Iona (band)

Last updated

Iona band.jpg
Iona during a 2010 concert.
Background information
OriginUnited Kingdom
Genres Celtic, progressive rock
Years active19902016
Labels What, Word, Open Sky
Associated acts Nightwish, Kajagoogoo
Past members

Iona was a progressive Celtic rock band from the United Kingdom, which was formed in the late 1980s by lead vocalist Joanne Hogg and multi-instrumentalists David Fitzgerald and Dave Bainbridge. [1] Troy Donockley joined later, playing the uilleann pipes, low whistles, and other instruments.

Progressive rock is a broad genre of rock music that developed in the United Kingdom and United States throughout the mid- to late 1960s. Initially termed "progressive pop", the style was an outgrowth of psychedelic bands who abandoned standard pop traditions in favour of instrumentation and compositional techniques more frequently associated with jazz, folk, or classical music. Additional elements contributed to its "progressive" label: lyrics were more poetic, technology was harnessed for new sounds, music approached the condition of "art", and the studio, rather than the stage, became the focus of musical activity, which often involved creating music for listening rather than dancing.

Celtic music music genre

Celtic music is a broad grouping of music genres that evolved out of the folk music traditions of the Celtic people of Western Europe. It refers to both orally-transmitted traditional music and recorded music and the styles vary considerably to include everything from "trad" (traditional) music to a wide range of hybrids.

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.



By the time Iona released their first self-titled album in 1990, drummer Terl Bryant, bassist Nick Beggs (formerly the bassist of Kajagoogoo), Fiona Davidson on Celtic harp, Peter Whitfield on strings, Troy Donockley on Uilleann pipes and percussionist Frank van Essen had joined the band. The first album Iona concentrated mostly on the history of the island of Iona, from which the band got its name.

Terl Bryant is a drummer and percussionist, originally from Northamptonshire, England. In his early career, he toured and recorded with US artist Steve Taylor and Peter Murphy, and went on to join the influential Celtic folk-themed progressive band Iona and later Eden's Bridge.

Nick Beggs British musician

Nicholas Beggs is an English musician, noted for playing the bass guitar and the chapman stick; he is a member of The Mute Gods and Kajagoogoo, formerly also a part of Iona and Ellis, Beggs, & Howard and plays in the band of Steven Wilson.

Kajagoogoo British new wave band

Kajagoogoo were a British new wave band, best known for their 1983 hit single "Too Shy", which reached No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart, and the Top 10 in numerous other countries.

Iona returned in 1992 with The Book of Kells , a concept album with several tracks based on pages from the eponymous book. Terl Bryant took over on drums and percussion for this album after the departure of Frank van Essen. Fitzgerald left the band that year to pursue a degree in music. Beyond These Shores , the band's third album, was released in 1993 and included guest musician Robert Fripp. The album was loosely based on the legendary voyage of St. Brendan to the Americas before Christopher Columbus, but the band did not intend for it to be viewed strictly as a "concept album".

<i>The Book of Kells</i> (album) 1992 studio album by Iona

The Book of Kells is a progressive rock album by Iona. Released in 1992. The Book of Kells, an 8th-century manuscript filled with lush pictures illustrating the Gospels, possibly originating from the monastery at Iona, serves as the album's namesake.

Book of Kells 8th-century illuminated manuscript Gospel book, held in Trinity College, Dublin

The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables. It was created in a Columban monastery in either Britain or Ireland and may have had contributions from various Columban institutions from both Britain and Ireland. It is believed to have been created c. 800 AD. The text of the Gospels is largely drawn from the Vulgate, although it also includes several passages drawn from the earlier versions of the Bible known as the Vetus Latina. It is a masterwork of Western calligraphy and represents the pinnacle of Insular illumination. It is also widely regarded as Ireland's finest national treasure.

<i>Beyond These Shores</i> 1993 studio album by Iona

Beyond These Shores is a progressive rock album by Iona, released in 1993. Beyond These Shores is largely based on the story of St. Brendan's voyage. Brendan and a company of monks sailed from Ireland in a leather and wood boat in the sixth century to 'the promised land' which many believe to be America.

Journey into the Morn followed in 1995, a more accessible and rock-oriented album loosely based on the hymn "Be Thou My Vision", which was performed in Gaelic at the beginning of the album and again near the end. Máire Brennan, lead singer of Celtic/new-age band Clannad, was brought in to help Hogg with the Gaelic pronunciation, and she sang backup vocals.

<i>Journey into the Morn</i> 1996 studio album by Iona

Journey Into The Morn is a progressive rock album by Iona. Released in 1996. It was their first studio album since Beyond These Shores in 1993.

Be Thou My Vision Christian song

"Be Thou My Vision" is a traditional Christian hymn of Irish origin. The words are based on a Middle Irish poem often attributed to the sixth-century Irish Christian poet Dallán Forgaill, although it is probably later than that. The best-known English version, with some minor variations, was translated by Eleanor Hull and published in 1912. Since 1919 it has been commonly sung to an Irish folk tune, noted as “Slane” in church hymnals, and is one of the most popular hymns in the United Kingdom.

Irish language Gaelic language spoken in Ireland and by Irish people

Irish is a Goidelic language of the Celtic and Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is spoken as a first language in substantial areas of counties Galway, Kerry, Cork and Donegal, smaller areas of Waterford, Mayo and Meath, and a few other locations, and as a second language by a larger group of non-habitual speakers across the country. A speaker of the Irish language is known as a Gaeilgeoir.

Two live albums followed in the late 1990s: the double-disc Heaven's Bright Sun and Woven Cord , which was performed with the All Souls Orchestra. Terl Bryant departed the band between these two albums, and Frank van Essen returned to fill the vacant spot, playing drums as well as violin, which could be heard on the band's 2000 album, Open Sky .

<i>Heavens Bright Sun</i> 1997 live album by Iona

Heaven's Bright Sun is a live progressive rock album by Iona, released in 1997.

<i>Woven Cord</i> 1999 studio album by Iona with All Souls Orchestra

Woven Cord is a live progressive rock album by Iona with the All Souls Orchestra, released in 1999. It was recorded on 29 May 1999 at the Royal Festival Hall in London, when Iona joined with the All Souls Orchestra for a unique collaboration to celebrate the band's tenth anniversary. Additional recording was made at Visions of Albion, Yorkshire, in July and August 1999. The engineers were Nigel Palmer and Matt Parkin.

<i>Open Sky</i> 2000 studio album by Iona

Open Sky is a progressive rock album by Iona, released in 2000.

After being released from their U.S. contract with ForeFront Records and their UK contract with Alliance Records, Iona formed Open Sky Records to release material independently. The first new release on this label was the 2002 box set The River Flows , which featured their then-out-of-print first three albums (all remastered and several first album tracks even re-recorded), as well as a fourth disc of unreleased tracks and rarities called Dunes. The first three albums have since been re-released individually, with new cover art.

ForeFront Records

ForeFront Records is a contemporary Christian music and Christian rock record label founded in 1987 by Dan R. Brock, Eddie DeGarmo, Dana Key, and Ron W. Griffin. It was purchased by EMI in 1996 from Dan R. Brock and Eddie DeGarmo and is a division of Universal Music Group under Capitol Christian Music Group.)

<i>The River Flows</i> 2002 studio album by Iona

The River Flows: Anthology Vol. 1 is a progressive rock 4-CD album by Iona, released in 2002. It is a box set collection of their first three studio albums with some re-recording plus a fourth disc which is a collection of additional material from throughout the years. The band's first album, Iona, has the re-recorded tracks and each of the first three is subtly re-mastered.

Remaster refers to changing the quality of the sound or of the image, or both, of previously created recordings, either audiophonic, cinematic, or videographic.

The group has been in semi-hiatus for the better part of the current decade. However, 2006 saw the April release of a 2-disc live DVD Iona: Live in London, featuring a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround mix by LA's John Kellogg, and a November release of a new studio CD entitled The Circling Hour .

In June 2009 Troy Donockley announced that he was leaving Iona. A message on his website stated: "I have had a wonderful time with my friends in Iona and am very, very proud of the albums we made together. But, as in all life, things change. After extended periods of no activity we have found ourselves with a very different musical and philosophical direction. We have parted as great friends should, with a sad-happiness and I wish the band all the very best wishes for the future". Donockley is currently a member of punk/folk band The Bad Shepherds. He has also played in Barbara Dickson's band for a number of years and is the band's Musical Director. Currently he is on a world tour with Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish, with whom he has made many guest appearances both live and on their albums over recent years, before joining them as a full-time member in October 2013. He has been replaced in Iona by piper and woodwind player Martin Nolan.

In June 2010, Iona went to the United States for their first tour there in nine years. On 19 June 2010, they played a very well received concert at NEARfest, a progressive rock festival in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and during this show they introduced new songs for a forthcoming album, Another Realm , released in 2011, and their final album to date. After several concerts throughout the U.S. and one in Canada, they ended the tour at Cornerstone Festival, a Christian music festival in Illinois, on 30 June.

On Dec. 11, 2016, the band announced on its Facebook page that it was suspending recording and touring as a group, citing other commitments. "We do not know what will happen in future years, whether we will get together again as Iona," the band said. "The door will remain open, but for the foreseeable future, the next and exciting chapters of our journey will involve other avenues."


First incarnation (June 1989)

Trio (August 1989)

First album (November 1989 – March 1990)

Final members


Studio recordings

Live recordings


Box set

Other collaborations


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  1. Iona Christianity Today