This past Saturday evening, under a beautiful fall sky, the Earlville Opera House welcomed multiple award-winning, Eileen Ivers and her band to a packed crowd. This was one of the few shows at the historic opera house this year since reopening from the pandemic. Attendees were treated to an evening full of happy, uplifting music.
Eileen Ivers is one of the most gifted musicians I’ve had the pleasure to see perform. Her playlist is a mile long, with accolades just as long, but it’s her ability to make a show personal to each audience member that separates her from others, that and her immense talent. Hailed as “the Jimi Hendrix of the Violin” by The New York Times, I must wholeheartedly agree. She brings life to her music like no other and single-handedly makes the violin cool. She has surrounded herself with an amazingly talented band; Matt Mancuso (guitar, trumpet, fiddle, vocals), Buddy Connolly (accordion whistles, keyboard), Lindsey Horner (upright bass, electric bass, baritone sax), and Dave Barckow (percussion, guitar, vocals). Together, their camaraderie extends to their seamless efforts on stage to deliver a musical performance of the highest caliber.
From the moment Ivers began the show, her ability to connect with the audience was noticeable. Not only does she connect musically, but in between songs, she brings meaning to every song she is about to play with a history of the song’s origins, its cultural base, and how it ties to original Celtic music. This connection with her audience is a gift, and one seldom seen. Her show is a personal experience for each attendee.
Performing both new releases from her new album, Scatter the Light, and older favorites, Ivers shared the story of the untimely release of her latest album in March of 2020. Ivers explains, “The album reflects upon positive aspects of life and humanity, even in light of life’s struggles …focusing on moments of joy and gratitude.” It soon became a light to others during the dark days that would follow.
Ivers shared an unexpected and exciting announcement of her new children’s book, “Will Someone Play Bluey just in time for Christmas. The story is about “Bluey”, the blue violin, and his sadness at being left out and bullied because of his differences. Eileen’s blue electric violin is most definitely the inspiration of this piece, however, as a mother, the life lessons she shares show children a way to celebrate their uniqueness and diversity, including her beloved “Bluey.”
After a short intermission, Ivers returned to the stage for her second set. She shared with the audience a poem written by Eavan Frances Boland, called “The Emigrant Irish.” This moving poem not only touched the hearts and souls of those who listened, but she then followed it up with a melody of beautiful Irish ballads that brought Bolands’ words to life through music.
It was my favorite moment of the evening. The poem reads as follows:
Like oil lamps, we put them out the back —
of our houses, of our minds. We had lights
better than, newer than and then
a time came, this time and now
we need them. Their dread, makeshift example:
they would have thrived on our necessities.
What they survived we could not even live.
By their lights now it is time to
imagine how they stood there, what they stood with,
that their possessions may become our power:
Cardboard. Iron. Their hardships parceled in them.
Patience. Fortitude. Long-suffering
in the bruise-colored dusk of the New World.
And all the old songs. And nothing to lose.
To close out the evening Ivers performed “This Little Light of Mine,” engaging the audience even more as they joined in singing and dancing. It was a perfect evening of music, in one treasure of a theater, with one of the most gifted, humble, kind, and good-hearted musicians I’ve ever seen.
For those who wish to see Ivers perform, she will be returning in the next few weeks to celebrate the season with her Christmas show. Check out Ivers’ website here for her tour schedule.
1st Set: Martin’s Set (medley of tunes written by Martin Mulvihill, Eileen’s childhood violin teacher), Canbrack Girls Medley (written by Eileen Ivers, from “Beyond the Bog Road CD), Shine (written by Eileen Ivers, from “Scatter the Light” album), Mackerel Sky Medley (written by Eileen Ivers, from “Beyond the Bog Road album), Wah Wah One Violin (written by Eileen Ivers, from “Scatter the Light” album) / Mary Don’t You Weep (African American Spiritual), Gratitude / Attitude (written by Eileen Ivers, from “Scatter the Light” album)
2nd Set: Crossing the Bridge (from “Crossing the Bridge” album) / Zero G (written by Eileen Ivers from “Scatter the Light” album), Poem: “The Emigrant Irish” by Eavan Boland – Medley (medley of Irish Traditional tunes), Walk On (written by Eileen Ivers, from “Beyond the Bog Road” album), Linin’ Track (traditional, brom “Beyond the Bog Road” album), Chase the Blues Away (written by Eileen Ivers, from “Scatter the Light” Album)
Encore: This Little Light of Mine Medley (traditional gospel)