bug back then. I never dreamed of having a career in music and actually studied math in college and grad school. But, I feel blessed to do something which I love and music is an amazingly fulfilling passion.
2. VD: Your Vilar Center appearance is a special holiday themed performance, what pieces might audiences expect to hear at this festive program?
EI: The concert is entitled, “An Nollaig – An Irish Christmas” and features traditional Irish tunes and songs of Christmas of which some date back to the 12th century. Other tunes are some American loved carols with an Irish flavor, such as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Do You Hear What I Hear” and even Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” We share with the audience many customs and traditions that are part of an Irish Christmas, including a fascinating ritual on St. Stephen’s Day (also known as the Wren Day), Dec. 26. The five-piece band and I are joined by a choir and dancers to augment the tune and story selections.
3. VD: You have been named the “All-Ireland Fiddle Champion” nine times. Explain what this competition is and what is means to you to be named champion in multiple years.
EI: I suppose the “All-Ireland” is sort of the “Olympics of Irish Music” so it is very humbling to have won the title numerous times. It is a competition held annually in Ireland at which pre-qualifying players from all over the world enter and compete in appropriate age groups on individual instruments as well as group playing. As an American-born player of Irish parents, it was especially gratifying to win and helped reinforce the notion that one does not have to be born in the west of Ireland to feel and play this wonderful, rich music.
4. VD: What is one of your most memorable experiences as a performer?
EI: Thankfully, there have been many – from performing in the original Riverdance production to recently sharing the stage with Sting. However, one of the most memorable was performing with the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center and seeing my then 86-year-old father-in-law, Barney Mulligan, recite his poem of leaving Ireland entitled “My American Wake.” This immigrant’s story and this traditional music were sharing a stage with an incredible orchestra in a fabulous concert hall named after another Irish immigrant family, the Kennedys.
5. VD: What do you enjoy most about performing?
EI: Touching an audience. For the band and I, the most important part of a live concert is creating in the moment and not ever having two concerts be the same because the audience is different each night, which adds to the chemistry of the performance. With heartfelt and honest music like Irish music, we constantly see how music affects people – from contemplative airs to joyous upbeat jigs and reels to humorous songs with audience participation – this music touches folks.
6. VD: What type of fiddle(s) do you play?
EI: I play my acoustic, which I’ve had since I was 10 years old as well as two electric Zeta violins – one is blue and is run through a multitude of effect pedals, including octave divider, wah wah and fuzz.
7. VD: If you could meet any musician, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
EI: Perhaps because we are performing one of his pieces in our holiday concert, I would love to have a chat with Bach. I would start by asking him what many scholars propose. Did he write so much music in his lifetime by having insight to certain mathematical infinite series? Did he balance the logic of math with the creativity of melody?
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