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Arts Lives RTÉ One, Tuesday, 10.15pm

In the Blood - Kilfenora Céili Band

Tuesday 7th April, 2009

In The Blood tells the story of a band which died and came back back to life - twice! Since their formation in 1909 The Kilfenora Céili Band have won numerous awards and made many recordings along with hosting a variety of céilis, concerts and television appearances both at home and abroad. But most importantly this eclectic group of musicians have managed, many times against the odds, to keep a tradition not just alive but alive and kicking!

Directed by John O'Donnell, this engaging documentary explores The Kilfenora Céili Band, both past and present and looks at how their music evolved from the fife and drum band of the eighteen hundreds into the brass and reid at the turn of the century before eventually settling into a ten piece band of wind and string instruments. Even to this day the ghosts of their predecessors can still be heard when they play such tunes as the Austrian march - "Belphegor" which would have been played by the fife & drum band or indeed the military-two-steps, which were later, handed down by the Brass & Reid band. This has all formed part of the present band's musical tapestry and rich legacy, which they are determined to maintain through passion, perseverance and pathos as they celebrate their centenary.

The Band has struggled many times over the years to ensure that both their name and their music would survive and this documentary illustrates how that music will indeed live on through the younger members determination in maintaining the heritage and tradition of their forefathers. Their aim was always to continue in the style of their predecessors and stay true to traditional instrumentation and repertoire. By keeping unnecessary innovation to a minimum the Kilfenora Céili band intend to maintain and preserve authenticity and in doing so reach yet another generation of musicians and dancers.

Along with explaining the origins of the band the film also follows current members from their workplaces to their homes, from band practices to high profile performances in the US and finally to the recording studio as they prepare to record their anniversary album. Some of the older members also give accounts of the house dances of the 1930's as well as the heyday of Céili bands in the 1950's when they played to massive crowds at the Fléadh Cheoils along with packing out dancehalls throughout the country and also in England when they went over to play there during Lent.

With contributions from such well-respected musicians and broadcasters as PJ Curtis and Kieran Hanrahan this documentary gives a true flavour of the importance of céilí music not just in Co. Clare but outside of the country too.

In The Blood is the story of a band of musicians and of a way of life. But above all it is the story of a tradition, which has been handed down from one generation to another, and how that tradition continues to survive in our often impatient and quickly changing environment.

Gerry Lynch from the Kilfenora Ceili Band
Gerry Lynch from the Kilfenora Ceili Band
Kilfenora Ceili Band 1955
Kilfenora Ceili Band 1955