Anúna, the Irish choral ensemble, is a stellar example of a crossover group that has avoided compromising its musical standards and has maintained a high level of involvement in the worlds of both popular and classical music. The group is best known for singing in Riverdance and for collaborations with Sting, Elvis Costello, the Chieftains, and Sinéad O'Connor, but it is also an exceptionally virtuosic chamber choir, with the discipline and technique to excel in both traditional and contemporary music in the classical tradition. This album of contemplative a cappella music highlights the group's commitment to Renaissance and modern choral works, as well as their sophisticated treatment of traditional Celtic music. Most of the pieces recorded here were written by Michael McGlynn, the group's founder and leader, and there are also his arrangements of a Medieval Celtic song and of Allegri's Miserere. The group sings Antonio Lotti's Crucifixus not only with the refinement typical of the finest Renaissance specialists, but with robustness, an attribute not necessarily usually associated with early music choral groups. The performance of McGlynn's arrangement of the Miserere doesn't quite have the polish to rise to the same standard, but it's nonetheless a satisfying and unmannered rendering of the classic, and it's refreshing to hear such an earthy take on a piece that's most frequently performed with an attenuated ethereality. McGlynn transforms Nobilis Humilis, a monophonic Medieval song, into a richly textured anthem, accompanied in large part by a gorgeous, densely chromatic drone. McGlynn's own works put him among the ranks of the most accomplished contemporary choral composers. They are notable for a sophisticated compositional technique that's always tied to appealing emotional directness. The haunting ending of his motet, O Maria, in particular, is likely to elicit a visceral frisson. The sound has a warm resonance that can border on wooliness in the louder, denser passages, but that for the most part suits this repertoire.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins