Musician and performer from Northern Ireland; songwriter, guitarist and singer of many styles including his band tethers. Runs his own record label Swallow Song.
"I came to classical music, and choral music specifically, from rock music. At 14, I was made (much to my despair as an aspiring rock guitarist) to join the school choir. I loved it. My first memories of choral singing involve the struggle to sing the opening bass line to Allegri’s Miserere and being blown away by the beauty of Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine. The addictive quality of singing in harmony already had its grip on me. Soon after, I was introduced to the choral music of Michael McGlynn and his group, Anúna.
The music of Anúna astounded me. The drones, the complex rhythms, the unique sound that the choir produced – it all instantly resonated with me. At this time, what I knew of Irish classical music covered the repertoire of Hamilton Harty and Charles Stanford. It seemed to me that Irish people did not have much of an influence in the world of classical music. With Anúna, it was the first time that choral music had a uniquely Irish voice.
Anúna was not like any other choir I had heard. I couldn’t figure out how to define them and in this instance, the word “choir” seemed to sell them short. They were a group of singers, yes, but they were much more. They sang without a conductor, without sheet music, and even moved through the audience and around the venue during performances.
When I joined the group a few years later, this issue still played at the back of my mind. So much so that I was uncomfortable with saying that I sang in a choir called Anúna. I wasn’t sure what to call this creature I was a part of.
It was during our Canadian tour in the summer of 2013, in the flow of (very) late night conversations with other singers in the group, that I finally began to see Anúna for what we were. Anúna is a band. We sing original music, which we are constantly altering and developing, we tour all over the world, we play in theatres with complex light shows and we use instruments like guitar, harp, whistles and drums (the Irish bodhrán). We record and release our music exactly like any independent band would.
The only similarity I can see between Anúna and any other choir is that we create the music with our voices. But vocal music by no means belongs to the choral fraternity. Vocal music belongs to everyone. Every single human with a voice can sing. In Anúna, we use our voices to create a beautiful sound while asking questions about who we are, where we come from, why we’re here.
I believe Michael McGlynn knew that he was creating a band at the very inception of An Uaithne in 1987.