Maria Smith | Thursday, December 2, 2004
Eileen Ivers is a name is that probably sounds familiar to many, although most may not know why. The acclaimed fiddle player has risen to great heights of success in the musical world. Ivers’ list of accomplishments is a long one. Besides her work with Immigrant Soul, she is a nine-time All-Ireland Fiddle Champion, has played with the London Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony at The Kennedy Center, Boston Pops, The Chieftains, Paula Cole, Patti Smith and Hall and Oates. She performed as the musical star of Riverdance and was a founding member of the acclaimed Irish music ensemble Cherish the Ladies. Eileen Ivers and Immigrant Soul promises to be a spectacular show. The group, which was first established in 1999, has received rave reviews from critics.Part of the group’s appeal is the sheer variety of their music. The basis for the group’s sound is in Irish music, but they combine styles from all over the world for a hodge-podge that comes together surprisingly well. Four of the musicians come from Irish music backgrounds, including guitarist James Riley, piper Ivan Goff and Bronx native Tommy McDowell. Ivers herself is a child of Irish immigrants and grew up in the Bronx, where she played fiddle from the age of eight and was steeped in Irish as well as other musical traditions.At its root, however, the sound adopts a wider bass. Adriano Santos from Sao Paulo, Brazil, brings Brazilian and Latin beats to the music, and Chicago-born bassist Emmanuel Gatewood brings South African rhythms to the music. “We ever want to dilute the Irish music, but it’s so rhythmic,” Ivers said. “There aren’t many percussion instruments in Irish music, just the bodhran. Combining these rhythms, makes a bigger bed for music to fit on, and I think it makes the music more accessible for audiences in general.”McDowell, who has shared the stage with BB King, James Brown, Eric Clapton and Isaac Hayes among others, also brings an American blues background to the music.”[W]e delve into some parallels in Irish music, we do some bluegrass, Appalachian tunes as well, and we kind of show how it’s all connected.Although Ivers has played violin since childhood, she did not always plan on making her career through music. The artist majored in math at Iona College and continued to study math after graduation.”My dream was NASA, the space program, something to do with that. I had a great adviser who said, ‘You know, get your math degree, you can go anywhere from a math degree.’ That was great advice. It does groom you in terms of logic,” Ivers said.Mathematical study may or may not helped Ivers in her musical career, but did provide a chance to study some interesting parallels between the fields.”I did some papers on math and music in college, it was cool,” Ivers said. “Even Bach would write using these mathematics. You find Fibonacci and all these series. The discipline helps you to put things together.”Ivers may be famous for fiddling, but the artists considers interacting with the audience a vital and rewarding part of any show. Ivers narrates her concerts with stories about the music, immigration and other things. After performances Ivers always greets her audience to sign autographs and talk to anyone who has been touched by her music.”I don’t know how you could just leave [after a performance], you need to meet people. There are some amazing reactions,” Ivers said. “I’ve had people just come over and hug me, or describe similar immigration experiences to what my parents had, going through the famine and tough years and such.”In addition to all sort of music the band and narration from Ivers, the show will feature Irish dancers from the South Bend community.””Between music, song and dance it pulls a lot of people in,” Ivers said. “People think [an Irish music concert] is going to be just Irish fiddle, but it’s more than that.”In the end, a concert by Eileen Ivers and Immigrant Soul is all about pulling in the audience and making sure everyone has fun. This is something the band famously does amazingly well.”It’s such a blessing to play music and touch people like that,” Ivers said. “It’s the coolest job you could have, I think.”Eileen Ivers and Immigrant Soul will perform tonight at the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts at 9:00 p.m. Tickets cost $44 for the general public, $35 for faculty and staff and $15 for students.