“A spark of life on a wire from heaven”
I was not going to mention this. Really I wasn’t…but I am convinced that failure to mention it will be met with stern looks and raised eyebrows in my direction. I do not think any discussion of the four seasons within a context of music could go by without at least a passing reference to Antonio Vivaldi’s magnificent ‘The Four Seasons.” It is perhaps one of the most approachable pieces of classical music for people who may not normally profess to like that type of music. I think that is because people recognize what he was trying to do with the piece in making a musical portrait of the seasons of the year. You can feel the buzzing insects and impending storm in ‘summer’, the icy rain of ‘winter’, but mostly you can feel the invigoration of spring within the first few glorious notes of the composition.
It is the perfect example of music that makes you feel glad to be alive, much like that first day of spring when you can shed the winter coat, head outside to smell nature all around you and take in the vibrant colors after the dullness of a long winter. Because of all of that nature springing to life seemingly overnight-tree buds waking up, tulip, daffodil and hyacinth bulbs popping out from the ground, birds returning and singing their own songs it feels like a beginning all over again. In a way I think of it much like birth itself.
I suppose that is because it seems to bring so much happiness back into our lives when spring begins. Which is what the birth of a child brings to people similarly. Not having children I have to rely on friends and family who have had them to understand that incredible moment. Often I hear words or phrases like miracle, transforming, inspirational, and connection to describe that special time after a child is born, but most importantly of all what I hear is love. Time seems to freeze, and whatever pressures and concerns existed the day before seem to vanish once a new life enters the world. That is what the idea behind Runrig’s song News From Heaven is all about-
“Ideologies come, ideologies go,
A waste of words, and endless flow,
But now you’re here I feel no fear,
I can’t believe the news from heaven”
When I began assembling this series of blogs together, this song from their 1989 album Searchlight was one of the first I thought of. One reason was because I had long wanted to do a blog about Runrig, who have been one of my favorite bands for years now. The other reason is that the song is simply quite touching and beautifully written. Then again, that is something Runrig has been doing well for years. They have been together now since 1973, having formed on the Isle Of Skye in Scotland. Brothers Rory and Calum MacDonald have written the bulk of their material, filled with images of the Scottish landscape and its people. Since the beginning they have also included a few songs on each album written in the Scottish-Gaelic dialect, something precious few people ( be they musicians or writers) were doing around the time of their formation. Runrig can certainly claim a big part in the resurgence of that language. Together with the beautiful and expressive singing of Donnie Munro (and since 1997 his replacement Bruce Guthro) on most of the songs, Runrig over time developed a large fan base, especially in Scotland, where they continue to play in front of very large crowds to this day. You can read their official history right here- http://www.runrig.co.uk/?page_id=56, and of course there are hundreds of videos of them through the years on YouTube.
There are many things to admire about Runrig. The lyrics are always engaging and thought provoking and the music conveys the emotion and feel of the landscape around them in Scotland. There is a deep sense of connection to their culture and their language which I feel are critical to our identity. Some people may eschew these things, but I have always felt it to be important. News From Heaven however comes from a different place. It comes from a place of maturity and sensitivity. It reminds me of those first days of spring that arrive after a long cold winter. Of tender new shoots on trees and plants forming. Of innocence and the promise of the growth to follow in the coming years. Of happiness and a life where there was none only the day before. Of living and breathing joy.