In ancient tradition, the breath was understood as the pathway through which the soul entered the body. Not surprisingly, one of the most ancient words for spirit is the Hebrew word Ruah which is also the word for air or wind, as well as denoting pathos, passion and emotion - a state of soul. The world of thought resides in the air; it is here that the idea of inspiration is rooted.
Technically, we singers contemplate a vast body of questions regarding breath. When did you last think about your breath? Do you recall the sensation? When you use it to speak or sing, do you notice when you constrict, release, or hold it? Do you mentally prepare it? How do you do that? These are just some of the questions we ask to free yet control one of the most amazing, highly complex functions we perform. We do this over twenty-three thousand times daily. Yes. And most often, we do it without noticing.
As a singer in Anúna I use conscious thought. I slow my mind using my breath, and bring awareness to what I do. I contemplate and co-ordinate these technical and philosophical aspects in a simple Wednesday evening rehearsal with the other “Anúna-ists”. Michael’s music is akin to these ideas, to nature, human experience and the Celtic spirit, having carried sounds that have touched the souls of countless people across its twenty-eight year history. So much so that the sound imagined by Michael and created by Anúna since 1989 continues to be connected as a national identity, still drawn from to this day. That is Ruah. That is spirit, thought and unity through music.
What we do as singers is envisage and make space for inspiration. We work to inspire physically, to fill the resonances of our body with breath and vibration. We work to inspire with story-telling, to captivate the minds of ourselves firstly, as we must first believe what we are about before we attempt to captivate the minds of our listeners. Between both there is flow and there is balance.
The idea of flow is most important as a singer and as a person in life finding his or her purpose. Flow is personal to each of us. We each have a rhythm and rate of awareness. We each have a voice. Maybe you’ve lived with a set of ideas, techniques, or a culture only to discover that it is not truly your fit. Sooner or later what you do must mean something to you. With experience however, you can choose to focus on the ideas that bring about your expansion and fulfilment. To achieve this, to use the Irish phrase (and not in the traditional sense) we must “go with the flow” - of breath, thought and in being creative but, more importantly, without constriction.
What we are actually doing, piece by piece, is finding the fullness of our true nature: physically, emotionally and vocally. That is a thought-provoking and constant process. Whatever goal we aspire to we discover the imagery that works best for us and we practise embodying it to release our personal Ruah, spirit, voice, breath...
For us singers in Anúna when we're all letting that flow freely, we begin to find what we are looking for.