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Still Irish after all these years

BY ISAAC HAMLET | MARCH 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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It's a feat for a band to last a decade or more. This is hardly surprising — musicians in the band may come into conflict with each other or may want to explore other opportunities. Eventually, something will cause the band to dissolve.

But this year, the traditional Irish band Dervish will enter its 25th year. In the quarter of a century the band has performed, it has appeared on stages all over the world from China to Brazil.

At 8 p.m. Saturday, it will perform in the Englert Theater, 221 E. Washington St. Admission ranges from $22 to $25.

It's apparent that time has not dulled the band's popularity. Dervish remains a musical force, more sought after now than ever before.

"What's kept us together [for 25 years], apart from a general interest in music, was that we were friends before we formed the band," said Michael Holmes, the band's guitar player and one of the founding members. "So when we did [form Dervish], it wasn't just a collection of people."

The band was formed in 1989, the result of five musicians coming together with the intent of recording an album. The gathering sparked their interest, and they began playing in Irish pubs weekly.

"If we like [a song], we know someone else will," Holmes said. "Maybe not everyone, but someone will get the same high from listening as we do when we're performing."

Holmes describes the appeal of Irish folk music by indicating its straightforward rhythm — typically 4/4 time — which makes the songs more accessible to the audience.

Band accordion player Shane Mitchell describes the same phenomenon in a slightly less technical way.

"[Traditional Irish music] has a lot of character, and energy, and soul that comes from the Irish people," Mitchell said.

Even though the players will occasionally extend themselves a little past the expectations of the genre, they always return to their roots.

"In terms of the music we play, most of it comes from the tradition, 'the well,' said Cathy Jordan, the band's vocalist. "We then as a group pull it apart and put it back together again in a new arrangement.

"[Some of our songs] have an underlying current of melancholy, but so many of our tunes are fast, exciting, upbeat, and they express an enjoyment in life."

The thrill derived from listening to this music is one shared by many across the globe.

"You can hop in a plane, and go to Tokyo, and find an Irish bar with Irish music," Holmes said. "You can do the same thing if you take a plane to San Francisco. It's rare for a [music] genre to be that widespread."


MUSIC
Dervish
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Englert Theater, 221 E. Washington
Admission: $22 to $25


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