Messiah's Dawn Live
1999 was a remarkable and memorable year for many reasons. Anyone remember the much feared Millennium Bug? For me, the last year of the decade (and the millennium) was dominated by preparations for the first ever performance of "Messiah's Dawn". I'd spent much of year writing the additional songs and instrumentals and structuring the arc of the story with carefully selected passages from the Bible to be spoken by a narrator.
What I'd ended up with was a simple sequence of pieces that lasted about 45 - 50 minutes (enough to occupy either a church service or one half of a concert programme.) The work took listeners on a journey from the Old Testament and Isaiah's prophesies concerning the birth of Christ to the Annunciation and Mary's great song of praise. From there, we followed the journey to Bethlehem, witnessed the birth of a King in a stable, and rejoiced with shepherds and the choir of angels. A story about light in the darkness cannot shy away from depicting the darkness so the piece "Herod/The Flight" painted a fearsome picture of the slaughter of innocent lives and the flight to Egypt. The work was brought to a conclusion by the altogether more peaceful return home, Mary's reflections on the life of her son and an appropriately Milliennium-themed hymn of celebration. Once again, it was my sister, Sheena, who penned the words that closed the collection.
With all the music written and rough keyboard demos recorded, my thoughts turned to opportunities to perform it all live. I mentioned the project in passing one day whilst having lunch with dear friends, Phil and Angie Wright, from St George's Church in Leeds. I was immediately swept along on a tide of enthusiasm, encouragement and practical support. It's safe to say that I don't think any of this would have happened without Phil and Angie throwing themselves behind the work so wholeheartedly. I rounded up a fantastic band of talented musicians while Phil and Angie recruited singers. The next few months were a blur of rehearsals, publicity, T-shirt printing, lighting design, PA hire and all the myriad details that go into such a large scale performance. We were joined for the performance by the Christian mime company, Goldmime, whose visual interpretations added another dimension to the instrumental pieces.
For the lead male vocals, I turned to Simon Goodall in whose band I had played for the tour of his debut album the year before.
And so the world premiere of "Messiah's Dawn" took place at St George's Church, Leeds in December 1999. It remains one of the most moving, exciting and memorable experiences of my musical life.
Christ the beginning, Christ the end.
Christ the King and Christ the friend
Christ in years of history.
Christ the timeless mystery!