Anáil Dé – The Breath of God is based on settings of Old Irish spiritual texts dating from the 8th to the 16th century. It is a project involving a collaboration between Gavin Bryars and the Irish singer Iarla O’Lionáird, arguably the finest Irish singer of his generation, who, while working within the tradition of sean-nós, has also produced acclaimed work that fuses this tradition with contemporary music.

Gavin Bryars and Iarla O’Lionáird met in 2004 when Iarla sang a thirty-minute programme of unaccompanied song before the Gavin Bryars Ensemble’s Irish debut concert in Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin, a concert that included the premiere of his Eight Irish Madrigals (settings of John Millington Synge’s Petrarch translations). Iarla asked Gavin if he would write an accompaniment to one of these songs, a 16th century lament Tuirimh Mhic Fhinin Dhuibh, for a forthcoming album Invisible Fields. Gavin arranged it for a five-part consort of viols – and a new version of this piece is included in Anáil Dé..

Iarla and Gavin have selected a number of texts, which are sung in an early form of Gaelic, chiefly from a collection of poetry called Lón Anama (“food for the soul”). In addition Iarla also sings some sean-nós works, and there are instrumental pieces for the ensemble of five players (Gavin Bryars,  Leo Abrahams and members of the Crash Ensemble).

There are eleven new settings of old texts, plus Tuirihm.., and some of these were performed at the initial concert in the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Dublin in November 2008, further pieces were added for concerts in Waterford and Limerick and the entire cycle was completed in the spring of 2011 and was recorded for future CD release n GB Records.

Anáil Dé was commissioned by Lyric FM and Note Productions. All enquiries should be addressed to Gary Sheehan at Note (

The pieces:

Anáil Dé I (The breath of God)
Cros Christ (Christ’s Cross)
Tórramat do nóebaingil (Mat thy holy angels tend)
Memorarae (Remember)
Mo–chean do theacht, a sgadáin (Welcome is your arrival, oh herring)
Toil ind Ríg (The will of God)
Tiurihm Mhic Fhinin Dhuibh (The black-haired lady’s lament..)
Adram in Coimdid (Let us adore the Lord)
Is mebul dom imrádud (Shame to my thoughts)
Laethanta na seachtaine (The days of the week)
Rop tu mo baile (Be thou my vision)
Congair in uissi (The lark sings)
Anáil Dé II

Additional pieces (instrumental)

Lauda Dolçe I (solo cello, guitar, bass)
Lauda Dolçe II (solo viola, cello, guitar, bass)
Lauda Dolçe III (solo cello, guitar, bass)
Lauda: The Flower of Friendship (viola, cello, guitar, bass)

Additional pieces (vocal)

Sean Nos song I
Sean Nos song II

Gavin Bryars