Eileen Ivers• December 3, 2022• The Noorda
Reviewed by Kevin Rolfe
Photographed by Emily Muñoz courtesy of Utah Valley University
Don’t you hate it when you see someone so talented, so incredibly gifted, and think, “How is this the first I’m learning of this person?” That’s how I felt when I saw American Fiddler, Eileen Ivers. Turns out I’m familiar with a lot of her work. But I’m kicking myself that I wasn’t familiar with her name. However, after seeing Ms. Ivers at the Noorda Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Utah Valley University, I’ll never forget it. Here’s just a snippet from the bio on Eileen’s website. Her accolades are extensive and impressive…
Grammy awarded, Emmy nominated, London Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops, guest starred with over 50 orchestras, original Musical Star of Riverdance, Nine Time All-Ireland Fiddle Champion, Sting, Hall and Oates, The Chieftains, ‘Fiddlers 3’ with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Regina Carter, Patti Smith, Al Di Meola, Steve Gadd, founding member of Cherish the Ladies, movie soundtracks including “Gangs of New York”, performed for Presidents and Royalty worldwide…this is a short list of accomplishments, headliners, tours, and affiliations. Fiddler Eileen Ivers has established herself as the pre-eminent exponent of the Irish fiddle in the world today.
The interesting thing is I read all of this after the concert. During the concert, I was completely blown away. And I kept thinking about how impressive bother Eileen and her band were. I thought, she must be well known and well respected in the industry. I was happy to be right about that when I read her bio.
The concert started with Ivers on stage playing the familiar melody from “O Come All Ye Faithful”. As she beautifully played two members of her band walked towards the stage from each side playing brass instruments. They were joined by an accordion and then percussions. We were off and running. That familiar tune was then part of a melody of exciting Irish/ Celtic themed tunes. It was a great way to start the concert and introduce the attentive audience to the band and music.
Eileen shared that this was their first time playing in Utah. They were thrilled to play here and are hopeful to keep returning. She shared that they were excited to play holiday themed music. Much of it traditional Irish music, but also Americana and American Roots music. She invited us to sing and clap along. Ivers acknowledged the beauty of The Noorda but told us we could make it like an Irish pub.
The set was filled with amazing music, medlies, and poetry. Eileen Ivers clearly a talented musician, but also a great storyteller. I enjoyed hearing the background of much of this music. Either the story or why they were playing it didn’t matter. It was totally interesting to me and clearly to the rest of the audience. As I looked around I could see people’s eyes were locked on Ivers and her words.
Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, Matt Mancuso took the bulk of the lead vocals and was a major feature in this concert. He invited the audience to sing along for a song. The crowd was a little shy at first, but Mancuso in his direct Brooklyn way encouraged the timid crowd and they rose to the occasion.
A huge highlight for me was a segment in the show when Eileen Ivers was on stage alone. Just her and her fiddle. She shared all the amazing things that can be done with a fiddle when it’s mic’d. She then created an entire song using a looping pedal. There was a beat, bass line, melody, and harmonies. It filled the room. Again, I looked around The Noorda to see eyes as wide as dinner plates and mouths opened to the floor. It was really impressive and the ovation was so full of joy.
Each member of Ivers’ band was extremely talented. They all played a variety of instruments and had such a rapport with one another that they were so fun to watch. I think they could give a masterclass on not only this style of music but on playing together in a band so cohesively.
The Noorda is quickly becoming one of my favorite venues in all of Utah. Not only does is sound incredible in there, but there is not a bad seat in the house. And not only is the venue excellent, so is the talent they schedule. I dare you to open the calendar of events for The Noorda close your eyes and drop your finger. Whatever date you choose, just go to that performance. Even if you don’t know who it is. I guarantee you’ll be impressed with the talent you’ll witness and the musical enrichment you’ll receive.
The New York Times called Eileen Ivers the “Jimmy Hendrix of the violin”. I get what they’re saying. She’s an incredibly innovative talent on what is one of our most ancient instruments. I heard the violin do things I had never heard before. It was a most impressive night. She expressed a desire to return, and I really hope she does soon.