Ellie Níc Fhionnghaile
Ellie is a singer, fiddle player and fluent Irish speaker from southwest Donegal. Although her background is firmly rooted in Irish traditional music, she has always been involved in choirs, bands, and duets/trios of varying musical genres both at home and later in Dundalk Institute of Technology where she completed her undergraduate degree, a B.A.(hons) in Applied Music with a specialisation in Ethnomusicology. She is currently conducting research on women in Irish traditional music with a focus on Donegal. She has performed on stages and taught fiddle and song master classes across Europe, North America, South America and Asia.
On my first tour with Anúna to Japan I was asked by a fellow member when was it that I felt most beautiful.
It was a rather difficult and startling question to answer at first, especially as we were about to walk on stage to an audience of two thousand people. Prior to this, my nerves had been bubbling up inside me as we waited to walk on with an ever growing number of emotions from excitement to worry, from terror to pride. And yet this seemingly complex question settled me and filled me with a sense of calm. For me the answer was actually very simple, it was this rare feeling of stillness when I sing.
This “stillness” does not necessarily relate to physically being still but to a unique moment that happens without conscious decision. As a traditional fiddle player and sean nós singer I strive for this feeling whenever I perform, no matter whether it's in a small pub in South West Donegal with friends and family or on a concert stage abroad full of strangers and blinding lights. I find that when I sing and this stillness occurs, it is usually when I am unconcerned with my surroundings and I’m only thinking of the story I’m trying to tell. In that moment I don’t decide how to sing or breathe or act, it just happens. I close my eyes and the emotions that come out colour the story. Once the song is over that synthesis of colours fade, never to be repeated. Although an outward expression of sound and emotion, it can be a solitary experience as a performer as it is internal and intangible and I find it difficult to explain to someone who has never felt it.
Anúna is a collaborative group of individuals who crave this feeling of stillness. Everyone has experienced it at some point in their musical lives whether they are producing it or witnessing it as it develops. With incredibly creative people from so many contrasting backgrounds, whether musical, cultural, or otherwise, the one common thread binding us together is this desire for that singular feeling of stillness.
Through Anúna I have been so lucky to have felt this stillness in so many of our performances, each time in a different blend of intense colour which cannot be recreated. Anúna enables us to bring this sensation into our hectic lives. It allows us to an escape into the invaluable moment of a story being told for the first time, never to be told in the same way again.