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Luck of the Irish Comes to Berea

On March 13, the Irish band Dervish graced the stage of Phelps Stokes, pulling the audience into their magical music. The group played reels and flings which kept the audience on the edge of their seats for over two hours. The sweet voice of singer Cathy Jordan captured everyone as she sang of unfortunate lovers, roving journeymen, and made us laugh as she sang tales of a glutinous cat and the innocent bride to be named Mary, who learned that it is never too late to change your mind even on the way to the altar.

Cathy Jordan wowed the audience with her voice.

The audience clapped to the beat and laughed as Jordan joked about the band almost missing the performance, saying, “We almost didn’t make it last night. We got about ten minutes out and someone told us it was a dry county!” Jordan, who did the vocals and played bodhrán and bones, spoke mostly for the band, weaving the stories of the songs and translating those that were in Gaelic as Brian McDonagh on the mandola, Liam Kelley on the flute and whistles, Tom Morrow on the fiddle, Shane Mitchell on the accordion and Michael Holmes on the bouzouki played the intricate tunes. Entranced, the audience hung on every note and word, both spoken and sung, clapping their hands to the beat. Dervish played their own music and a couple of songs that many in the audience already knew such as "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves" and "The Boots of Spanish Leather," a song about a lover who had gone off to work and found that he did not love his girl anymore. The lover tells her that he will send her anything she wants, and she asks for boots of Spanish leather. Jordan said with a laugh, “She thought they would be handy if she ever saw him again--either that or she was a farmer’s daughter!"

Dervish was formed in 1989 by a group of five musicians, Liam Kelly, Shane Mitchell, Martin Mc Ginley, Brian Mc Donagh and Michael Holmes who came together to record an album of local music which was released under the name The Boys of Sligo. Inspired by the project, they decided to develop this informal gathering, which came together weekly to play sessions in local pubs, into a working band under the name Dervish, which was chosen because of its relation to any group of spiritual people who become enraptured by music. Band members came and went and eventually the group was made up of Cathy Jordan, Brian McDonagh, Liam Kelley, Tom Morrow, Shane Mitchell and Michael Holmes. The demand for the group grew and they were featured on television and radio, and began touring internationally. This demand led to the band touring continuously throughout 1993 and performing at several major folk festivals. The enormous work load and the constant touring made it difficult for the band to work in the studio, but the albums kept on coming.

When asked about the inspiration behind their music, Jordan answered, “The music itself inspires us. It’s been there for centuries. It’s in our blood. It is what excites us and stirs our blood. It’s like a drug to us.” The music they created was not only an inspiration to them but also to their audience, many of whom had never been exposed to traditional music such as Dervish's. Jordan was also aksed about what it was like to be the only girl in the group, to which she replied nonchalantly, “It feels fine, and you get all those special privileges. If there are any presents to be given out it would be her that would get them. I’ve never really felt a strong male/female separation.”

Playing at Berea College was a fun experience for Dervish. Mitchell said, “They [the audience] were really lively and really fun. One of the best of the tour.” Morrow also commented on the audience, “They were very good, very lively, eager to listen, attentive, receptive and warm. It’s different down south." Though most would assume that it would be hard to be away from home for so long, Morrow said, “It’s not particularly, no. I enjoy traveling and seeing different places. Sometimes this music needs an audience to live. It can’t live in isolation.” Kelley on the other hand greatly enjoys seeing other people and places but is happy “going home after a long trip”. After a wonderful performance that did nothing less than captivate the audience with a myriad of melodies and beautiful tones, Jordan dismissed everyone with one last sweet song and the invitation, “Ya’ll come back now, ya hear!”

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