Exploring Irish music with fiddler Eileen Ivers

Eileen Ivers has one foot solidly planted in two different camps. The fiddle player relishes her family’s Irish heritage and professes the glories of Irish folk music.

But also, she treasures American individualism.

The Bronx native doesn’t mind raising the ire of Irish folk music purists and experimenting with their traditional music–as long as she likes the results.

In honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, I explore Irish music with one of its most popular practitioners.

GM: From Cherish the Ladies, the London Symphony, smaller combos to “Riverdance,” you’ve done a wide variety of things. Do you get a similar feeling–a similar satisfaction–from doing all of these different things?

EI: We really do. The emotions in Irish music are pretty wide. From hearing the heartache in the slower tunes in the tradition that are hundreds of years old, it’s very honest music. And on the other side of it you also hear the extreme joy and jubilant nature in the jigs and the dance music of Ireland.

GM: Your music is based in Ireland’s traditional music and yet you are from the Bronx. Are you accepted in Ireland with open arms?

EI: Very good question. Thankfully, now, absolutely. I think through the years, to be honest, especially when I was competing in the late 70s and early 80s, the Irish were very surprised that people from outside their own country could play this music and really live and breathe it. They were a little wary about it. But in today’s world things have changed so much and I think they look at it with a great sense of pride. You could go as far as Asia and hear a great Irish music session from non-Irish players. Long story short, they very much embrace it now.


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About genemyers

Gene Myers is a New Jersey poet, music journalist and columnist who learned to walk twice. His weekly column is called The Joy of Life. He was awarded first place in Arts and Entertainment Writing by The New Jersey Press Association.
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