Joining in the fun of the Irish

With a new album in tow, the homegrown Evergreen quartet brings its Celtic jams to Jerusalem’s Harmony Hall tonight.

Evergreen fiddler Gal Shachar (second from left) seen here with the rest of the quartet. (photo credit: ELI EFRAIMOV)
Evergreen fiddler Gal Shachar (second from left) seen here with the rest of the quartet.
(photo credit: ELI EFRAIMOV)
The popularity of Irish music in this country has clearly had its heyday. Back in the day – around a decade or so ago – the likes of homegrown Celtic outfit Black Velvet and a glittering procession of acts from the Emerald Isle, such as Dervish and Lunasa, mixed it up on stages all over the country, principally at the annual 4 Days in Ireland Festival at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.
The Evergreen quartet was also very much part of that scene and, like Black Velvet, has kept the Celtic flame burning as brightly as possible here over the years. The band is a regular at the Jacob’s Ladder Festival and has just put out its third album in around 16 years of earnest artistic endeavor.
“We are all busy with so many things,” says fiddler Gal Shachar by way of explaining the lengthy time lapse since the previous release, Harikud Habiltee Nirreh (The Invisible Dance), which came out a full decade ago. The new CD goes by the fun name of Mesubach Lihyot Pashut, or Complicated to Be Simple. “We all have families and we all teach too,” Shachar continues.”
In fact, Mesubach Lihyot Pashut has been waiting in the wings for some time and is finally going to get an airing, at Harmony Hall in Jerusalem tonight at 8 p.m.
“The album has been basically ready since the end of last year, we just haven’t really found the time to do the official launch stuff,” says the violinist, somewhat apologetically.
In addition to Shachar, Evergreen comprises his wife Michal, who principally plays flute but is also a dab hand at playing recorders, piano, clavichord and melodica, and also lends her vocals to the band’s proceedings.
Moshe Avigdor plays guitar and Abe Doron, of Riverdance fame, plays the percussion anchor role. Tonight’s show will actually be a trio concert, as Doron is out of the country right now. Shachar will double on bodhran (Celtic frame drum) when the need arises.
Shachar explored several areas of musical endeavor before settling on the Irish side.
The fiddler grew up on a classical diet but gradually gravitated toward Irish music.
“I just fell in love with Irish music,” he says. “I visited Ireland, and then went back again and again, and Michal and I just fell in love with it.”
They were well and truly bitten and spread the “affliction” around.
“We drew in other musicians,” Shachar continues. “Moshe Avigdor was a jazz guitarist at the time. And we learned hundreds and hundreds of tunes.”
Still, none of the members of the quartet hails from Ireland, and each brings his or her own cultural and musical baggage to the fray.
“We are always looking to write new arrangements to Irish tunes and to turn them into something more artistic,” says the fiddler, adding that he and his Evergreen colleagues are not alone. “There are plenty of musicians all over the world who take folk material and play around with it.
That’s what happens with traditional material.
All bands look for more interesting things to do, and to bring something fresh, and to make the whole thing richer. That’s the real fun of this business. When you take the music out of the pub and put it on the stage you are always looking to make your own artistic statement.”
Shachar and his pals have duly improvised on the Celtic line since the outset.
“Avigdor and Michal are the main writers, of the music and the lyrics. I also write some material. They write in Hebrew and English, but mostly in Hebrew. But there is always that Irish color and texture to it, mainly because of the instruments we play.”
Mesubach Lihyot Pashut is a mixture of original Irish tunes and some local material.
The album represents something of a new departure for the band as it includes a couple of surprises.
“We took two Israeli classics and played around with them,” says Shachar. One is “The Ballad of Yoel Moshe Salomon,” written by Yoram Taharlev, with a score by Shalom Hanoch, and best known for its rendition by Arik Einstein. The content and ambiance of the song, says Shachar, suit the Emerald Isle vibe down to the ground.
“The whole idea behind the story told in the song is like a tale of drunken Irishmen,” he laughs. “The story is totally crazy. It really sounds spooky. I think no one has ever done a really different cover version of this song, and it is perfect as an Irish song. We arranged it like an Irish song, and it came out really well.”
The other Celticized cover is of a song by Ehud Banai, from his early days with the Plittim band, called “Mamshich Linsoa” (Keeping on Going). “Originally, it was more of a rock song with an electric guitar and heavy drums, but we added a bodhran and really gave it a feeling of a journey. I think it came out really special.”
The rest of the album incorporates several originals and some English language Irish numbers, and one definitively ubiquitous, 24 carat, timeless Celtic standard.
“We took ‘Danny Boy’ and gave it the special treatment,” says Shachar. “I don’t think anyone will have heard a version of it like the one on our new album.”
For tickets: *3221 and (072) 275-3221