This week sees the arrival of the new artwork for Anúna’s third/fourth album Omnis. The CD has had no less than five, yes, five separate covers and three released versions. You can see the original artwork at the bottom of this article. You may justifiably ask why have a sixth cover? Are you an obsessive compulsive? Do you have no life?
This new cover was actually intended to be the first one, and despite being pretty off-the-wall now, at the time it fitted into my own view of what Anúna was. You see, in 1995 we were pretty cool, so creating an image such as this would have fitted very much into the ethos that I had created for us. I can’t remember why I didn’t include it as I had planned, but I suspect it was because Omnis was created when Anúna were involved in Riverdance.
Its hard to believe that Anúna was once cool, really on the edge of music in Ireland. Very different times they were…
We had an ever increasing following, and while Riverdance catapulted the group forward onto an international stage in an unprecedented manner with all the commercial trappings attached, it was, and is, a true original. While the choir had migrated from audiences of 3-400 to playing 4000 seater venues with the hottest show on the planet at the time in just a few months, I only saw the original vision I had for the group.
I created Omnis to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground, and to make an effort to bind the singers who had travelled part or all of the way with me to that concept. I decided to record this new album in the same church acoustic as I had Anúna (1993) because many of the new songs needed “space” within them. I believed that I could only achieve this in a sacred place.
Dúlamán and Geantraí were originally one single song, but needing another up tempo number forced me to split it in half. Some of the material was way off the beaten track – O Viridissima was a cascade of falling silvery voices and Tenebrae III sounded like it had fallen off the soundtrack of a video game. But for some reason the album worked very well. The 1995 release sold very well at home. Its mix of traditional Irish songs on the same disc as works by Hildegard of Bingen was oddly persuasive.
Anúna realistically couldn’t compete with the trappings of Riverdance so when the time came to leave the show most of the singers stayed with it. A handful of singers tried to remain as part of both for a short while, but life is not about going backwards. They eventually went their own ways and new singers joined us. So Anúna was reborn, albeit tainted by a two edged celebrity status in Ireland, something I managed to shake off everywhere else except home. Still today the word “riverdance” is used in the first few words that any interview or media appearance we do in Ireland.
The influx of new blood in 1996 resulted in what is arguably one of our finest recordings Deep Dead Blue, but at the time it was pretty hard going for me. By the time Omnis was hot off the presses it was a historical note, not a new album. I remember my mother saying to me after she first heard it that she couldn’t believe something so beautiful had been born out of so much trouble. In retrospect I can’t either. The beauty of it is in the music rather than the performances I believe. I am still proud of the compositions on that record. Dúlamán has become a choral mega-hit all over the world thanks to my friends in Chanticleer who included it on their album Wondrous Love in 1997.
The image was photographed by the photographer Nigel Brand who
had taken many pictures of the first lineup of Anúna (circa 1991-3). I remember discussing the album with him, and giving him free reign to create a image with an impact rather than something out of the “Celtic Mysts of Ancient Tyme” ethos.