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Evergreen, it seems, never does anything with average effort. The locally-based Celtic music band has just released its new offering, The Unseen Dance, after a long, sometimes arduous but ultimately satisfying odyssey. "It took us a year and a half to finish the new album," says percussionist Abe Doron. "That's a long time by Israeli standards but we wanted to do it well."
Doron needn't have worried. The long hours spent in the recording studio, fine tuning and constantly reassessing their work, has born consummate fruit. The Unseen Dance is anything but run of the mill, unique from other releases produced by the ever-increasing number of Irish-oriented bands in Israel. There is a fresh sound to it, and one senses the band members' commitment to their work.
For this album, Evergreen allowed themselves a rare luxury - not limiting their studio time. "We tried to disconnect from budget considerations and worked like the big boys abroad," Doron continues. "We just kept on going back into the studio until we had the right energy and the right feeling we were looking for."
The feeling Doron and his colleagues - vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Michal Shahar, violin, viola and mandolin player Gal Shahar, guitarist Moshe Avigdor and violinist, guitarist and lute player Eitan Hoffer - were looking for transcended sonar boundaries. "A lot of soul-searching went on during the recording," notes the percussionist. "We wanted to discover what we wanted to put in there from ourselves. The guys from Evergreen don't just want things to sound good. We always discuss every bit of music to find the best way to present it. That sometimes involves even looking at individual notes in the music."
The intense and demanding experience of making the music can at times bring volatile emotions to the surface too. "We are very much like a family, like an extended family. We can argue and have differences of opinion, but we stick together and remain focused," says Doron.
One fascinating aspect of Celtic music is its across-the-board appeal. Why, for example, do Israelis latch on to Irish music so happily? Why are leading bands from the Emerald Isle, like Dervish and Lunasa, be so enthusiastically received by audiences across the globe, from Brazil to Spain and eastern Europe?
Doron is, himself, a cross-cultural point in case. Born and raised in Mexico, the 35 year old percussionist spent several years in the States and London before eventually moving here almost six years ago. For some of that time Doron earned a living as a member of the popular River Dance Celtic music and dance troupe that took the world by storm in the 1990s.
"Irish music really does have universal appeal," Doron muses. "Maybe it's the joy people hear, or the purity of the sound. I don't really know. I'm sure my influences, from Mexico and other places, all come into my music, including all the different kinds of percussion instruments I play - not just the bodhran. Whether I'm playing congas, jimbeh, or spoons I put all my experiences into my playing."
Doron also notes that Celtic bands around the world weave their own cultural baggage into their offerings so that, for example, an Irish band from Spain sounds patently different from a group from Ireland. The same goes for Evergreen.
"We're not trying to be Irish. We really love the music but we're trying to do our own thing. We live here in Israel, we're very proud of being Jewish and Israeli, so that also comes out in the CD."
Doron cites a professional colleague to prove his point. "We played with Shane Mitchell, the accordionist from Dervish. He said what we do is great and we should just stick to that. I'm not looking to get a diploma from the Irish embassy. I just want to play nice music that I want to share with people. That's all."
Evergreen will perform material from their new album at Tel Aviv's Einav Center on November 10 at 9 p.m., and at Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem on November 17 at 9 p.m.
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