On Eagle's Wing
Music and dance bring the story of the emigrating Scots to life. Click Play Audio for a podcast interview with composer John Anderson and lead man Peter Corry, featuring music from the production
On Eagle’s Wing is a powerful story of emigration, separation, love and loyalty written by award-winning Northern Irish composer John Anderson, which explores the historic story of the Scots people forced to make a new life for themselves first in Ireland and then the New World.
'It's a big story,' Anderson explains. 'It's a univeral story about families having to struggle against nature and circumstance to forge a new life for themselves.'
Named after the first immigrant vessel out of Ireland to the US called The Eagle Wing, the ambitious production is Northern Ireland's first epic stage musical in the vein of classics such as Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables.
'There are questions of conflicts of faith, religion, persecution. And then, of course, the question of the struggle against nature itself,' Anderson continues.
'Many of the original Scots didn't come to Ireland as a means of plantation. There was a dreadful famine in their homeland, which was as bad if not worse as the Irish famine, which forced these people to seek a new life elsewhere.
'All of these things are the elements that create the story of a very passionate people, who had to seperate not always for the right reasons, and we tell that story through dance and song.'
On Eagle's Wing was originally staged at the Odyssey Arena in 2007 and recorded for network transmission across America. 2008 sees a scaled down reinterpretation of the musical touring venues across Ireland, with Anderson having developed the show to fit smaller theatres.
The show’s multi-talented cast will be led by internationally renowned singer Peter Corry. Having starred in hit opera productions like Cosi fan tutti and The Marriage of Figaro, and played venues like the Royal Albert Hall, Corry knows a thing or two about taking part in large-scale productions.
Corry also starred in the original Odyssey Arena production of On Eagle's Wing, but feels that the show is perhaps better suited to theatres, and sees the show's Grand Opera House dates as a homecoming of sorts.
'It does feel like a homecoming,' says Corry. 'Although the production was a success in the Odyssey, I see musical theatre as being about characters, and in smaller settings the connection between the cast and the audience can be that much more effective.
'At the heart of On Eagle's Wing is the story of a family man trying to find a better place to live, to have a future. In that regard, it reflects the human spirit. I'm really enjoying looking at the different elements of the character I'm playing. He's got be a leader within his town, but he's also a father and a husband. He's a family man.
'As well as being an epic exploration of these people's lives and their journey toward a better life, let's not forget that it's great entertainment. It's everything you might expect from great musical theatre.'
The forthcoming tour of On Eagle's Wing takes in first Belfast's Grand Opera House, followed by The Helix in Dublin and the Millennium Forum in Derry - a poignant setting, as part of the story is set in the Walled City.
Corry will appear alongside Scotland’s leading folk singer and actress, Alyth McCormack in the production. Broadcaster George Jones will also appear and will be joined by BJ Hogg of TV’s Give My Head Peace fame and local actors Paddy Jenkins and Marty Maguire.
The original music score, featuring evocative anthems such as 'Where Eagles Fly' and foot-tapping melodies like 'Thank You Sir', has also been further enhanced with new musical and choral arrangements.
On Eagle's Wing runs in Belfast’s Grand Opera House from September 29 to October 4, Dublin's The Helix from October 11-12 and The Millennium Forum, Derry from October 14-18.