The idea for her latest show, "Beyond the Bog Road," had bounced around Eileen Ivers' mind for a long time before she actually started putting it together.
"Longer than I realized," the superstar Irish fiddler says with a laugh.
"Beyond the Bog Road" - which comes to Eisenhower Auditorium on the Penn State University Park campus at 7:30 p.m. March 19 - is a multimedia concert designed in tribute to the Irish roots of Ivers, one of the founding members of the Irish band Cherish the Ladies and former star fiddler of "Riverdance." The show also features her band, Immigrant Soul.
Fiddle player Eileen Ivers (center) leads her band Immigrant Soul in the multimedia concert “Beyond the Bog Road.”
"(It) really speaks about America's impact on the Irish immigrant," Ivers said in a recent phone interview from her home just outside New York City. "We look at that from pre-famine times, to the (Irish potato) famine, up to the present day. The Irish immigrants took their rich culture and integrated it into America."
According to Ivers, 44, a "bog road" is "a very old road that would lead the farmers into the old fields (bogs) of Ireland." Traditionally, the Irish have used turf from bogs as fuel for fires. The bogs also serve as a preservative of sorts for archaeological sites. Ivers said her mother grew up near a bog which recently revealed a 5,000-year-old settlement during excavations.
It's these sorts of sights, which make up the filmed portions of "Beyond the Bog Road." Ivers and her crew have shot a lot of video in Ireland, and play it throughout the show, both to move along the narrative and serve as a backdrop for the band. The show also features Irish dancing.
If you go
What: "Beyond the Bog Road," featuring Eileen Ivers and Immigrant Soul
When: 7:30 p.m. March 19
Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, Penn State University Park campus
Tickets: $35 for adults, $20 for University Park students and $24 for those ages 18 and younger
Though the show took about four years to put together, it's been a lifetime in the making for Ivers.
She was born to Irish immigrants in New York City in 1965 and quickly gravitated toward the fiddle.
"My memory is that of being very intrigued with (it)," Ivers said. "I wish I could sing, but you don't want to hear that. (The fiddle) was kind of closest to the human voice as far as being emotive. My mom kept wanting me to play the piano, and I said, 'No I want to play the fiddle.'"
The fiddle and her love of Irish music was spurred by a lot of time spent in the Emerald Isle.
"It was such a great childhood," she said. "Two months of every summer vacation was spent in Ireland, helping the grandparents, helping my grandfather in the field and in the bog."
Her roots in Ireland led Ivers to take part in national Irish music competitions, stunning the natives by taking home nine All-Ireland Fiddle Championships. She won more than 30 championship medals in competition.
"I think there was a real big curiosity from them, like, 'Who are these Americans who are playing this and really feeling it?'" she says.
In the past 20 years, however, Ivers says the Irish have embraced the music coming from Irish-descended musicians in other countries.
Before moving on to a professional career, Ivers graduated suma cum laude from Iona College and did post-graduate work in mathematics. But her aspirations of a career in nautical engineering got pushed aside as she was recruited into first Cherish the Ladies, then as the lead fiddler of the hit stage show "Riverdance" in the mid-'90s.
Ivers went solo in 1999, gaining a major following behind her signature lightning fast fiddle playing and a goal of mixing traditional Irish music with the material that Americans are accustomed to hearing. That mixture is a big part of "Beyond the Bog Road."
"It's an interesting journey, because we kind of try to educate the audience," Ivers said. "We'll play a tune the real traditional Irish way, and then we'll play it as it became known in the Appalachians and (beyond). We kind of meet up with what the American (music) is."
The Penn State performance nearly meets up with an Irish holiday that many Americans have embraced. St. Patrick's Day is Wednesday, two days before the show.
"We weren't shooting for St. Patrick's Day, but the routing for us just worked out perfect for us," says Laura Sullivan, director of marketing for Eisenhower Auditorium. "Eileen Ivers has been touring for many years in various configurations ... She's an artist we have talked about presenting, but it just worked out perfect this year.
"(Tickets have) been moving a little slow but we hope it'll pick up. Students are gone right now, but they come back next week (and) I hope things will pick up.'"
Eisenhower is the last stop on the "Beyond the Bog Road" tour, which began last month. It will be a bittersweet ending for Ivers and her band.
"It's become so special to all of us," she said. "I think we all have a similar take, that this is just such an important story, and this music has been such a big part of American music. It's going to be sad to have the last show for a while.
"It's a story that's so close to my heart, and a testament to the immigrants that braved this journey."
Mirror staff writer Keith Frederick is at