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Irish music group visits Iowa City

BY JULIA JESSEN | OCTOBER 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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Irish music can be smooth, melodic, and graceful, crisp in its gentle rise and fall, but it can also be bouncy and exciting, filled with bursting percussion and upbeat tempos.

The Beggarmen, an Iowa City band that highlights both styles, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Riverside Theatre, 213 N. Gilbert St. Admission is $20, $15 for youth/students with IDs.

Brad Pouleson and three others started the group 10 years ago. The last original member, Pouleson said the traditional Celtic music that the band plays does not resemble the stereotypical rowdy, beer-drinking songs that many people think of when they hear the words "Irish music."

"We do the jigs and reels, but then the songs we do are not so much to do with that subject matter," he said. "We delve a little deeper into the Irish traditions for our material."

Tara Dutcher, another member of the group, joined the band a year after it was formed. The fiddler, who has been playing for 30 years, said she enjoys the way Irish music can convey quite different atmospheres.

"A lot of it is dance music, but sometimes it is really emotionally loaded as well," she said. "So I guess that the difficulty of the music is appealing for me because it's the sort of thing that sounds danceable and light sometimes, but there are a lot of layers involved."

Another interesting aspect of the concert is the band's connection with the Riverside Theatre's upcoming play, The Cripple of Inishmaan. All of the music featured in the play, set in Ireland, is by the Beggarmen. The musicians said they are excited about how their music and the play are interwoven and how the pairing enhances the theme.

"A lot of the songs that we do are somewhat historical in nature and are a glimpse of culture, and those are the same kinds of things that can be found in the play," Dutcher said.

University of Iowa freshman Taylor Best will help set this weekend's performance apart from others that the band has played.

Best is an accomplished step dancer who will add her skills to the performance. She hasn't had the chance to perform since she arrived at the university this fall, so, she said, she is excited.

"I love dancing to Irish-cultural music, so to have the opportunity to do it one more time is awesome," she said.

The 18-year-old dancer said that Irish step dancers act as added percussion to the music and fill it out.

"I love the way that it sounds when everything comes together, and the beats match the tune of the music, and everything seems to be right in sync," she said.

The band members said they look forward to the way that Best will complement the music, giving people a better sense of Irish music and a great feeling as well.

"People should come because we're going to have a fabulous time," Pouleson said. "There's so much beautiful music that's going to be played, and they're going to get their toes tapping, see some wonderful dancing, leave with a good memory, and feel better afterward."


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