This week, I'd like to feature one of the more interesting musical experiments of the 1970's and 1980's. The British group Sky was formed by a number of musicians already eminent in their own fields, from classical music to progressive rock. They specialized in adapting classical music to the electronic music era. As Wikipedia notes, their backgrounds were eclectic, to say the least!
In 1971, John Williams released the fusion album Changes, his first recording of non-classical music and the first on which he played electric guitar. Among the musicians working on the album were Tristan Fry (an established session drummer who was also the timpanist for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, and had played Timpani on the Beatles "A Day in the Life") and Herbie Flowers (a former member of Blue Mink and T. Rex, as well as a busy session musician who, among other things had recorded the bassline for Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side").
The three musicians became friends, kept in touch and continued working together on various projects during the 1970s. One of these was Williams' 1978 album Travelling, another substantially commercially successful cross-genre recording. As well as Fry and Flowers, the record featured former Curved Air member Francis Monkman (who in addition to his progressive and psychedelic rock background as guitar and synthesizer player, was a trained and accomplished classical harpsichordist).
In 1979, Monkman performed on Louis Clark's album (per-spek-tiv) n., on which he collaborated with Australian session guitarist Kevin Peek. Peek was a musician equally adept at classical guitar and pop/rock styles, having built a reputation both as a chamber musician and as a long-standing member of Cliff Richard's band, as well as for working Manfred Mann, Lulu, Tom Jones, Jeff Wayne, Shirley Bassey and Gary Glitter.
The success of Travelling inspired Williams and Flowers to set up Sky, their own long-term cross-genre band. The band name Sky was suggested by flautist Pinuccia Rossetti, a member of the Carlos Bonell Ensemble, and a friend of Williams. Fry and Monkman were swiftly recruited, with Kevin Peek being the final addition. The band began writing and recording instrumental music drawing on their collective experience of classical, light pop, progressive and psychedelic rock, light entertainment and jazz.
There's more at the link.
Sky put out a lot of material, both adaptations of classical and other music and their own compositions. To simplify the selection, I've chosen one track from each of their first four albums, to give you a sampling of their musical taste.
From their debut album, Sky 1, here's "Danza", an adaptation of a piece by Spanish composer Antonio Ruiz-Pipó.
From the album Sky 2, here's a 1980 live performance of Bach's famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, transcribed for the group's instruments.
From Sky 3, here's "Sarabande" (a dance form in triple meter) by Handel, from his Keyboard Suite in D minor. This is a live performance from 1981.
Finally, from the album "Sky 4 - Forthcoming", here's To Yelasto Pedi, a piece by contemporary Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis.
Sky offered an interesting modern variation on classical themes. I'm sorry the group is no longer active.