Eileen Ivers on Celtic Music, the Future of the Fiddle, and Summer Music Festivals

Jun 3, 2016

The Irish-American fiddler talked to KSUT's Mark Duggan ahead of her performance at the Pagosa Folk & Bluegrass Festival June 4.

Eileen Ivers grew up loving the fiddle. It filled the air of her New York City home as a young child, leading her to take up the instrument at age nine.

That love has led her to an accomplished career as a solo artist; member of Cherish the Ladies and Riverdance; and as an in-demand guest on projects by the the Chieftains, Paul Winter, and the Afro-Celt Sound System.

Ivers told KSUT's Mark Duggan that her parents, originally from Ireland's County Mayo, also liked bluegrass, in a hint of the multi-genre appreciation she'd adopt herself as an adult.

That appreciation guided her as she made her most recent album Beyond the Bog Road, which is billed as a multi-media story of the Irish immigrant experience in America.

The album is the result of a lot research, and a distillation of her own childhood experiences learning Irish music.

According to Ivers, Beyond the Bog Road's aim is to showcase the Celtic music tradition and how it has impacted many other styles of music.

“Our own Americana music … French-Canadian … African roots music and rhythms. It's certainly a part of old-timey music, bluegrass music, even country music traditions,” said Ivers.

It's especially exciting for Ivers to see a new generation of young Irish players take up the fiddle. Many are embracing technology, she said, using the same kind of special effects and looping devices she's used with the fiddle for years.

Eileen Ivers and her band play the main stage at the Pagosa Folk and Bluegrass Festival Saturday June 4. For Ivers, it marks an exciting return to the area. She's played the Four Corners Folk Festival before, and vividly remembers the show.

“We had one of those amazing sets where everything came together,” said Ivers. “The audience, the musicians on stage, the setting. There's something very magical about that setting, when you're outside, being together, celebrating history and emotional music within this tradition.

Ivers said she feeds off of the audience, whether playing an improvised solo, or in a full-band arrangement.

“It's singing along of the same songs,” she added, “feeling good, taking us out of everyday life and going to somewhere special.”