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?
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. 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. Anything was possible. 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.
We had an ever increasing following in Ireland, building steadily for seven years when Riverdance catapulted the group forward onto an international stage in an unprecedented manner with all the commercial trappings attached. We migrated from audiences of 3-400 to 4000 seater venues performing as part the hottest show on the planet at the time in just a few months. In the middle of all this I hung doggedly to my own music, creating Omnis to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. It was also created in a somewhat futile effort to bind the singers together.
Dúlamán and Geantraí were originally one single song, but the necessity for 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. For some reason the album worked very well. The 1995 release was very successful at home mainly on the back of massive over exposure the previous year. Its mix of traditional Irish songs on the same disc as works by Hildegard of Bingen was oddly persuasive too.
Anúna realistically couldn’t compete with the trappings of Riverdance so when the time came to take the choir association out of the show most of the singers stayed with it. A handful of them 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.
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 picture with an impact rather than something out of the “Celtic Mysts of Ancient Tyme” ethos.