Monica Donlon 



Founder member, attempting to balance Anuna with a business career and a family for more than 25 years…

I sang with Michael in a small university choir in Dublin so when we met in the street in 1989 he asked me to join his new group, An Uaithne.  At that stage I had trained as a singer for 10 years, and sung semi-professionally with the RTÉ Chamber Choir (conductor Colin Mawby), but had already made the decision that I was not going to pursue a full time professional singing career.  (In this I follow a strong family tradition of semi-professional singers, going back to my grandfather’s uncle J.C. Doyle who sang with both Count John McCormack and James Joyce, even making it into Ulysses!).

It can be hard now to remember how unusual the group was in the late 80s and 90s. We started with performances of Early music, but moved quickly to performing Michael’s compositions and arrangements, without sheet music and without a conductor. We sang Irish traditional songs which had never been performed with harmonies, much less by a ‘choir’. 

As we became better known, we struggled with the name of the group. Although An Uaithne was a wonderful title, which represented the three types of Irish music (Suantraí – lullaby, Goltraí – sad song, Geantraí – work song), even in Ireland people had different opinions on how to pronounce it. The group brainstormed options to rename, and my mother donated the winning suggestion, Anúna – a simplified version of how we pronounced An Uaithne. 

Over the years we had some impressive and memorable accomplishments – concerts & recordings in locations as varied as community halls, schools, castles, pubs, concert halls, theatres, a quarry, jail, mountain top, tents in fields, a subway station, nightclub, and churches… so many churches, from tiny and freezing to beautiful echoing cathedrals. We brought the concept of ‘ritual’ to all these locations (some easier than others), ensuring that our performances combined movement, light and sound to create an overall impact far larger than the parts or any one individual singer.

But for me, what has kept me with the group all these years is the soaring music, which I once heard described as like ‘being buried in singing sand’. I have had huge satisfaction in seeing the group become gradually more and more skilled and accomplished in performing it, while keeping the original raw musicality. Looking forward to many more years!