Cian O Donnell

Professional surfing instructor based out of Bundoran, Co. Donegal. Singer songwriter and music student at the University of Ulster. Obsessed with the great grey Atlantic Ocean.

Cian O Donnell

I first got involved with the music of Michael McGlynn and Anúna through our mutual love and enthusiasm for the ocean.

I’m a surf instructor and musician based on Donegal’s wild and wonderful coastline. I had the pleasure of teaching Michael, Lucy and their children as well as several members of Anúna how to surf over the course of several summer seasons in Surfworld Surf School, Bundoran. I was particularly surprised at how quickly everyone involved with Anúna took to arguably one of the most challenging sports to learn.

No two waves ever break in the same way. Standing on a surfboard propelled by the raw power of a broken wave requires balance, flexibility, timing and mental composure.

Singers from Anúna sprung effortlessly to their feet in their first couple of waves so It became instantly clear to me that the smooth, balanced flow of movement required to ride a wave must be an inherent part of singing in an ensemble like Anúna.

A handful of the singers from Anúna happened upon me performing a quiet acoustic set at a local venue and to my great disbelief I was invited to rehearsal. Singing with Anúna was like nothing I’d ever experienced. The flowing yet simple lines of the arrangements engulfed me, yet I felt like I was singing in a band rather than a choir.

The way the singers breathed and gelled together without sheet music or a conductor seemed impossible, yet it occurred effortlessly and naturally.

I come from a musical family and my grounding is based in the Irish Tradition as well as being hugely influenced by Rock, Blues and Jazz. Sing with such an immensely talented group of people from corners of the world as varied as Slovenia and America is one of the most profound experiences of my life in music so far.

As an untrained singer who performs mainly from gut and feel rather than sheet music and theoretical ability it has been a massive but hugely rewarding challenge. It’s mind-blowing to think that in spite (or because!) of my lack of classical training I can contribute musically to an internationally recognised ensemble with a 30 year heritage . Highlights of my time with Anúna so far include performing to a huge crowd at the Eindhoven Konzerthalle, Netherlands, as well as performing to my friends and family (twice as much pressure!) in venues closer to home at IMBOLC Festival in Derry and Cos Cos Festival in Sligo.

I feel like I was thrown into the deep end with Anúna and yanked quickly out of my comfort zone of playing small venues in North West Ireland but it’s helped me to grow and develop like nothing I could ever have imagined and I can’t wait to see where it will take me next.