Anuna,
Invocation
(Celtic Heartbeat, 1996)

Invocation -- the second Anuna CD to be released nationally -- is the most unique of all Anuna albums thus far. Once the music begins, the listener is transported to a dreamlike realm.

The remarkable singers of Anuna use their voices to create immense beauty and an ethereal presence that defies description. The band has changed and developed through the years, perhaps being familiar to most people from their performances with Riverdance. Michael McGlynn -- creator and composer, as well as a singer -- creates wonderful choral arrangements for the group using traditional Irish tunes, as well as poetic texts from various authors and backgrounds.

Invocation opens with "Eiri Na Greine/The Rising of the Sun." The song begins with the chorus, full of intensity, setting the tone for the entire album. Soloist Katie McMahon sings with a lilt to her voice -- very light, as if it were dancing. The time signature changes between chorus and verse, which I find to be very effective in setting this intense mood. The verse always builds up to the vibrance of the chorus. Declan Masterson does a wonderful job with the uilleann pipe solo as well as playing the whistle. The violin solo, played by Aingeala de Burca, is like that of Katie's solo, light and playful, though still very intense. The final chorus is unique. The choir crescendos into the climax of the song, coming closer to what seems would be an explosion of, perhaps, emotions. Just as it seems it could build no longer, several voice parts come in, one by one, overlapping to a final, almost satisfying ending.

"Sleepsong" is just as intense, but is set at a much slower pace. McMahon's voice is soothing and flows smoothly over this trance-like song. McGlynn joins in singing the chorus with McMahon; Sarah Clancy and Maire Lang sing as well, creating a duality between the two vocal lines. The song begins and ends with the whole choir singing. Mairead Ni Fhaolain plays the Irish harp and Sarah Clancy is the vocal soloist for "The Last Rose." Clancy has the perfect vocal range for this piece, capturing the beauty of both the song and the lyrics as the choir provides a backdrop for her voice.

"Hin Barra" completely changes the mood; after being relaxed by "The Last Rose," the Anuna men come in singing at a fortissimo dynamic. This song is one of my favorites on the album, though it would be better placed elsewhere to avoid the unsettling transition. However, that does not interfere with the quality of the song itself. The time signature is compound, making the piece very lively. The dynamics switch regularly, adding to the effect of the song.

"Winter Fire and Snow" is quieter and slower in tempo. Based on a poem by Dublin native MacDara Woods, the song features Katie McMahon as the lead vocalist and John McGlynn on guitar. "Under the Greenwood" also has a slow tempo and solos by David Clarke and Shane Lillis. Both are performed extremely well. They are followed by a enchanting, haunting recorder solo performed by Hilda Milner.

After such a slow and calming piece, a loud chorus of men come in singing "Heia Viri" at a double forte. A wonderful song (another one of my favorites), it also could have been better placed elsewhere on the album. The percussionist for this song is Noel Eccles, and the soloist is Monica Donlon. She has a beautiful voice, which is very well suited for this song. The choir sings softly behind the soloist, then comes in loudly for each chorus. This song is very powerful, vibrant and dynamic, full of lots of exploding energy.

Vocalists come in separately on "Song of Oisin," overlapping before slowly building to a crescendo and backing off again for McMahon's solo. Featuring guitar by Padraig Carroll and John McGlynn and an eerie low whistle solo played by Michael McGlynn, it is a highlight of the album.

"Siuil, A Ruin" makes fine us of McMahon's light, lyrical voice. A traditional Irish tune that has been performed by myriad artists through the years, it was arranged by Michael McGlynn into a choral work, adding new flavor and breaking up the monotony of hearing the same song done at slightly altered tempos and in different key. John McGlynn and Padraig Carroll play guitars and Caron Hannigan plays violin for this slightly upbeat and lively piece.

"Goltrai" is my personal favorite from Invocation. Caron Hannigan is the solo vocalist, with John McGlynn and Ben Dwyer on guitars and Michael McGlynn on the whistle. Something about this song speaks to my soul with a bittersweet tang. The soloist has a beautiful voice and the choir sings so emotionally -- it is difficult to describe a song like this in words.

The text of "Innisfree" was taken from the poem by W.B. Yeats, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree." The music conveys the sheer beauty and imagery that the words describe, transporting the listener to the isle when it's sung. This song features Katie McMahon as the lead vocalist, John McGlynn as the guitarist, and Caron Hannigan on violin.

"Wind On Sea" features John and Michael McGlynn on lead vocals, Aingeala de Burca on violin and Michael McGlynn on low whistle. This song, to me, is a masterpiece. It first appeared on Anuna's first album as "Invocation." On this album, it incorporates the words of "Amergin's Song." One can't help but stop and listen in awe as it is extremely captivating. It is like being drawn back to the voice of the bard Amergin, who led the Celts into Ireland. It is beautiful, haunting and mysterious. It is flawless in every way. It is one of Michael McGlynn's finest works.

Anuna is one of the finest choirs I have ever heard. They have a wonderful technique as singers. Together the group creates perfect overtones, and their voices blend as if one beautiful voice. This is a wonderful CD to invest in.

[ by Stephanie Giamundo ]



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