Fire in the SkyBrass Band
Fire in the Sky takes its inspiration from the stunning town of Montreux in Switzerland. I was commissioned to write the work 5 days before I visited this Montreux and was at work forming ideas for the piece as I arrived on the shore of Lake Geneva and its amazing views of the Alps.
Whilst the scenery is without doubt some of the most incredible views I have ever witnessed, it was the history of the town that set Fire in the Sky in motion. Whilst there, it occurred to me that many of my musical heroes had lived or performed there, and three of them in particular had a strong connection with the town. Miles Davis, Igor Stravinsky and Freddie Mercury graced Montreux – the large convention centre, where the famous summer jazz festival is held, named its two halls after Davis and Stravinsky, and there is a quite breathtaking statue of Mercury in the town too.
Each musician also commemorates an anniversary in 2011, the year of the premiere of Fire in the Sky; it is 40 years since the death of Stravinsky and both Miles Davis and Freddie Mercury died in 1991, making it 20 years since their deaths. So it seemed fitting to write a piece that in some way acknowledges them, and is a kind of personal “thanks” for all they have given, and continue to give, me.
The title comes from the famous Deep Purple song, Smoke on the Water – whose second line is “Fire in the Sky” and is a reference to the night the town’s casino was set alight by a Frank Zappa fan. The piece tries to recreate the atmosphere of that night, paint a picture of fire in the sky (and smoke on the water) and also uses small “nuggets” of the music of my three greatest musical heroes, Miles Davis, Freddie Mercury and Igor Stravinsky.
Fire in the Sky was commissioned by the Tomra Brass Band, Norway, and is dedicated to Stijn Berbe and Nick Ost – both of whom are connected with the band (teaching and conducting), and both have been close friends – personally and musicaly – for many years. I am indebted to them for the opportunity to write this piece.