The next Tampere Vocal Music Festival will be held from 9 to 13 June 2021. The artistic director of the next festival is Michael McGlynn from Ireland, composer and the founder and director of the ANÙNA choir and the M’ANAM vocal ensemble.
Could you tell us a little about ANÚNA and M’ANAM, Michael?
It is hard to put my finger on the moment when they both formed in my mind, but it was soon after I began singing in a choir for the first time. I was 19 and I hadn’t ever seen a choir live, never mind sung in one. It took about 15 minutes and then I realised I was obsessed with this. I use the word “choral” cautiously because often it is a lazy label that puts this most beautiful of musical art forms into a box. I suppose I have spent most of my life ignoring the box and creating outside of it.
There is no form of indigenous choral singing in Ireland. Thus was born ANÚNA. I wanted to create something linked into my country’s literature, philosophy and traditional singing (sean nós). ANÚNA would aim to have a universality that would allow general audiences to access material that might otherwise be out of the mainstream. I wanted to keep the best of what choral music had to offer, but create a new ethos, a new direction for ensemble singing that asked question and innovated. As a composer it also gave me the opportunity to create an entirely new repertoire that allowed me to explore my own heritage and the human voice in all its colours and emotions.
ANÚNA is pretty unique. It is project based, coming together to tour or record. The singers are from all over the world although the main body of the group is based in Ireland. We have a unifying ethos and intent and our performances are immersive and atmospheric, strongly linked to natural ideas of performance and technique. We don’t use a conductor and part of our ethos is to empower singers as artists into being more proactive in every aspect of their performance and thinking.
M’ANAM is brand new created only last year and already it has evolved in leaps and bounds and taken on a life of its own. Made up of eight men, the artistic pool it grew from forms close connections between the intersections of the Irish and Icelandic cultures among others. I see Ireland as a Nordic country in many fundamental ways, and the more I explore these connections the more exciting this project becomes. M’ANAM is also an effort to find an expression that explores connections between text and performer in a way that delves into the psyche of the performers. We have a début album ready to release and I think we are all very excited by the potential of the ensemble.
What is your relationship with Tampere Vocal Music Festival? How many times have you visited the festival and could you share your personal highlights with us?
The first time I visited Tampere was in 2003 when Jussi Chydenius invited me to serve on the Jury of the Chorus review. I also brought ANÚNA to perform. I have to be honest and say that I fell in love with Tampere at that point. The warmth of the people attending, the huge interest in choral music among the general population, the sense of not competing but participating – all these things were new to me.
However, it was the Finnish choral ensembles that struck me most. Groups from tiny towns had a full choir singing songs by Finnish composers in Finnish! This was unheard of in my own country. Language is a very precious thing and seeing what could be done in Finland has inspired me to keep composing and creating music in the Irish tongue. I also got a chance to visit the Vocal Ensemble final performance and it blew me away. So much energy and movement, so I was delighted when Jussi invited me in 2017 to revisit Tampere and join the Ensemble Jury. Tampere has changed, but the essence of what it stands for remains a constant.
What kind of vision do you have for the Tampere Vocal Music Festival 2021? Into which direction do you wish to take the festival?
The Festival is a huge success already. This makes my job much easier I have to admit. Coming with an outside perspective is a very useful thing in most cases as it allows for a fresh view and already I have had a number of conversations that show how flexible people are and how open they are to ideas.
Tampere is in a beautiful part of Finland and maybe a greater awareness of how special the landscape and culture are would be attractive to visiting ensembles. I would also like more cross-pollination between the choruses and the ensembles, and in a wider sense, a greater integration of the Festival into the city of Tampere itself and beyond. Hopefully I will have many opportunities to raise awareness of how special this festival is as I travel of the next two years too.
I have to admit that I am very much looking forward to being in the city more often. I can’t keep out of that beautiful lake!