Wednesday 17 January 2018

Choosing her own direction: Anna Jordan's cinema debut

HAUNTING: Neil Jordan's daughter Anna wowed with her performance.
HAUNTING: Neil Jordan's daughter Anna wowed with her performance.

Dave Kenny

Neil Jordan's daughter was the toast of the Galway Film Fleadh last week after her spine-chilling vocal performance in a controversial new Italian-Irish horror movie. The composer/producer co-wrote the movie’s theme song with journalist and musician, Dave Kenny.

Anna Jordan, 34, made her cinematic singing debut at the world premiere of House of Shadows last Thursday. Her performance as the voice of a murdered teenage girl kept audiences on the edge of their seats. However, it was her rendition of the theme song, Anni's Lullaby, that was the talk of the festival club.

Movie composer Lance Hogan believes Anna has an "exceptional" talent.

"She has an extraordinary, distinctive voice, with elements of Sinead O'Connor, PJ Harvey and Bjork. With the right career management, she will be hugely successful," said Mr Hogan, who has worked with the biggest names in the music business, including U2.

The composer/producer co-wrote the movie’s theme song with journalist and musician, Dave Kenny. “It’s a lullaby and Dave’s lyrics are very, very dark. I drafted Anna in to sing it and was blown away. I can’t think of anyone else singing the song now.

"She was great to work with. There are some very harrowing moments in the film. At one stage, the young girl is led away to be abused. I got Anna to sing over these scenes and she was just amazing."

The movie, which is an Italian/Irish co-production, is the brainchild of first-time director Rosella De Venuto. It tells the story – in English – of Megan (Fiona Glasscott), who decamps to Italy with her husband when he inherits a mansion from his monsignor uncle.

Megan initially falls in love with the house, but begins to feel a demonic presence there during the hottest hours of the day (the 'controra').

"It's hard to believe there are two women making their debuts in this movie," said Mr Hogan. "It's an extremely accomplished first feature from Rosella, and Anna's vocals are the icing on the cake.

"Fiona is fantastic as Megan too. Her performance will make you jump out of your seat."

The movie's themes of clerical abuse, murder and church cover-ups raised a few eyebrows at Galway last week, and will raise a few more when it goes on general release.

Anna, who has a little girl Caoimhe, 5, is unconcerned that the movie may get a backlash for its portrayal of the church.

"It doesn't bother me. I don't come from a religious background. Besides, I'm just singing the song," she said.

"I actually didn't find it hard to sing over the darker scenes, as I adapt quite easily to haunting themes. Most of my songs are quite moody. I find it harder to write happy ones."

The Dubliner has written music for short films and features in the past, but this was the first time she had been asked to sing on a movie.

"Normally, I'm involved in the writing process, so this felt unusual, but I enjoyed it. Lance did an amazing job on the soundtrack."

Anna is reluctant to talk about her famous father, given that she is forging her own, independent, career as a singer-songwriter (she will launch her first EP, Dust at Whelan's this Thursday). She reveals, however, that music was ever-present in the Jordan household when she was growing up. Neil is a musician as well as a novelist and moviemaker.

"Neil was always playing something at home. He introduced me to Thelonious Monk, who I loved, and I ended up studying jazz at Newpark.

"I did some piano work for him on Breakfast on Pluto."

Does having such a famous dad put her under pressure, workwise?

"No, not at all. I rarely think about it. I'm uncomfortable talking about my father, to be honest. The new EP is all my own work, as is the singing on House of Shadows."

Anna's chief musical collaborator is drummer Dennis Cassidy. "He's a great, inventive musician who has a massive part to play in the overall sound. We worked with bassist Tom Prior and viola player Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh on the EP.

"My partner, sound designer and composer Keith Lindsay, produced three of the tracks. One of them, She Dances, is about our daughter, Caoimhe. When she was a baby she used to move to all types of rhythms including the sound of builders at work. It's the happiest track on the EP."

Lance Hogan believes the EP will "open doors" for Anna. "There's no question of her riding her dad's coat-tails. She's a new talent in her own right."

Download Dust at The launch is at Whelan's at 8pm on Thursday night (admission, €10, includes free download).

Irish Independent

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