KEEPING THE FLAME ALIVE?The Kilfenora Céilí Band has been going for over a century. Pictured are the band’s current members, including Tim Collins (back, second from right).
At the heart of tradition
BEFORE World War I, the sinking of the Titanic and the Easter Rising, there was The Kilfenora Céilí Band.
Step aside U2, The Rolling Stones and Radiohead, the traditional Irish music ensemble from Clare has been upholding a tradition that dates back to 1909.
Though there has been different guises, members and styles, musician with the band Tim Collins says that once you are in the band you realise ‘it is bigger than you’.
Speaking to The Mayo News ahead of The Kilfenora Céilí Band’s March 29 show in The Royal Theatre, Castlebar, the concertina player, who joined the band in 1994, said this month’s show will be a surprise for audience members.
“Anyone who has a stereotypical view of the band or doesn’t know us will be blown away. We have a dance group, and Don Stiffe and there’s a lot of variety, from traditional jigs and reels to modern composition,” explains the musician.
The band’s latest album ‘Now is the Hour’ is due to be released this Friday.
Considered an ‘outsider’ being from west Limerick, Tim was 24 when he first joined the well-known musical dynasty of sorts, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Asked what it is like to be apart of a tradition that dates back over one hundred years, Tim says that each of the 13 musicians that now make up the band are ‘a link in a long chain’.
“No matter who comes in or leaves, the heart of it is still there. The music is played with passion, and this comes across in all of our sets,” he says.
The band is very much a family, with eight of the current members playing in the band for the last 24 years. Despite the obvious abundance of experience, Tim says there is a great mix of youth and experience in the band. The age range currently runs from the early 20s to the ‘elder statesmen’ who are in their 50s.
Though The Kilfenora Céilí Band’s success is built on tradition, Tim notes that ‘tradition changes’.
“It cannot be the same; it has to suit the times that the band are performing in. There is always going to be a genetic thread there, but the music is still modern,” he notes.
Tim attributes the ongoing success of the band to the dedication of his fellow musicians, who all have day jobs as well as performing on a professional circuit.
Tim himself has a PHD in music and lectures, while his wife, Claire, who is also in The Kilfenora Céilí Band works as an accountant. The two met before joining the group. “We have two children, so life is quite busy, but it’s great that myself and Claire get to go on stage together and share these experiences,” says Tim.
Tim singles out the band’s two performances at the world famous Glastonbury Festival as a personal career highlight. “We headlined the acoustic stage in 2009 and that was a strange feeling. You play your music, and then you’re walking past stages where the best bands in pop and rock are playing. It was great to be a part of it, and for Irish music to be recognised.”
The next number of months for the band will be hectic, with shows across Ireland and the possibility of gigs further afield on the cards to promote their latest album.
Tim says he and the band are excited about their latest recording as it ‘offers something different’.
“This album is a significant shift, the music is concert material. We’re trying to marry tradition and innovation but we always have that perceived barrier we don’t cross,” he explains.
With a century under its belt, does Tim and his fellow musicians ever fear that one day The Kilfenora Céilí Band will be no more? No, not as long as there is talented musicians looking to become part of something special.
Currently the band has a fill-in musician for each member, just in case of emergency, and each band member is constantly on the look out for new and emerging talent.
“We come across young musicians all the time … Musicians who have the personality to fit the bill and who will respect and promote the band are what will make the tradition live on,” says Tim.
Here’s to another 100 years of Irish music tradition from Kilfenora.
For tickets for the March 29 show at the Royal Theatre Castlebar (€22.90 each) call 094 902311 or 0818 300 000, visit at www.royaltheatre.ie or www.ticketmaster.ie or call into the Royal Theatre box office.