Anúna

Christmas Memories [Borders Exclusive]

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Irish vocal ensemble Anúna was founded by Michael McGlynn in 1987 and has gone on to flourish in a variety of settings and genres, including a featured role in the soundtrack of Riverdance; work with Elvis Costello, Sting, Sinéad O'Connor, and the Chieftains; and performances of traditional Celtic music and contemporary classical repertoire. The group's Christmas album is based on a stage show, Anúna Christmas Memories, produced by Maryland Public Television, and the slick production values highlight the ensemble at its glitziest and least subtle. McGlynn's arrangements are intriguingly unconventional in their avoidance of traditional harmonizations, and are often effective, but some of the songs sound so overproduced that such niceties get overwhelmed. The most persuasive songs are the ones presented most simply, many of which are a cappella or have the most circumspect accompaniment: "The First Noël," "O Holy Night," "Noël Nouvelet," "Gaudete," and McGlynn's own "Angels Are Singing," and his especially lovely "Codail A Linbh." On these tracks it's possible to recognize the first-rate choral ensemble known for the purity and soulfulness of its singing. Many of the songs feature soloists, all of whom have pleasant, natural voices, with the ensemble singing back-up. There are enough warmly satisfying performances here to make it worth it for fans of the group to skip over the gaudier moments and enjoy the simpler tracks.

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