Eileen Ivers, the original instrumental star of Riverdance, and her band Immigrant Soul bring their “unflagging energy and potent performance” to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s James K. Polk Theater on Friday, Oct. 26 at 8 p.m.
The daughter of Irish immigrants, Ivers has played with symphonies and well-known artists worldwide. She is a founding member of Cherish the Ladies and a nine-time All-Ireland Fiddle Champion. Her band, Immigrant Soul, is an eclectic mix of four musicians blending African, American, Irish and Latin music traditions.
“Anyone who knows Riverdance immediately realizes that if Eileen Ivers was the original musical star of that show, she must be exceptionally talented. And she is. She’s one of the most talented and highly awarded Irish musicians of our time,” says Kathleen O’Brien, TPAC president and chief executive officer. “Eileen honors both traditional music and contemporary sounds, blending in Latin, African and other influences with her band Immigrant Soul. On one level, this concert is pure entertainment, a fun night out to listen to great music. On another level, Eileen and Immigrant Soul spur us to think about our own family histories and to appreciate how music from many influences blended to give Americans a rich musical and cultural heritage.”
Members of Immigrant Soul enrich Ivers’ open-minded, open-bordered innovation and share her passion for performance. Lead singer, percussionist, and former Blues Brother Tommy McDonnell is equally at home with the congas and the bodhrán (Irish frame drum), while bassist Leo Traversa, when not teaching at NY’s Columbia University, can be found backing Afro-Cuban and Brazilian masters. Acoustic guitarist Greg Anderson has worked with folk legend Pete Seeger, as well as classical icon Itzhak Perlman. All-Ireland accordion champ Buddy Connolly has worked with American roots music greats Tim O’Brien and Kathy Mattea.
“The music is always the star, but we’re performing artists,” Ivers has said. “It’s a balance we’ve learned to strike. It’s a privilege to be up there on stage, and we love it.”
More on Eileen Ivers
Groundbreaking Irish-American fiddler Eileen Ivers can keep up with classical virtuosi while keeping up the warmth of a kitchen party with her group, Immigrant Soul. She can shred, play reels through a cry-baby pedal, inspire with a bittersweet air and with her signature intensity, all while transmitting her deep love for tradition. The audience and stage become one through the interactiveness of the music, the joy of the musicians and the passion with which Ivers shares the stories of these traditions.
The young Ivers never expected to become a professional musician with numerous All-Ireland Fiddle Championships and Grammy-awarded projects under her belt—she’s a mathematician by education. Yet her unintentional career has taken her from co-founding Cherish the Ladies and touring with The Chieftains, to guest starring with acclaimed symphonies, collaborating with celebrated jazz and pop artists and her most recent televised performances with Sting. Ivers expertise and artistic diversity led her to forge a new, front-and-center role for the fiddle in Celtic performance, in particular, in creating the musical star role of Riverdance.
Her own work has led her to dig deep into Irish and Celtic sounds, tracing connections between continents and scattered Celtic communities, sharing how these connections reverberate in American roots music, delving into jazz sensibilities and Grappelli-esque improvisations, and incorporating her trademark effects with her eye-catching (and ear-catching) electric violin.
By diving into diverse projects with multifaceted musicians, Ivers continues to blend Celtic soulfulness with a well-honed sense of showmanship. The show can bring even the most staid audience to its feet. Ivers frequently gets listeners dancing in the aisles and often leaps into the audience to join them. She gets hugs from fans of all ages as she and the band chat in the lobby after shows—a favorite way for Ivers to end an evening—and promises from kids to finally start practicing their violins.
To learn more, visit www.eileenivers.com.
Tickets starting at $15 are on sale now at www.tpac.org, by phone at (615) 782-4040, and at the TPAC Box Office, 505 Deaderick Street, in downtown Nashville.
*Photos by John Kuczala courtesy Tennessee Performing Arts Center.