BootJack Ranch hosts an Irish evening, Durango Herald, July 18, 2008


Eileen Ivers and Immigrant Soul played a Celtic Celebration on Wednesday at BootJack Ranch near Pagosa Springs.

Eileen Ivers plays on the grounds of BootJack Ranch near Pagosa Springs before her Celtic Celebration concert as part of Music in the Mountains.

It was an Irish evening at BootJack Ranch near Pagosa Springs. The rain fell in the green fields of the valley and a mist rose as Eileen Ivers and Immigrant Soul took to the stage under the white Music in the Mountains tent.

Ivers’ Irish fiddle playing reminded me of everything and nothing I had ever heard before.

She is the nine-time, All-Ireland Fiddle Champion and winner of more than 30 championship medals. Her playing is boldly imaginative and clearly virtuosic. While deeply rooted in the traditions of Irish music, “a music of the people” as she called it, Ivers and her band, Immigrant Soul, explored the rhythms and sounds of multicultural music that included African and Latin percussion and bass, Irish instrumentals and soulful American vocals.

The music included Danish, French and Irish folk music, a twist on Pachelbel, soulful blues a la Bill Monroe, a conga line, a rousing version of “May the Circle Be Unbroken” and even a “Rocky Mountain High.”

But Ivers has something even more magical about her: a joy that effuses from the stage, an energy that fills a tent, a passion for music that she brings with her to each live production. Music for Ivers and Immigrant Soul is live performance. It’s playing their instruments and pushing each other to go ever higher, to play ever longer and explore what sounds their instrument can produce.

Whether it was a playful interaction with percussionist and vocalist Tommy McDonnell or a spirited, several-minute-long, dancing, sweat-drenching musical creation between Ivers and three-time button-accordion champion Buddy Connolly, the audience responded with standing ovations.

The group played tunes from “Riverdance” and a hybrid set of Irish reels that have transformed during their immigration through the Bronx, from where many of the band members hail. “The Gravel Walk” featured steel pedal violin, an eerie musical effect more familiar to rock music than fiddle playing.

The audience was invited to sing along and as the night progressed, the stiff-chair-sitting-yes-I’ll-sing-if-you-want-me-to vibe shifted into a can you hear me singing? I’m singing and dancing and clapping and I don’t know when I’ve had so much fun at a classical music festival vibe.

“There’s so much emotion in Irish music,” Ivers said from the stage. Emotion and energy. It’s sad and mournful and then it’s rousing and happy and joyous. And Ivers happily educated her audience by playing a traditional Irish tune then an Appalachian tune, drawing the comparison for the audience just as she drew her bow across the fiddle.

Music in the Mountains invited Ivers and her band to play in Durango and Pagosa Springs this year in an effort to broaden the menu of music offered to concert-goers in the Southwest. Ivers played the area in 2002 and 2004 at the Four Corners Folk Festival. She was the perfect choice because she and her band are as much at home at a folk festival as they are on a stage with a symphony. Now, there’s an idea for next time. Bring Ivers back and let her perform with a full symphony.

Talk about bringing down a tent. Leanne Goebel is a freelance writer specializing in the arts.


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