Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reconcile with your Irish roots

Dervish is as close to Ireland as Idahoans can get without a plane

Express Staff Writer

Courtesy photo Dervish

When the traditional Irish band Dervish gathers Thursday to help kick off the St. Patrick's Day weekend, chances are good that you'll make a few more good friends.

As they know well, music is contagious. They came together as most Irish musicians do: as strangers in a bar.

"I'm a farmer's daughter," says singer Cathy Jordan, "and someone else in the band is an architect's son. Outside of music, we may have never met, but this is how Irish people have forged unlikely friendships for years, playing music together."

Jordan answered these pre-concert questions for the Express:

What's your favorite St. Paddy's day memory?

Running out into the garden on St. Patrick's morning to find shamrocks for us all to wear to Mass. Most of it was clover, but as long as it looked remotely like shamrock and was green and healthy, it was fine. My father pinned it proudly to his lapel!

How do you keep it fresh for yourselves?

It's always amazing to find ourselves playing the music we grew up with to new audiences, especially on St. Patrick's Day. We're very mindful of the fact that we're extremely privileged to have the opportunity on our national holiday to play our favorite music to big crowds every year and have them enjoy it so much. That keeps it fresh. 

Does it help the popularity of Irish music that there is a holiday attached, or are there just so many Irish Americans that it will always have a niche in music?

Irish music is popular all year round but particularly on St. Patrick's Day when everyone wants to be Irish. Every Irish musician in the world plays on St. Patrick's Day all over the world, but the music is strong and powerful enough to exist from one national holiday to the next.


Any advice to warm up for your show here in the Wood River Valley?

Just get ready to enjoy yourself and leave all your troubles at the door. We'll take you on a musical journey to remember. 

Why is it so important to use the mandola and bouzouki in your music?

The introduction of the bouzouki and mandola into Irish music was very important to its development and advancement. Irish music has always been a living and breathing tradition that moved with the times and stayed connected with the people and musical trends. These instruments added a whole new dimension, the possibilities of which are still being explored in terms of chords, rhythms and moods. They are only in the tradition since the '60s but caused a huge revival in the music and brought it to a whole new audience of younger musicians and listeners. 

Has Irish music been an influence in other genres?

Absolutely. It's well known the influence that Irish music has had on old-time music and bluegrass and they say that the term "jazz"  came from the Irish language term "Is deas sin" meaning "That's lovely." Other places like Newfoundland, Cape Breton and Australia have Irish music very much at their core.

Are most songs political or historical in nature, lyrics-wise?

I wouldn't say most songs are political, but all our songs are historical documents of some kind, telling stories of love (unrequited and otherwise), loss and longing. Others are indeed more political, like some of the rebel songs which are an insight into a turbulent past that has only settled in the last couple of years.  


How has Irish music changed Ireland?

Regardless of what has been going on in Ireland, either political or  economic, our music has always been a positive limb to showcase all that is positive about our country and culture, giving people a window of understanding into what makes us tick while spreading enjoyment wherever it's heard. 

How is Ireland faring economically? Where does the music fit in with that?

It's hard to predict how long Ireland will be in financial trouble, so many other factors beyond our control are at work, but Irish people have always thrived in the face of adversity and the music has always played its part documenting it all while giving people an outlet for their frustrations. As they say, "Music gets you through a time with no money better than money will get you through a time with no music."

Authentic St. Paddy's with Dervish

Who: Tom Morrow on fiddle, Liam Kelly on flute and Shane Mitchell on accordion combine with the rhythm playing of Brian McDonagh and Michael Holmes, with

Cathy Jordan vocalizing.

When: Thursday, March 15, at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Liberty Theatre, Hailey

Tickets: Sun Valley Center for the Arts at 726-9491 or online at

$20 member, $30 nonmember, $10 students.


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