Ivers adds strings to Dallas
Infectious fiddle combines with symphony for powerful blend of emotive movements and traditional tunesBy Andrew HarleySpecial to the DailyVAIL – Conceptually speaking, the difference between music and emotions is commonly nonexistent. And if a gap exists between the strings on a fiddle and the metaphorical strings of the human heart, Eileen Ivers is a solid bridge.
Ivers, an internationally renowned fiddle maestro, joins the Dallas Symphony Orchestra today at Ford Amphitheater at 6 for an evening rooted in Celtic music, but not bound by the tradition.Three members of Ivers’ band, Immigrant Soul, will join her at center stage during the performance as well as a violinist, percussionist and pianist from the orchestra. Two Irish dancers from the Wick School of Irish Dance – based out of Denver – will also add their physical harmony to the program.”I always feel privileged to be playing music as a profession; it’s a pretty cool job. I play 100 shows a year, and it will be a treat playing with this wonderful symphony orchestra in Vail. Not too bad of a setting, I should say,” said Ivers. “The show will be full of music, song and dance, and I expect it to be a fairly visual, well-rounded show.”The program will feature traditional Irish tunes, dance tunes, as well as some parallels with American and African traditions and some Appalachian music and bluegrass – which can be seen as Celtic roots music. The traditional tunes range from modern to 300 years old, and Ivers has some of her own compositions to share.”(We’ll) have rich, melodic airs and tunes in tradition as well as upbeat dance tunes, which makes for a full gamut of emotions and feelings,” said Ivers.
Ivers assembled Immigrant Soul seven years ago, and the group has been touring and making albums ever since its formation.”I feel really blessed to be doing what I am doing. To build audiences and take music to new places in the world are among my goals. I want to keep moving forward in music, to keep touching folks with our music along the way, and I want to continue to uphold the traditions of our music,” said Ivers, who was a daughter of Irish immigrants and grew up in the Bronx district of New York. “Music is a big lineage of generations playing and keeping traditions alive.”Without a doubt, Ivers’ original work stems from Celtic tradition, though she consciously writes some of her music into other genres. For instance, her song “Whiskey and Sangria” combines Irish tradition with Celtic tradition, and was inspired by a flamenco dancer during her work with River Dance.Though she realizes her importance within the realm of music, Ivers had not always planned to become a professional musician.”When I look back, I never dreamt of being a musician. I studied math to work as an aeronautical engineer to work with NASA, which was never meant to be. So then doors began opening,” said Ivers, who competed in the All-Ireland Fiddle Championships, winning the title nine times between the ages of 9 and 18. “I encourage the young musicians that I meet to keep playing and practicing. If you’re drawn to music it’s good to pick up an instrument every day and really know your music and tradition. Try not to be too fancy, but learn your tradition and find your own voice. If it’s a dream, work hard and practice and if it’s meant to happen, it will. But if you’re not having fun, it’s not worth it.”
Immigrant Soul’s guitarist James Riley, piper Ivan Goff and percussionist and vocalist Tommy McDonnell will be joining Ivers on the big stage in Vail. Riley was born in Dublin and learned music from his father, Kit Riley, who was a famous Irish balladeer, and he also studied under guitar maestro Jon Hicks. Goff, like Ivers, is an All-Ireland champion. Goff hails from Dublin as well, and he plays the uilleann pipes (Irish bellow-blown pipes), whistles and Irish wooden concert flute. McDonnell is slated to perform two songs in the Vail program. He is an Irish-American who was also raised in the Bronx. He grew up with R&B and soul, and spent some time at the forefront of the Blues Brothers Band.Ivers is excited to play her first show in Vail. She played at the Vilar Center three years ago, and she’s planning to spend an extra day in the valley because she finds it so beautiful.”(Playing live music) is always fulfilling even if one audience isn’t as up as another audience, each show is a testament to Irish music. It’s interactive and friendly and it reaches you on so many levels. You can feel emotions in music as well as seeing pure joy in music,” said Ivers. “The music I play is very honest and it tends to get people in the end. It’s pretty cool to be able to touch folks with music and get them to come out of their shells.”Ivers has an abundance of stories and experiences that relate to ultra-positive experiences people have had through her music. She shared one about an autistic boy who was 13 years old when his mother took him to one of Ivers’ performances. The boy’s mother had played music for him throughout his childhood, but he had never responded to it. The boy responded joyously to Ivers’ music, and his mother wrote the story in full into Ivers’ guestbook.”I feel incredibly humbled that something like that could be so touching to people,” said Ivers. “I’m very psyched and I’m looking forward to playing. I hope folks will come out and enjoy themselves.”Eileen Ivers, members of Immigrant Soul and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra perform Celtic classics and other delectables at the Ford Amphitheater today at 6 p.m.