Kilfenora music festivals
Kilfenora stages an annual music festival in late April.
The first festival was held to celebrate the centenary of the Kilfenora Céilí Band in 2009. There was a huge gathering of past members of the band, many of whom crowded on stage to join the current band in concert. An award-winning broadcast was made by Clare FM featuring a galaxy of Kilfenora musicians, hosted by Pat Costello.
The 2010 festival featured a céilí with the Kilfenora band, plus a concert of local talent and an appearance by the Sean Nos extravaganza Fuaim Chonamara.
A highlight of the 2011 festival was a special concert with the band in its homeplace, joined by the renowned singer Sean Tyrell.
Numerous other bands have featured at the festival céilís – including the Four Courts band with whom many well-known local musicians have played, such as Chris Droney on concertina, flautists Seamus and Michael Hynes, fiddler Joe Rynne, the late George Byrt on piano and many more besides.
The pub sessions at Kilfenora are legendary, with the cream of musicians from Clare and beyond appearing from Thursday to Monday, and a Singers night at Linnanes pub on the Friday.
The Clare County Fleadh in Kilfenora (2009-11)
Kilfenora proved to be a hugely popular location for the Clare county Fleadh, the first of a three-tiered process for competitors aiming to become All-Ireland champion in their particular discipline. As a result, it was held in Kilfenora for three years in succession.
Instead of just staging competitions, Kilfenora arranged céilís with top bands, magnificent pub sessions and a concert in the Cathedral – and generally revived some of the carnival atmosphere that the original county fleadhs possessed back in the 1950s.
A particular highlight of the Kilfenora Fleadhs has been the open-air céilí held in the Kilfenora Square on Sunday afternoon – literally stopping the traffic in North Clare.
In addition, an electric atmosphere pervades the competitions for dancers and bands, with large crowds of families, friends and visitors cheering on the various groups.
The health of music teaching in Clare – helped no doubt by the concentration of high-quality musicians – has undoubtedly contributed to a surge of participation in traditional music. In 2011, the 60th anniversary of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, a record number of competitors entered for a county Fleadh – 660 individual performers, 42 dancing sets and 40 bands, a total of over 1400 entrants. The scope and standard of the Clare Fleadh in Kilfenora surpassed all others to date.
Many of the Clare winners go on to win at the Munster Fleadh and the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil. Kilfenora itself boasts many All-Ireland winners over the years, from junior to senior grades – and they keep coming.
A CD of one of the Cathedral concerts, “Live in Kilfenora” featuring banjo wizard Kevin Griffin with Eoin O’Neill and Quentin Cooper – one of the Riches of Clare events – is available from Custy’s Music in Ennis.
In 2012 the Clare Fleadh was held in Miltown Malbay from 13-18 June.