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Anuna

Biography

ANÚNA - Biography (Courtesy of Artist’s site, 2005)

The music of the ancient Celts has been all but lost except for a handful of fragments from ancient manuscripts. When Dublin composer Michael McGlynn founded An Uaithne [a name which describes the three ancient types of Celtic music, Suantraí (lullaby), Geantraí(happy song) and Goltraí (lament)] in 1987, one of the group's primary aims was to explore and redefine this music, and also to perform his own original works and his arrangements of traditional Irish music. As nothing like the choir existed in Ireland, it took some years before it found an identity and original voice. In 1991 John McGlynn, a qualified architect, joined the group and imposed his own personality on many aspects of the choir. Together John and Michael redefined Irish choral music and the name An Uaithne became Anúna...

Even in these early days the essential image of the group was apparent: Cloaks, crystalline voices, candles and ritualistic movement created such a unique atmosphere that the audience were not simply at a concert, but felt actively involved. This was moderated by a style of informal and relaxed presentation by the singers. Anúna's concerts became a "must see" event in the early 1990s, and the group developed an extensive Irish cult following. After many abortive attempts at recording an album in studio, Michael contacted Brian Masterson at Windmill Lane and together they recorded the self-titled debut album with a single stereo microphone in a small Dublin church in five hours.

It was this album that attracted great interest in the music industry and a bidding war began between a number of record companies both at home and abroad. Eventually Michael settled on the Atlantic/Celtic Heartbeat label and the album was released in the USA, entered the Billboard Charts and was a "pick-of-the-week" in Billboard magazine. The follow-up album was an exploration of the mythology and folklore of Ireland, and featured what was for many one of Michael's finest pieces Wind on Sea. After the whirlwind recording of the first album Invocation took eight months to complete and featured location and studio recording. In 1994 the album went on to win Anúna a National Entertainment Award for classical music in Ireland. While recording this album the choir recorded and performed a short choral piece entitled Cloudsong - which was the opening vocal-section of the now historic Riverdance interval piece for the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. The subsequent single spent 18 weeks at number one in the Irish Charts, and went top 10 in the UK Charts.

In early 1995 the 7 minute filler for the Eurovision became a full scale show and album which featured Anúna very strongly [the album won a Grammy Award]. The group appeared in Riverdance the Show from its premiere until September 1996. During that time Michael and John brought the choir to many countries and Michael recorded three albums, Omnis [1995], Omnis Special Edition [1996 - an entirely new recording with some different tracks] and Deep Dead Blue.

These albums, with their hugely contrasting material, contain some of Anúna's finest performances on record - Dúlamån, now a choral standard world-wide, Nobilis Humilis, Tenebrae III, The Flower of Maherally and particularly O Viridissima firmly established Anúna at the pioneering front of Irish, Celtic and choral music. The album Deep Dead Blue was later released on the Universal/Gimell label, and sold very well in the UK. This album resulted in the choir being the first Irish artist to be nominated for a Classical Brit Award and went top five in the UK Classical Charts.

The next album, released in 1997, was to be a complete departure for the group. Behind the Closed Eye features the Ulster Orchestra from Northern Ireland and was our first orchestral collaboration. This record is made up entirely of Michael's original pieces, and includes settings by the Irish poet Francis Ledwidge, who died in World War I fighting for the British Army. It is a pastoral and gentle record, and features the stunning Where All Roses Go with Michael McGlynn on solo vocal beautifully offset by oboe and strings. This piece was written in memory of the rock singer Jeff Buckley, who shared a stage with Michael in 1995 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall for Elvis Costello's Meltdown Festival.

At the end of 2000 Anúna released their seventh album Cynara which entered a new, and more complex musical world than its predecessors, with the title track being a standout, interweaving complex choral harmonies with the trademark ethereal sound of the choir.

In 2002 and 2003 Brian and Michael remastered, rerecorded and repackaged most of the Anúna catalogue, and Anúna released one of their most succesful records Winter Songs - a collection of winter pieces featuring familiar and unfamiliar music of the season. In February 2003 Universal Classics UK released the album Essential Anúna, a 75 minute exploration of the choir's music, in the UK and Ireland.

Anúna have sung all over the world; from a Sultan's palace in Morocco to a huge field on a farm in Canada, from a tiny refuge at the top of Monte Baldo in the Italian Alps to a jammed Cathedral in Poland. We have performed and recorded with artists as diverse as Barry Manilow, Secret Garden, Elvis Costello, Michael Crawford, Sinéad Ó Connor and the Chieftains. We were the first Irish classical group to be recognised and invited to the BBC Prom Series in 1999 at the Royal Albert Hall in London for the first-ever "Irish Prom".

Live events in 2003 included visits to Finland, a US Tour in March and trips to Holland, Belgium and Wales. In 2004 Anúna will visit five countries including their first full tour of England, will release their first DVD and record a new album.




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