Irish choral music has little or no history before the latter part of the twentieth century. In 1987 Dublin composer Michael McGlynn founded ANÚNA, Ireland's National Choir. The name derives from the collective term for the three ancient types of Irish music, Suantraí (lullaby), Geantraí (happy song) and Goltraí (lament). One of the choir's stated aims is to explore and redefine choral music from ancient times through to the present. The group have created a unique voice for Ireland and are widely accoladed for the originality of their performances, recordings and the natural quality of their singers.
Concerts feature a compelling combination of movement, elegant costume, candles and ethereal and haunting music sung in the choir's own unique way. Their material is written or arranged for the group by Michael McGlynn, and includes reconstructions of early and medieval Irish music. Anúna sing unaccompanied and without conductor, with between twelve and fourteen singers in any performance.
Their ability to slip easily between musical genres has allowed them to collaborate with a diverse variety of notable performers. Anúna were featured artists with the phenomenally successful Riverdance. They gave the first performance of the piece at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994, gaining a top-ten single in the U.K. Singles Charts and remaining at number one on the Irish Singles Chart for eighteen weeks. They also feature extensively on the Grammy Award-winning album of the show. McGlynn ended Anúna's association with the show in 1996.
They have been featured artists on two other Grammy Award-winning albums with the Chieftains in collaborations with Sting and Elvis Costello. In 2009 and 2010 they collaborated with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland for two major concerts of Michael McGlynn's compositions in Dublin's National Concert Hall and were special guests of the Australian super-group The Wiggles, whose CD and DVD It's Always Christmas With You was released at Christmas 2011 in Australia and the USA. It will be released in other territories in 2012. Also on release is Invocations of Ireland Michael McGlynn's self-made film. This has been broadcast extensively in Australia/New Zealand throughout 2010 on the Ovation Channel, with the DVD being released on Australia's DV1 and Columbia Music Entertainment in Japan.
In contrast the choir have appeared twice at the Fes World Sacred Music Festival in Morocco, given the first ever Irish Prom at the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall in London and in 2008 appeared at the world-renowned Concertgebouw Hall in Amsterdam. They accompanied the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese to Chile and Argentina in 2004 at the specific invitation of the Chilean President Ricardo Froilán Lagos Escobar. In total Anúna have visited twenty countries in the last sixteen years, including Portugal, Canada, China, Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Japan, Argentina, Italy and Canada.
2009 saw the inauguration of Anúna's Education and Outreach programme, which culminated last year in the highly successful Anúna International Choral Summer School at the National Concert Hall in Dublin. 2011 featured choral and vocal workshops across Japan, with individual sessions in Poland and Sweden. 2012 will include a workshop series across the Netherlands.
Anúna have released fifteen albums since 1991. Invocation won an Irish National Entertainment Award for Classical music, while Deep Dead Blue was nominated for a Classical Brit Award. Their albums have featured in various charts all over the world. Celtic Origins, also an award-winning PBS show and DVD, became the number one selling CD on the US World Music Charts in August 2007 (according to Nielsen Soundscan) while September 2011 saw their album Christmas Memories reaching number 95 in the Billboard 200 Album Chart. They have been signed to some of the world's major record labels including Decca, Universal Classics, Polygram, E1 and Philips.
2012 marks the 25th Anniversary of Anúna. In May it was announced that their voices feature heavily on the soundtrack of Diablo III, one of the biggest video game launches of all time. In June, the choir release their sixteenth CD Illumination.