Irish choral music has little history before the latter part of the twentieth century. This is somewhat understandable for a country often subjugated, but with such a strong indigenous musical identity of its own. In 1987 Dublin composer Michael McGlynn founded ANÚNA, Ireland's National Choir. Much of the group's repertoire explores the relationship between traditional choral ideas in combination with the musical heritage of McGlynn's native land. The choir's name, originally An Uaithne, derives from the collective term for the three ancient types of Irish music, Suantraí (lullaby), Geantraí (happy song) and Goltraí (lament). They have, over the last quarter century, created a unique choral voice for Ireland, receiving wide accoladed for the originality of their performances, recordings and the natural quality of their vocal production.
Concerts feature a compelling combination of movement, elegant costume and candles with ethereal and haunting music sung in the choir's own unique way. Their material is written or arranged for the group by Michael McGlynn, and includes reconstructions of early and medieval Irish music. Anúna sing unaccompanied and without conductor, with between twelve and fourteen singers in any performance.
Their flexibility as an ensemble, combined with their application of specific choral techniques, has allowed them to slip easily between musical genres. While the choir have appeared twice at the Fes World Sacred Music Festival in Morocco, given the first ever Irish Prom at the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall and appeared at the world-renowned Concertgebouw Hall in Amsterdam, they were also featured artists with Riverdance from 1994 to 1996, gaining a top-ten single in the U.K. Singles Charts and
remaining at number one on the Irish Singles Chart for eighteen weeks.
They have been featured artists on three Grammy Award-winning albums with the Chieftains, Sting and Elvis Costello. Costello, when curating the Meltdown Festival at London's South Bank, invited Anúna to participate as part of the line-up. In 2009 and 2010 they collaborated with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland for major concerts of McGlynn's compositions in Dublin's National Concert Hall. Last year they appeared as the voices of Hell on the massively successful video game Diablo 3, gaining a Game Audio Network Guild nomination for the Best Original Choral performance in February 2013. Subsequently the soundtrack went on to win the award for overall "Audio of the Year".
Anúna were special guests of the pioneering Australian children's entertainers The Wiggles, appearing on the CD and DVD It's Always Christmas With You. In 2008 the choir released Invocations of Ireland, McGlynn's self-made film - an evocative depiction of the Irish landscape and its relationship to his music. This has been broadcast extensively in
Australia/New Zealand, with the
DVD being released on Australia's DV1 and Columbia Music Entertainment
2009 saw the inauguration of Anúna's Education and Outreach programme. Since then workshops have taken place across Japan, Sweden, Poland, the UK, the Netherlands and last year Anúna presented at the Shanghai Conservatory. 2013 will include the second Anúna International Choral Summer School in Dublin, which this year includes the Best Choral Performance category-winner at the 2013 Grammy Awards, Charles Bruffy.
Anúna have released sixteen albums since 1991. Invocation won an Irish National Entertainment Award for Classical music, while Deep Dead Blue was nominated for a Classical Brit Award. Their albums have featured in various charts all over the world. Celtic Origins, also an award-winning PBS show and DVD, became the number one selling CD on the US World Music Charts in August 2007 (according to Nielsen Soundscan) while September 2011 saw their album Christmas Memories reaching number 95 in the Billboard 200 Album Chart. They have been signed to some of the world's major record labels including Decca, Universal Classics, Polygram, E1 and Philips.