Skydance (2013)

Judd Street Collection - March 2016
Duration 8:00 mins

50 word programme note:

Built around Sidney Carter’s song ‘The Lord of the Dance' and largely Celtic in style, Skydance explores idea that the Dance – representing the propagation of God's love for humanity - began long ago, came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ and now, in heaven, goes on for eternity. 

This piece was written for Birmingham Citadel Band's 120th anniversary celebrations in 2013. Bandmaster Gavin Lamplough approached me about a new piece for the band's event later this year, citing some kind of overture/opener, or even a new Júbilo, Júbilo!

Well, what we've ended up with is neither of those things, but instead I felt a yearning in my heart to complete my Eternity trilogy, so that's where I went with this piece. Skydance is the third installment in the trilogy and so thematically it leads on from the previous two works; Escape Velocity and Fusion.

Where the first two works paint in music the picture of our longing for eternity ('and I will run to you 'till I see your face') and the joy of arriving there ('my name is joined with thine'), Skydance describes the celebration, energy and exuberance that, I believe, life in eternity will represent. It is largely Celtic in style - a tribute to the heritage of both myself and my wife Leanne, as well as a tribute to the land we have lived in for the past three years.

In my planning of the piece I was taken anew with Sydney Carter's song 'Lord of the Dance' and his idea that the Dance - which I understand to represent the propagation of God's love for humanity - began long ago, came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ and now, in heaven, goes on for eternity. 

So Skydance combines the Shaker Tune (to which the words 'I am the Lord of the Dance' are commonly associated) with an old Charles Wesley hymn 'My God, I am thine' (SASB 355, Tune: 'My God, I am thine' TB 739), the words of the second verse of which say:
In the heavenly Lamb
Thrice happy I am,
And my heart it doth dance at the sound of his name.

This piece begins with a musicbox-esque presentation of Lord of the Dance; scored as a mechanical-sounding glockenspiel over which the melody flows in a high-pitched soprano cornet line.  The piece then moves into a brief ethereal section (capturing the wonder of the dance). This opening part of the piece will sound great in an auditorium with any kind of reverberation:


Skydance - sample 1.mp3


The piece then breaks free into an exuberant Celtic jig - the sound of the dance itself. Here is a clip from the later presentation of this feature:


Skydance - sample 2.mp3


After a minute or two of effervescence the piece settles into a reflective central section built around the Wesleyan hymn where at its' climax, the saint in eternity cries, 'my heart doth dance at the sound of His name!'

There is a further presentation of the Dance motif (above) before it combines with Lord of the Dance, gently at first then more vigorously,  culminating in a spectacular climax.  In trying to bring a sense of completeness to the trilogy, Skydance contains references to Escape Velocity and Fusion - I wonder will you spot them?

To be honest, I surprised myself at just how exuberant and light-hearted the final presentation ended up - I meant for it to adopt a far more serious and substantial tone. But I am settled with the idea that, well, if it came to me that way, then maybe it is meant to be. After all, our time in eternity will surely be an extremely joyous one!  Here's a brief clip:


Skydance - sample 3.mp3

Do you believe in heaven? If so, what will eternity be like to you? And I wonder, when there will you make time for a Skydance?

I danced in the morning
When the world was begun,
And I danced in the moon
And the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven
And I danced on the earth,
At Bethlehem
I had my birth. 

Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

Sydney Carter
© 1963 Stainer & Bell Ltd   

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