Anúna updates classic Irish tunes on “Scarborough Fair”
By Julia Heilakka, Contributing Writer
The music of Anúna is perhaps the furthest away from today’s popular dance music that a listener can go. Anúna calls themself the national choir of Ireland, and is one of the most popular groups in their genre. Their repertoire consists mostly of traditional songs and ballads that are rewritten by the group’s founder.
Michael McGlynn founded Anúna in 1987. McGlynn, a Dublin native, writes almost all of the music for the group, sometimes with the help of his twin brother. He uses all four vocal ranges to create a choral sound reminiscent of medieval chant combined with jazzy chordal clusters. Today’s listener may find similarities in style and chord progression by taking one of Bach’s choral pieces and adding a dash of jazz.
McGlynn uses instruments to enhance the sound of his ensemble. He commonly uses traditional Irish drums, harps, violins, and a guitar. While the group consists of 29 members, only 12 to 14 perform at once.
Since McGlynn founded Anúna over 25 years ago, the ensemble has gained popularity. Anúna has performed at the World Sacred Music Festival, the Concertgebouw Hall in Amsterdam, and in Dublin’s National Concert Hall.
More recently, Anúna broke into US culture by performing in the soundtrack of “Diablo 3,” an incredibly popular video game.
Besides recording for “Diablo 3,” Anúna’s most recent release was their album “Illumination,” in 2012. “Illumination” is the choir’s sixteenth album. The choir sings in a number of different languages, all of which are featured on this album: French, Irish, English and Latin are most common.
Two songs on the new album, “Scarborough Fair” and “Cúnnla” define Anúna’s sound. “Scarborough Fair” is a traditional English ballad with roots possibly as far back as the seventeenth century. “Cúnnla” is a traditional Irish lullaby composed sometime in the fourteenth century.
The group sings “Cúnnla” in its original Gaelic form. McGlynn arranged the piece, and increases the speed and intensity of the music to make the lullaby into more of a dance tune. He adds a traditional Irish drum under the singers, and uses a common Irish rhythm to drive the song forward.
Overall, Anúna is a far stretch from music most commonly heard around campus, but their unique sound is one that can be appreciated. Go check out the album!