Reading My Way Around the World

Tuesday 21 January 2020

A very eventful December - singing with Anuna

I'm determined to get my look back at all the December happenings before January is out, so bear with me.

So after our visit to Dublin the next day my choir had a workshop and a performance scheduled with Anuna.   Another emotional roller coaster.   If I'd had any idea of how amazing the workshop was going to be I would have pushed all my singers to make sure they could be there.

Anuna were the orignal voice of Riverdance - you may remember seeing gorgeous young women with cloaks carrying candles and sounding like angels.   They are quite classical in style but have a very Celtic sound if that's a thing.   8 women and 9 men.
I know those of you into music and choirs will find this interesting ....

This group have no conductor, no-one out front, no-one counting them in - all their performance is lead by breath.  And they showed us how they do it ... It was so interesting.  They use the energy of the audience and wait for everyone to settle before they begin.

First Michael McGlynn the founder and director of Anuna asked me to conduct a piece, then do it again without moving my hands ..hmm   No, don't mouth the words!   No, don't use facial expressions!  At that I started to laugh and couldn't think of what else to do - so he proceeded to tell the group to close their eyes. 

Singmarra with Michael standing behind and me in front.  
Note the closed eyes and people trying not to giggle
Without giving them the note again - and remember this is a community choir, not a professional group, and we were now perhaps 10 minutes into the exercise, he then took a breath and they all started in unison and in tune.   Standing in front, I couldn't even hear the breath ... It was so exciting.  Here's a wee snippet from the workshop.

This piece blew us all away - it's called Jerusalem and was composed by Michael McGlynn and is a 7 piece canon in a style that is still sung in the Outer Hebrides .... The girls moved around the monastery as they sang this so the sound wrapped around us all - it was so moving.

So after going through breathing exercises and unison singing we rehearsed Gaudete to perform with them in the Monastery later in the evening.   We were drilled in walking on, bowing and walking off - such fun - I wonder how much of it people will remember when we start back next week lol

 So here's the performance - This is a terrible image but you can see the candles held by the Anuna ladies - we're surrounding them - they didnt trust us with the candles lol - and you can certainly hear us when we come in after the 2nd verse. 

Everyone together afterwards ..
we were in the Benedictine Monastery where the Mass is still sung in Gregorian Chant

Some of my Singmarra ladies with Michael

Even making it into the paper the following week
We were all high as kites for a week after and it certainly made a difference to our two Christmas performances and attracted more people to want to join us.

I have no desire to have a professional level choir - my main passion is to get people to use their voices - almost without exception, people who join community choirs tell the leaders that they can't sing or can't sing in tune - given 10 minutes singing in a group with fun songs and no-one pointing fingers everyone sings well in tune and has fun.   But, this experiecne will certainly lift the level of what we do, me as much as the singers - in fact it'll give me the opportunity to join in and sing with them rather than being stuck out in front.  


  1. That sounds like a wonderful workshop. How amazing that they sing as a group without a conductor they must be so in tune with each other to be able to do that. I love Gaudete I have sung that with a choir in the past.

  2. Funnily enough, my friend suggested Matt and I should join a local choir. Matt, who used to be a top boy chorister in the UK, hasn't sung since his voice broke, or shattered as he says. I haven't sung since the school choir.

    The workshop sounds as though it was fun and I'm sure you were thrilled to meet Anuna. I used to watch Riverdance a lot. Many years ago. These days we watch Celtic Thunder who seem to have disappeared off he scene these days. Pity.

  3. I found this so beautiful. Such talent. Well done everyone.

  4. Hi Fil - what an amazing experience ... no wonder you wanted to record and let us know about aspects. Anuna have the most wonderful of voices don't they - and how interesting to learn about the 'breath start' ... loved reading and listening to the post ... thank you - cheers Hilary

  5. Thank you all for your lovely comments ...

    @Jo - it's worth joining a choir if you can - there's something special about singing together, particularly in community choirs where the emphasis is just on having fun and using your voice rather than trying to reach some unattainable heights of perfection. Women find it easier to join groups and take their time learning stuff whereas men feel they don't measure up if they don't know everything straight away .... I'm seeing new members joining for lots of reasons now - memory being a big one as well as the social and feel good aspects.

    One of these days I'm finally going to get to see Riverdance live - it's been on my wish list for years but never quite managed it ... maybe this is the year :)


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