Byzantium – The Book Of Kells & St. Aidan's Journey

by Jeff Johnson & Brian Dunning

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A rich and diverse soundtrack which captures the spirit of Stephen Lawhead's epic tale of St. Aidan's adventure from the Irish Sea to the Mediterranean, from the Viking kingdoms of the North to the Arabian deserts of the South, from Kells to Constantinople. Johnson and Dunning's modern Celtic leanings are taken in an Eastern direction in a tapestry interwoven with rock, medieval and middle eastern threads.

Introduction by Stephen R. Lawhead (author of Byzantium) –
For over a thousand years the word 'Byzantium' conjured images of the exotic and mysterious East. For the people of Medieval Europe, it was both the gateway to Arabia and Asia, and the capital of the greatest Empire the world had ever seen.

Like an enormous cultural magnet, its legendary wealth and power, sophistication, learning, and artistic excellence drew people from all over the world and seduced them with its myriad charms.

The music of this masterful recording reflects the enchanting blend of cultures and traditions – Celtic, Greek, Latin, Arabian – accurately capturing the rich and enticing influences which distinguished that fabled city. To listen to this music is to hear again the tantalizing echo of a long-vanished time and place.

Featuring –
Jeff Johnson: Keys, effects & voice
Brian Dunning: Flutes, whistles, accordion & voice
John Fitzpatrick: Violin & viola
Jami Sieber: Electric Cello
Omar Faruk Tekbilek: Percussion, baglama & voice
Janet Chvatal: Voice
Tim Ellis: Electric & acoustic guitars
Phil Baker: Bass
Roger Hadley: Percussion
Gregg Williams: Drums & percussion
Barry McGovern: Voice of Bishop Cadoc

Introduction by Jeff Johnson –
In the course of our musical collaboration, Brian and I have recorded several projects based on the stories of author, Stephen Lawhead. This is our most ambitious project - an album inspired by Lawhead's bestselling book, Byzantium - a 640 page historical fiction based on the journey of the Irish monk, St. Aidan.

It is a story about a small group of Celtic monks from Ireland and Wales who make a pilgrimage to Byzantium, the capitol of the Holy Roman Empire. With them they carry a priceless treasure, the book of Kells. They intend to present this to the Holy Roman Emperor of Constantinople as a gift reflecting their devotion to the church. One of the travelers is a scribe named Aidan who helped create the treasured book. Aidan has had a dream of a great eagle flying towards a golden horizon. The eagle, who Aidan realizes is himself, travels with great effort to a golden city (Byzantium). Yet, upon arriving, the city turns out to be a terrible dragon which rises up and snatches him out of the sky. Aidan sees this vision as foretelling his death in Byzantium.

Aidan's great adventure takes him from the Irish Sea to Gaul, to Viking kingdoms, down the Volga and across the desert sands of Persia. Along the way he witnesses great suffering and hardship for those close and dear to him, as well as himself. Ultimately, he loses the faith with which he set out, but finds something far deeper and real.

With Byzantium - The Book of Kells & St. Aidan's Journey, Brian and I set out to capture the spirit of Stephen's tale rather than create a musical score for it. The diverse settings of Aidan's adventure allowed us to point our contemporary Celtic leanings in an Eastern direction. Along the way, we have interwoven our style of Celtic, film and rock music with medieval and middle eastern backdrops. The resulting tapestry owes much of its richness to the significant contributions by classical vocalist, Janet Chvatal; Irish violinist, John Fitzpatrick and Turkish virtuoso, Omar Faruk Tekbilek.

For those familiar with Lawhead's wonderful story, I trust the music enhances your experience of it. For those not familiar with the book, I hope that it inspires you to read it.

Music Review –

Byzantium re-teams keyboardist Jeff Johnson and Nightnoise flutist Brian Dunning for another disc inspired by the novels of fantasy author Stephen Lawhead. This tale of Byzantium follows St. Aiden's journey from Ireland to Byzantium and, in the process, takes these modern Celtists into more Middle Eastern and Mediterranean music terrain to good effect. Johnson and Dunning have a wonderful sense of orchestration, lacing in electric cellos, guitars, violins, synthesizers, and, of course, Dunning's flutes. "Sea Wolves" is driven by an Irish bodhran rhythm, as flutes, synthesizers, and Jami Sieber's electric cello weave upward in an arcing spiral. Turkish wizard Omar Faruk Tekbelik appears on several tracks, playing percussion, laying down a chanting moan to open the title track, and contributing a baglama solo on "Eagle Dream." Byzantium is a beautifully produced epic by two musicians whose sense of melodic invention flows like a Celtic breeze. – John Diliberto / Billboard Magazine


released August 15, 2000

Produced, engineered & mixed by Jeff Johnson at The Ark / Camano Island, WA USA

Additional recording at:
Jacordi Studio / Maynooth, County Kildare IRELAND.
The Belvedere / Portland, Oregon USA
Kung Fu Bakery Annex / Portland, Oregon USA
Normandy Towers / R Dream Productions / Los Angeles, CA USA
Additional sounds by Spectrasonics

℗ 2000 Ark Records, Inc. / ArkMusic
All songs by Jeff Johnson & Brian Dunning except:
"Eleison" by Jeff Johnson, Brian Dunning & Janet Chvatal
"Kazimain’s Gift" by Jeff Johnson, Brian Dunning & John Fitzpatrick
© 2000 Sola Scriptura Songs (BMI)
Administered by

Music and lyrics on "Aidan’s Dream" by Jeff Johnson
© 2000 Sola Scriptura Songs

Song titles from BYZANTIUM © 1996 Stephen R. Lawhead.
Published by HarperCollins. Used by permission.

Cover art by David & Kathy Hastings © 2000
Design by Court Patton (

A special thanks to the musicians, Dave & Jacquie Moore, Steve & Alice Lawhead, Kathy Hastings, Court & Tiffany Patton, Eric Persing at Spectrasonics, Mark Rossi, Al Evers, Stephen & Leyla Hill, Ofer Ziv, Doug Huntington, and our families: Susie, Hailey, Fiona, Gordi, Jack & Julian.

In memory of our friend, David Hastings.


"Byzantium" is also available on iTunes and Amazon.


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Jeff Johnson

ArkMusic recording artist, composer, producer, and Selah worship leader has released numerous solo recordings along with collaborations with Irish flutist, Brian Dunning inspired by Stephen Lawhead's novels and guitarist, Phil Keaggy. View Jeff's complete discography here: ... more

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Track Name: Cadoc's Blessing
Cadoc’s Blessing
From BYZANTIUM © 1996 Stephen R. Lawhead.
Used by permission. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

God be with thee on every hill,
Jesu be with thee in every pass,
Spirit be with thee on every stream,
Headland, ridge, and field;
Each sea and land, each moor and meadow,
In wave trough, on billow crest,
Each step of the journey thou goest.
Track Name: Kazimain's Gift
Kazimain’s Gift 5:07

By Allah’s will, you are summoned once more to life.
Greetings and welcome, my friend;
The peace of Allah be with you.
Track Name: Aidan's Dream
Aidan’s Dream
By Jeff Johnson
© 2000 Sola Scriptura Songs (BMI)
Administered by

Moonlight shines upon the chapel,
Making stone appear like bronze.
Inside candles burn towards heaven,
Casting light that turns to dreams.

In my dream there is an eagle,
Soaring through an empty sky,
Over wilderness and wasteland,
Towards the East where he will die.

He is flying to Byzantium,
He is going to Byzantium.

Lord have mercy on this dreamer,
As I wander through this world.
Trouble me no more with visions,
Let me find some place to rest.

In my dream I am the eagle,
Soaring through an empty sky.
Over wilderness and wasteland,
Towards the East where I will die.

I am flying to Byzantium,
I am going to Byzantium.

Kyrie Elieson