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Expect harmony to come from variety when a gospel singer who’s big in Helsinki, a folk guitarist with a flair for flamenco, and a classically-trained cellist and countertenor reunite for some special gigs this summer.
A couple of years ago, The Illuminations, who come from Cambridge, were enjoying some degree of success on the London music circuit, playing well-known venues such as the University of London Union, 12-Bar Club and Camden Barfly. But, in a twist that wouldn’t be out of place in a Paul Simon lyric, the five-piece had reckoned without the awesome power of Cupid’s dart.
The band’s founder member, multi-instrumentalist Ewan King, met Heini, a student at Helsinki University, whilst teaching English in Prague. The two returned to Helsinki to marry, and Ewan developed a dual existence as a teacher at Finland’s best sixth-form college and as a successful gospel singer.
‘We’re really pleased that Ewan’s made a go of the gospel music,’ says Chris Tutton, lead guitarist. ‘There’s always been a contemplative side to his songwriting, even when he’s been writing about his schooldays or travelling on the Harwich to Gothenborg ferry – so this is a natural outlet for him.’
Rather than splitting up, distance made The Illuminations more focussed on the essential business of witing and recording classic pop songs. ‘With all the band writing songs, we had plenty of material to work on,’ says James Cave, cello and bass guitar. ‘We got used to sending bits and pieces by email for Ewan to comment on. In many ways it’s helped to define the ‘Illuminations sound’: the sound of a beautiful melody being violently batted back and forth across Europe via the information superhighway’.
They still managed to find time to fit in the odd charity and one-off gig, playing a gig for asylum seekers at Oakington Reception Centre organised by the Refugee Council, and at Ressu Academy in Helsinki. ‘For a while it definitely seemed easier for us to play in Helsinki than London’ says Matt Bowmer, rhythm guitar. ‘Finnish audiences tend to be more accepting of our constant instrument changes and close harmony interludes than Londoners. And we developed a taste for Salmiakki, Finland’s extra-strong liquorice.’
The band have scheduled a series of gigs featuring Ewan over the summer in London and Cambridge. ‘All of us were born in or near Cambridge, so playing at the Loft should be a particularly special experience,’ says Andrew Tutton, drums. ‘It’s a really intimate venue, with the River Cam acting as a backdrop to the stage, so we’re hoping to showcase some of our more ‘summer-y’ recent material.’
Catch them while you can: next summer they may be playing the Arctic Circle…
The Illuminations play The Loft @ The Graduate Pub at 8.30 on Aug 6th.
To listen to The Illuminations go to www.myspace.com/weretheiluminations or www.theilluminations.com/media. To contact email firstname.lastname@example.org