Eileen Ivers is one of America’s preeminent Irish fiddlers. Noted Irish American writer Frank McCourt sums up Ivers’s genius eloquently: “Eileen is to Irish music as Michael Flatley is to Irish dance—a pioneer, an innovator, a universalist. She grew up in boom-box Bronx and she carries sounds from childhood that are surely embedded in her musical soul…. Like Whitman she contains multitudes, and cannot be contained by Irish music itself.”
Eileen was raised in the Irish American community in the Bronx, by parents who had emigrated from County Mayo, Ireland. She began to play the fiddle at age eight and went on to study under the watchful eye and tutelage of master Irish fiddler Martin Mulvihill, a National Heritage Fellow originally from Limerick. Ivers has won nine All-Ireland fiddle titles in her illustrious career, winning the first seven of those titles between ages eleven and nineteen, an astounding accomplishment for anyone in such a short time, let alone a teenager. For good measure, she’s also won a title on tenor banjo, too. In total, she holds more than 30 All-Ireland medals.
Ivers has built on the musical promise of her early years, promoting traditional Irish music as well as extending the range of fiddling in new and exciting ways. A founding member of the traditional ensemble Cherish the Ladies, she played a significant role in their early success. Eileen starred for three years in the smash show Riverdance, where she brought down the house with her outstanding artistry—and her electric-blue fiddle. Outside of traditional music, she has performed with a number of popular musicians, headlined concerts with major symphony orchestras, and been featured on movie soundtracks including Gangs of New York. As the daughter of immigrants raised in a rich multicultural environment like the Bronx, she has long been fascinated with the immigrant experience, and exploring how Irish music in America has interacted with the music of other cultures.
Despite her fame, Ivers retains the modesty of the traditional musician. “We’ve all been brought up,” she says, “with the ethic that we’re playing melodies that have been passed on for hundreds and hundreds of years. You learn them and play them through your lifetime and then you pass them along. But at the end of the day, it’s the music that’s the star, not any of us.” In 2019, her life came full circle when her alma mater, Iona College, awarded her a Doctor of Arts, citing her “lifelong commitment to innovation, excellence and deep dedication to bringing people together through music.”
Eileen will be backed by a stellar group of musicians, with long-time collaborator Buddy Connolly on accordion and piano, Ivan Goff on uillean pipes and flute, Colin Forhan on guitar and banjo, and bodhran player Anna Colliton. They’ll be joined by step dancers from Annapolis’s award-winning Maple Academy of Irish Dance.