Celtic Spotlight: Iona

Mystical soundscapes composed of endless horizons filled with melody and longing, the music of Iona seeks to reconcile the spiritual with the natural. This may seem like no small task, but Iona has had 16 years to perfect the genre and get it right.
Iona has gone through numerous transformations over its 16 year history. In 1988, David Fitzgerald on a trip to Lindisfarne in the Cletic isles, was ‘overwhelmed by the sense of history and atmosphere on that Holy Island’. He wrote in his diary ‘I sense an incredible feeling of unity with the previous inhabitants. I am challenged by the lives of these early saints and our 1980’s materialistic interpretation of Christianity. We certainly seem to have lost a lot of inner peace and serenity that this place echoes. I feel personally too locked into the cares of this earthly life; a life that centres itself on money, work, career, status and other material things – almost a slave to them’. David was affected deeply by his experience and looking more deeply at the source of inspiration of Lindisfarne, traced it back to Iona.
The source of Christianity in this country came largely from this beautiful isle, shedding light on much of pagan Britain. Columba sailed to Iona from Ireland in AD563 and set up a monastery which became a missionary base from which Christianity spread throughout Scotland and northern Britain. Thus the idea of Iona the band was formed as David shared his experiences with Dave Bainbridge, and the two suddenly had a focus for music for the band they had been thinking of getting together.
In June of 1990 Iona’s debut album released with Word UK (on the What label). The following years launched Iona into the international spotlight with music such as Beyond these Shores and music for a concept work based on the 8th century illuminated manuscript, the Book of Kells. Iona took home a Dove for Best International Artist in 1992 and Book of Kells captured other awards and acclaim. At the completion of the band’s original three-album contract with Word, a joint deal was signed with Alliance (in the UK) and Forefront (in the USA) in 1995.
Ten years after forming, Iona took a one year sabbatical in 1998 to concentrate on solo projects and re-assess things for the future but came back strong with a couple of new musicians, new tours, and two new projects, Woven Cord and Open Sky.
In July of 2001, the band was dropped by US label Forefront after management changes at the company and a change of emphasis to favour signing younger, chart-oriented artists. After discussions with Alliance Media, Iona’s UK label, it was agreed that the band would be freed from that contract in order to set up their own label, “Open Sky.”

In many ways Iona has only just started on it’s journey since becoming independent. In August of 2002 the fledgling label released the band’s first recording on its own label, The River Flows anthology. Since then Iona has been back on the road with a number of dates in Europe and the UK.
Iona has most recently added Songs for Luca on their Open Sky Records to their extensive list of recordings. Songs for Luca contains 26 tracks in all, of which 10 are previously unreleased (these including an epic version of ‘Matthew the Man – live in Tokyo 2001’ and ‘Beijing – widescreen remix’ from IONA and other unreleased tracks from Dave Bainbridge, Bainbridge & Fitzgerald (‘live’ in Norwich Cathedral – 1998), The Flower Kings, Frank van Essen, Nick Beggs and Debbie Bainbridge – some of these especially written for Luca). Also features tracks by Rick Wakeman, Maire Brennan, Karnataka, Eden’s Bridge, Joanne Hogg, Troy Donockley, Peter Fairclough Group, Mae McKenna, Terl Bryant, Jeff Johnson, Gentle Giant, Adrian Snell and Julie Tippetts.
Iona has experienced first hand the twists and changes in the vast horizons of life of which they sing, but their music continues to flow beyond these shores toward the safe harbor.Related Articles & Links:
Iona.uk.com
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5/17/4

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