ColumnistsDaniel O Donnell

Iconic group is Ceil and hearty

The Kilfenora Ceili Band
The Kilfenora Ceili Band

The legendary Kilfenora Céilí Band has been with us for 105 years – and it is still going strong.

Originally formed in Kilfenora by fiddler Michael Slattery − at the request of a local priest who wanted to raise funds to refurbish the church − no-one could have predicted the impact it has had on the Irish traditional music scene.

Band members have come and gone through the decades, but the magic of this traditional supergroup lives on.

“I’ve been here 24 of those years and I’ve seen the group go from playing in function rooms and dance halls to concerts and big festivals,” Anthony Quigney says.

The 13-member band has travelled extensively, visiting Britain, Northern Ireland, Europe and the U.S. and they’ve performed at Glastonbury twice.

Although steeped in the music of the past, the Kilfenora Band has just released a new album, Now is the Hour, which has a more contemporary sound. 

There are tunes forged out of raw, native dance riffs from the Burren hills, but the addition of viola, cello, bass and singer Don Stiffe’s licence to roam further afield, should win the group new fans.

“Previous albums concentrated on reels and jigs dance music, so working with contemporary material has been an exciting challenge,” Anthony says. 
“It has been a huge opportunity for us to evolve.”

The album includes Ralph McTell’s From Clare to Here, Andy Irvine’s My Heart is Tonight in Ireland and the title track, which comes from New Zealand.

Upcoming dates for the Kilfenora Band include the Town Hall, Galway on April 18 and the Kilfenora Music Festival, April 27.