Hornplayer extraordinaire David Fitzgerald, leader of lona Dave Bainbridge and Celtic author Canon David Adam have joined forces for THE EYE OF THE EAGLE. Mike Rimmer reports.
The Eye Of The Eagle is a place where you rise above the human limitations of understanding or mere sight and perceive circumstances and life from a heavenly perspective - The Eye Of The Eagle' is a place where the temporal and the eternal meet. The God of the universe who holds the stars and planets in place is also the God who knows the number of hairs on your head. The incredible hugeness of God and the intimate nature of His relationship with us are explored on this new release combining the musical vision of Dave Fitzgerald and Dave Bainbridge and the words from David Adam's book. To create a piece of this magnitude is a daunting undertaking but Fitzgerald says that "Throughout the writing and recording process, we were aware of being surrounded by the presence of God. This was very, very strong on occasions. So much had to be achieved quickly and this would have been impossible in the natural. God's Spirit upheld and enabled us in the whole creative process."
A Monday night in October and Norwich Cathedral is the venue for the world premier of a new project linking lona founder members Dave Bainbridge and David Fitzgerald together for the first time since 'The Book Of Kells'. In the stark gleam of television cameras, the general public have the first opportunity to experience the power and passion of this new work. Together with Celtic writer David Adam, they have created 'The Eye Of The Eagle', a magnificent soundscape and spiritual journey based on Adam's inspiring writings.
The premier isn't without its challenges and Bainbridge admits they agreed to perform at the festival before the album was completed and "we hadn't even begun to consider how to translate the recording to a live performance situation. For me, it was especially problematic to work out how to recreate such a multi-layered sound with only a few musicians." Just to make life interesting, hosting the premier in a cathedral added to the challenges as Fitzgerald confesses, "We knew that rehearsals would be extremely restricted, especially so on the day, as the rigging of the PA, lights, TV and recording equipment would take up a lot of time. Then, as with all cathedrals, nothing stops the daily rhythm of Evensong and such matters as organ practice. We had to break between 4 pm and 6.30 pm and so pre-cathedral rehearsals were essential."
Thinking about that Norwich performance Bainbridge comments, "Due to the complexity of The Eye Of The Eagle' and this being its first complete performance I must admit that I mainly concentrated on the practical side of things, such as getting the right notes and sounds together on the evening. However there were many very special moments where the musicians and singers jelled and we were able to forget about technicalities and see with The Eye Of The Eagle' - to quote David Adam's book. Something fantastic can happen when all the elements (technical and spiritual) come together in a performance."
Fitzgerald comments, "The fact that we had sound, lights, recording and TV meant that this was more than just a performance so we needed to be focussed on all aspects constantly: not easy when you are performing something so massively large-scale for the first time ever to a large audience in such a place as Norwich Cathedral! I remember saying, 'It's out of our hands, it's too big and there is too much to do, God will have to take over.' I felt reassured, as I knew that if this work was going to touch anyone it would only be the Lord who would do it in any case. I also remember that as we prayed during rehearsals, Dave said that 'we should not miss out on what God was wishing to impart through being too centred on the technical or merely physical aspects of the performance.' It was a true word and I feel that as we released things, the Spirit of God reached into the situation and something very wonderful happened."
The Norwich performance also included Fitzgerald and Bainbridge joining together to perform material from lona and Fitzgerald's solos 'Columcille' and 'Lux Aeterna'. Bainbridge points out that when Fitzgerald was visiting his home to write material for the album, "We performed a few lona pieces at my local church on a couple of occasions. It was nice to hear David's playing on those pieces again, particularly in a church Worship setting in which the focus was not us, but God."
Cross Rhythms reporter Mark Goodge, who witnessed the Norwich performance, wrote perceptively in his review of The Eye Of The Eagle' that "the overall effect remains firmly within the tradition of historic church music." Dave Fitzgerald describes some of his recent musical journey that has led him to this point, "God had opened a way for me to return to full time study for a BA (Hons) Music degree at the Colchester Institute School of Music, the music department of Anglia University (Cambridge and Colchester). This music school was, I am informed, the only 'secular' degree course that centred its curriculum on liturgical music. These three years opened up to me a depth of knowledge that has been a kind of sounding board for the future. Through the lectures, many hours of study in various University and College libraries, and my many many visits to King's College Chapel, Cambridge, either alone or with members of my family, a whole new world of music was opened up before my eyes and all of a sudden I was hearing music that resonated within my being. I could hear in my head this music of Chapel and Cathedral combining with our music. It was exciting."
Fitzgerald continues to describe the results of experiencing this new music. "Needless to say, not only did God open up a whole new understanding in terms of what I was 'sensing' and now hearing. He also used this new music to go very deeply into my mind and spirit as I examined my whole past and present life, this music was working its way to the centre of my being. The words of the chosen text and the power of melodic line against harmonies that I had not previously heard (by composers such as Herbert Howells, John Tavener, Arvo Part and many, many others) introduced me to new realms of human communication which became the springboard of God's new revelation - which are now finding their voice through new projects, such as 'Columcille', 'Lux Aeterna' and now 'The Eye Of The Eagle'."
Anyone who has heard the music that Dave Bainbridge and David Fitzgerald have produced during their careers cannot fail to appreciate the chemistry between them." I know also that God ordained our relationship," Fitzgerald admits, "which began inside of the projects of Adrian Snell. God has produced some of the finest work that we have ever accomplished, together. I also believe that there is much, much more that we can achieve together. Whenever we have joined forces and seen common purpose, God opens doors and wonderful things happen in music and otherwise."
Fitzgerald describes the way in which the two musicians work together. "Dave and I are so very different in personality, although I think that we do share many of the same values and concerns as well as being on the same musical wavelength in the main. I also feel that our specific giftings are very complimentary in that we are very able to create music together, particularly when based around a defined idea or vision; both of us have certain abilities and giftings that cover both creative and communicative territories. It's not enough to be concerned with just being creative, we need also to be good stewards of what God has initiated. Dave is the master of ceremonies in terms of the majority of musical requirements, from the actual composition of material; through to all the complex technical areas of editing, programming, recording, mixing and mastering (although I am alongside for most of this process, Dave spends literally days and weeks alone creating all these incredible sounds!). As well as being concerned with the whole creative process, I also get on with a lot of the marketing of the project, ie, finding ways of communicating the worth of the project to those who might assist us in getting the project before the people."
With the release of The Eye Of The Eagle' and the premier completed, the album is very much "before the people". Bainbridge sees the album's appeal spreading across many musical boundaries, "I hope that people who listen to contemporary classical sacred music composers such as Tavener, MacMillan, Part and Gorecki will also hear this album and be caught up by the same spirit which motivated them. I think that both the 'classical' and adult 'rock' audiences have become broader minded in recent years as the boundaries between musical styles have become more blurred."
Bainbridge is also convinced that The Eye Of The Eagle' is part of a bigger purpose. He says, "We recorded the album because we felt it would be the ideal project in which we could renew our artistic relationship. We both feel that more people should be aware of David Adam's writings, which speak to everyone, not just the Church. It was obvious that God was the instigator in bringing it all together. This last point gives me confidence that he has a purpose for the album so we don't have to get hung up on whether it will be difficult to market or not."
Bainbridge continues, "The first Sunday morning David came up to Otley to begin working on the project, before anyone knew anything about the reason for David being there, other than we were collaborating on a new project, one of the leaders had prepared a reading and guess which book it was from? The Eye Of The Eagle!"
The creation of the album is intriguing because each of the pieces were inspired by David Adam's readings. I ask Fitzgerald to describe how that creative process took place. He explains, "I think in more abstract terms, responding more by spontaneous means than preordained formats. I think that if you were to listen to a piece like 'Fire And Water' this would illustrate my point well. Here I am responding to each line of text immediately upon hearing it (in this case through the 'cans' in the studio). This I do over Dave's already created chord sequences. Not only am I using newly created ideas or lines here to decorate or illustrate the text, I am (at the same time) seeing (or visualising) certain aspects of either my own personal (micro) journey or a much larger (macro) scenario as I play these responses. Music coming out of text, through visual image and feeling."
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