Dervish, one of few remaining Irish traditional bands that can lay claim to a decade’s worth of performing, takes the stage at the Barre Opera House at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 16, for a St. Patrick’s Day concert, as part of the Celebration Series.
Dervish is an iconic Irish band. It holds its place in Irish music history with the likes of The Chieftains, Patrick Street and Altan for its performing longevity. The band has been making music since 1989.
Dervish has recorded 13 albums to date and owns one of the largest catalogs of songs in traditional Irish music. Its first new album since 2013, “The Great Irish Songbook” was recorded in Nashville and will be released April 12. In a departure from its previous albums, this one includes a number of other singers taking lead vocals along with the band’s vocalist, Cathy Jordan. These singers include Imelda May, Steve Earle, Andrea Corr, Kate Rusby, Vince Gill, Rhiannon Giddens, Abigail Washburn and David Gray.
Dervish has brought Irish traditional music to the world for more than 25 years. The Guardian newspaper commented: “Dervish is simply brilliant … they carry Irish history with them.”
The sextet is established as one of the biggest names in Irish music internationally and is renowned for its live performances, which match dazzling sets of tunes with stunning interpretations of traditional songs. The band’s two-CD live album, “Live in Palma,” is one of the best live Irish music recordings of all time.
The group was formed when four of the founding members — Shane Mitchell (accordion), Liam Kelly (flute/whistle), Brian McDonagh (mandola/mandolin) and Michael Holmes (bouzouki) — met while playing informal sessions in the pubs of Sligo. They were soon joined by Roscommon-born singer and bodhran (drum) player Cathy Jordan, and later by All-Ireland Fiddle Champion Tom Morrow in 1998.
The Irish Times said Dervish’s “integrity makes the group a formidable heir to the throne abandoned by The Bothy Band, if not a serious contender for The Chieftains’ international space.” The (Delaware) News Journal described the band as “the most compelling, most soulful Irish traditional folk band playing today.”
Jordan’s voice is a delight. Her soprano is light and expressive. There’s just enough of a brogue in her diction and warble in her delivery to give the listener a real sense of her Irishness. Her bandmates know each other’s moves so well that they play as a single multi-instrumental entity. Dervish is one of few Irish bands that does not have a guitar player. Holmes on bouzouki carries the chordal weight in the band’s rhythm.
It’s been a decade since Dervish last performed in Barre. In the late 1990s, it played at the Champlain Valley Folk Festival in Burlington and it was obvious that Jordan, the lone woman in the group, was fully in charge of the set.
The long-established Irish traditional bands are aging out. The Chieftains are in their late 70s. Patrick Street is similarly graying as is Altan, now in its 32nd year. Dervish is one of these iconic bands and still has the energy to play a full complement of concerts throughout the year.
A lot of music has flowed from Dervish’s instruments, but they have not lost their spark. A band of this quality has few chances to be heard in Vermont, so the 16th is a special date to remember. I suspect this concert will sell out fast, so if you want to go don’t delay getting your tickets.