In 1990, the self-titled debut album Iona was released in the US. I had heard one song (Dancing on the Wall) on the local Christian radio station, and thought it was it was a cool sounding song. There were sounds in there that I had never heard before, from the Celtic harp to the Uillean pipes.
But it was an aritcle in CCM Magazine that stoked my intrigue about this band. In this article, Irish singer Joanne Hogg talked about the story behind the concept album. That first album focused on the history of the island of Iona, and the critical role the early Celtic saints Columba & Cuthbert played in preserving. This was revelatory stuff for me, not raissed in the church, and then brought into the evangelical movement, which tends to not care much about church history. By the time their second album came out, based on the ancient illuminated manuscript, The Book of Kells, I was hooked forever.
I am convinced that the reason I am so interested in church history and the ancient-future movement is because of Iona. The stories that they told in their songs captured my imagination, and showed me what a blind spot I had toward the stories of the forebears of my faith.
I drove 2+ hours to see Iona play in 1997, one of the highlights of my concert-going experiences. The pure musicianship that I saw stunned me. The 5 members of the band played more than a dozen separate instruments, all with skill and passion that put other bands to shame. They spent the next 13 years NOT touring in the US.
In the years since, my wife and daughter have become big fans of the band, as well, and we bought their Live in London concert DVD a few years ago. In a music class in probably 9th grade, my daughter did a report on the band.
We were planning on attending the 2010 Cornerstone Festival, and when I went to order the tickets in early December, I scanned the band list and saw that Iona was playing, and my jaw dropped. I showed my wife, and her jaw dropped. I printed that page and wrapped it with the tickets under the Christmas tree, that my daughter opened up. When she saw who was playing, her jaw dropped.
We couldn't wait.