String ensembles to play at local festival this weekend

Eileen Ivers

String ensembles will play a variety of music for all musical preferences at the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival this weekend.

Grammy awarded and Emmy nominated fiddler Eileen Ivers, who has performed with various orchestras, will hit the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival stage this Friday.

The Bronx native and daughter of Irish immigrants said she feels very humbled by how her music is able to connect with audience members who come from a variety of backgrounds.

She added that she has played at the festival and is looking forward to being a part of it again this year, bringing her passion for music to the stage and sharing in the musical experience with her audience.

“The crowds that come are always very open, very warm and welcoming crowd, so we’re very much looking forward to getting back there,” she said.

She said each gig she performs is special and unique, but she likes the open-air concert feel settings as they allow for more audience interaction. She said she has seen audience members dancing along the sides and this allows her to change the set list depending on what the audience is responding most to.

At the festival, she will perform two sets of about an hour each with an intermission between the two sets.

She added that the sets will include a lot of medleys with the theme of “connecting the roots.”

She said her newly released album, “Beyond the Bog Road,” was “very well received” and will be included in the set lists.

The focus is on Irish music and the immigrant experience and how this music has integrated with other roots music throughout the years, such as French Canadian, Appalachian, bluegrass and Cajun.

“There’s a theme running throughout the show to connect much of roots music,” she said, “so it’s a very diverse program and I think a very accessible program as well because I think there’s vocals, there’s tunes, slow and fast bits of music in there that really speaks to the heart of the music and just the emotion of roots music.”

She said her current band has been together for a year, but players have been periodically changed since she started the band in the late 1990’s after her time with Riverdance.

“I think it’s important to always keep things fresh,” she said.

Over the years she said she has played all over the world, including the U.S., Europe, Canada and Japan.

“It’s lovely to see the music being embraced all over the world,” she added.

The ability for people to relate to her music is extremely important to her.

“People really relate to Irish music,” she said. “It feels very familiar. I think because it is so accessible with the rhythms and the melodies you can go away humming or you can tap your foot to it. It’s very much people’s music.”

She also added that she likes to balance a mixture of old and new musical trends together to touch any individual during both good and bad times in their lives.

“The music can totally take over,” she said.

Joining Ivers on stage and offering her dancing skills to the performance will be Katie Caler, 23, a reporter with WHSV-TV3 in Harrisonburg. Caler has been an Irish dancer since she was four years old.

Ivers said, “It’s nice to see the music and dance together.”

On Saturday evening, the Piedmont Symphony Orchestra will weave together Civil War-era tunes into their set for the music festival.

Shenandoah Tribute, a new piece arranged by the orchestra’s principal trombonist, Paul Rawlins, will debut at the festival.

In years past, the orchestra has ended its evening concerts by playing the folk tune, “Shenandoah.” This year, “Shenandoah Tribute” will take its place, but will include “Shenandoah” in the beginning and end of the piece.

If You Go:

• When: 8 p.m. today and 8 p.m. Saturday.

• Where: Shrine Mont Conference Center in Orkney Springs

• Fee: To purchase tickets, visit the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival at http://tiny.cc/ih12cy

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com