Incantation initially aroused my interest with their haunting and evocative contribution to my own personal favourite film score, the music from The Mission. Set in the rainforests of South America, The Mission, directed by Roland Joffe in 1986 and starring Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons, is a story of the struggle for the body and soul of the native Guarani Indians between misguided Jesuit priests and the conquering Spanish colonialists. The superb film score was penned by the Italian master Ennio Morricone and tracks like Gabriel's Oboe and On Earth As It Is In Heaven were brought to life by the vivid and imaginative instrumentation of Incantation and the excellent orchestration of the London Philharmonic. It was later to attract an Oscar nomination for its soundtrack while collecting Golden Globe and BAFTA awards and best score at the Cannes film festival.
Ennio Morricone is one of the most successful and influential of modern screen composers with over 400 film scores to his credit. He has enhanced movies with his distinctive style for the last thirty years - from the twangy spaghetti western sounds of Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars, through films like 1900, Days of Heaven, Once Upon A Time In America, Frantic, The Untouchables, Bugsy, Hamlet, Cinema Paradiso, Casualties of War and In the Line of Fire up to his latest scores for mainstream, big-budget movies like Wolf and Lolita. The Mission however, was Incantation's first film work and the initial contact with Morricone came out of the blue when the film's production company, Goldcrest Films rang and asked founder members Mike Taylor and Tony Hinnigan to go and meet him. As Taylor recalls, "Tony and myself did all the Indian instrumentation on The Mission as the South American members of the band at the time didn't read music. They were involved only in some percussion work. It took two days - some time with the orchestra, the rest of the time overdubbing. Mr Morricone had me hitting the bombo (large drum) so hard and for so long - my fingers bled!"
Hinnigan recalls, "The whole thing started with a phone call 'out of the blue' followed by our 'audition'. We were summoned to the headquarters of Goldcrest Films in London and shown to an upstairs office where Sr. Morricone pounded a ricketty, out-of-tune, upright piano and sang tune after tune at the top of his voice. "Can you play this?" enquired his son. A few days later we were sitting in CTS studios recording the opening sequence of the film, where Sr. Morricone, seated on a high stool, produced a small plastic recorder from his top pocket and alternately improvised musical phrases on it and pointed it at each of us to do the same on a variety of drums, panpipes, etc. It went down in one take. After three days of somewhat intense recording there was blood on the studio floor - hands from drum walloping and lips from panpipe riffing. Ah, the things we do for art."
Morricone himself (pictured right), not only composed the score but also arranged the orchestration and conducted the London Philharmonic during the recording which took place in the Wembley studios of CTS in late 1985. "He is typically Italian - mildly eccentric, extremely intense, shouts a lot and is also a genius and an extremely nice man behind all the front!.......obviously working with him was a pleasure and an honour," recalls Taylor in admiration of his collaboration with the Italian maestro. Morricone obviously has a high regard for Taylor's talents as well, incorporating his solo flute in the score for the 1992 Patrick Swayze film set in India, City of Joy. Meanwhile , Hinnigan's expertise has been recognised by Oscar-winning film composers like James Horner and Michael Nyman, who persuaded him to guest on a world tour to promote the soundtrack of the film, The Piano.
The beginnings of a productive partnership began in 1972 when Mike Taylor and Tony Hinnigan arrived in London, from Belfast and Glasgow respectively. They took time off from their classical studies at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall to explore their mutual interest in a wide variety of music. In 1981 they were commissioned by the Ballet Rambert and Christopher Bruce to write some Andean music for a show they were to perform, called Ghost Dances. When it came to researching the sound, both Taylor and Hinnigan were hooked. "It was like nothing we'd heard before....we went for it full throttle." The two were attracted to acoustic instruments and became proficient players of the pipes, zamponas, as well as the quena and Andean percussion and a recording contract was offered by the recording label Beggars Banquet before the band had even been named!
In 1982 and now known as Incantation, they quickly came to prominence both at home and abroad with the joint release of their debut album, On The Wing of A Condor (or variously known as Cacharpaya or Panpies of The Andes) and single, Cacharpaya, an Andean festival tune, in October of that year. Perhaps suprisingly for an instrumental outfit, the single reached twelfth spot in the charts while the album, with memorable tunes like Dolencias, Papel De Plata and Friends of The Andes, made the UK Top Ten and stayed in the charts for over six months, selling in excess of 300,000 copies. It was a stunning start for the band line-up of Simon Rogers, Chris Swithinbank and Forbes Henderson alongside the gifted and classically-trained duo of Taylor and Hinnigan, who've since gone on to have three gold albums since their debut.
They followed their initial success with subsequent album releases of mainly Andean and Latin American compositions - Dance of The Flames (1983) which included El Condor Pasa, Cutimuy and Atahuallpa, Virgins of The Sun (1984), Panpipes of The Andes - Best of Incantation (1986) and the more diverse The Meeting (1987), interspersing their studio work with regular live performances and extensive television and varied film-work. Of the latter, their success with The Mission brought the band to the attention of other well-known film composers and they've subsequently collaborated on at least a dozen films with the American composer James Horner, including Willow, Land Before Time, Field of Dreams, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, House of Cards, Once Upon a Forest, Jumanji and two Harrison Ford thrillers, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, as well as Legends of the Fall. Other film scores on which they've participated include Far & Away (with John Williams), Farewell To The King (Basil Poledouris) and A Handful of Dust (George Fenton) and more recently, Horner's Braveheart, Wings of Courage and David Newman's The Phantom (1996), not to mention numerous television programmes and adverts.
The band has toured extensively in the UK, Europe, the Middle East as well as North and South America. Whilst in Peru and Bolivia, a 60-minute documentary about the band was filmed for Channel 4 in 1984. Two members (Rogers and Swithinbank) of the original line-up left the group in January 1985 and the three remaining members were joined by three Chilean exiles, Claudia Figuerora, Sergio Avila and Mauricio Venegas, who themselves performed together in their own band, Quimantu. A compilation album, The Best of Incantation was released in December 1985 and in excess of 125,000 copies were sold. Taylor and Hinnigan took a four-year break from touring and live performances to concentrate on their film and tv work. In 1992 they appeared on Jeff Wayne' s musical version of Spartacus. Reforming the band in 1993 as a seven-piece outfit, without the involvement of the Chilean trio, they completed a 27-date national tour to promote their sixth album, On Gentle Rocks, a rich and vibrant blend of simple and traditional tunes and melodies, that included Find The Child, the theme music from the film, Willow.
Their distinctive and intoxicating style is a fusion of differing ethnic cultures and influences - native Latin American and Irish celtic folk are two that readily spring to mind - although their spiritually uplifting and emotional Andean folk themes are their forte, in which they combine a fascinating range of traditional panpipes, flutes and percussion with more contemporary keyboards and guitars. Experts on indigenous instruments like the zampona, sikus, tarka, pinkillo and quena (panpipes and flutes), as well as the charango, caja, tiple and chajchas, the band play at least thirty different instruments during their stage set which also includes drums, keyboards, bombo, bass and acoustic guitar.
Amongst the band's most recent projects, which've included two 'masses' composed by them and performed with the Coventry Cathedral Choir, is the release of the collection of pieces entitled Ghost Dances & Sergeant Early's Dream for the Rambert Dance Company to complement the dance company's best known ballets from their contemporary repertory, in conjuction with the Sergeant Early Band. It was in 1985 that Christopher Bruce choreographed a new dance called 'Sergeant Early's Dream' and the fusion of Irish and British traditional music was performed by the muscians interacting with the dancers on stage. Playing alongside Hinnigan and Taylor were notables like Steve Tilston, Maggie Boyle and Paul Brennan and they played major venues in Europe with the seven-piece band. The Sergeant Early Band was briefly revived in the early 90's and the CD release is a product of that revival. In 1994 Incantation released a collection of tunes and Christmas carols with a selection of guest soloists and musicians, re-interpreting them without any constraints of tradition or style, entitled Songs For The Seasons.
With the band under the auspices of the Cooking Vinyl label, they embarked on some selective gigs in June 1995 to promote their third album release on their new label. In a return to their instrumental Andean roots the self-titled album, Incantation, includes a re-working of the classic Cacharpaya and reached the top ten of the UK independent album charts in October, preceding a 20-date UK tour the following autumn. The most recent film which benefitted from Mike Taylor's diverse skills was the 1996 release Loch Ness but it was to be his last as one half of his partnership with Hinnigan. The end of the year saw the band's two founder members break up after nearly 25 years in tandem, with Hinnigan and the rest of the line-up including experienced musicians, guitarist James Woodrow, Nigel Thomas (drums), Ollie Nicholls (keyboards) and Phil Scragg (bass), resuming a 14-date tour in June 1997. A 'best of' compilation album entitled Geoglyph was released in June 1998, bringing together sixteen of their best known tracks. Later in the same year, Remembrance, a compilation CD with work from The Meeting, Ghost Dances and Sergeant Early's Dream also became available on general release. In addition to their collaboration as Incantation, Hinnigan was also a member of the Balanescu Quartet, whilst Taylor played with the innovative Carlos Bonell Ensemble, touring far and wide and helping to capture the emotions of traditional Spanish and Latin-American music on their The Sea In Spring album release. He's also featured on solo albums by David Lanz, Karl Jenkins, Luis Cobos, Steve Tilston and Michael Crawford.
Hinnigan, a musical workaholic, has resumed his partnership with the Oscar-winning composer James Horner and collaborated on some of Hollywood's most notable films in the last couple of years. Horner is much in demand and he's scored films like the blockbuster Titanic (where Hinnigan memorably accompanied Celine Dion on the number one smash hit, 'My Heart Will Go On' on low whistle) and The Devil's Own in 1997, followed by The Mask of Zorro and Mighty Joe Young in 1998 and co-produced The Four Feathers in 2002. Its a partnership that has already paid rich dividends. In addition, Hinnigan has toured extensively around the world as part of the Michael Nyman Band over the last few years. Nyman is another film soundtrack composer who has used Hinnigan's undoubted talents on film scores such as Drowning By Numbers, Prospero's Books, 6 Days 6 Nights, The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover, Carrington, The Piano, The End of the Affair (1999), The Claim and Wonderland (2000), as well as other recordings like Live, AET and Al Confini. Hinnigan has also been featured on Derek Jarman's Blue, Lee Holdridge's tv serial score The Mists of Avalon (2001) as well as solo albums by artists as varied as Celine Dion, Nick Kershaw, guitarist Steve Tilston & Maggie Boyle, Ocean Colour Scene, David Lanz, John Harle, Luis Cobos, Bert Jansch, DJ Sakin, Dany Brillant, David Ferguson and Rosemary Duxbury. As a member of the innovative Balanescu Quartet he's appeared on album releases by Gavin Bryars and Jean-Luc Fafchamps. In July 2003, Hinnigan released his own album, under the Incantation banner, titled Camera - Reflections on Film Music, on the Cooking Vinyl label, showcasing his film work since The Mission, including fifteen scores especially reinterpreted for this release. At the same time he continues to tour and record as part of The Michael Nyman Band, whilst collaborating with composer James Horner on film scores such as Beyond Borders, Radio, The Missing, Troy and Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius. In 2005, he worked on the soundtracks for Legend of Zorro, The New World, Flightplan and Ong-Bak.
updated - May 2006
click to see the Incantation Discography page
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