Eric Levi

[The] late 19th century fortress 'Fort Vuren' which was once part of the defense system New Dutch Waterlinie, meant to defend the Northern part of Holland, in particular the city Gorinchem. This fortress was never used in battle and is now sometimes used to house art exhibitions. During such an exhibition they played music that overwhelmed me. The cold and very damp fortress (with feet-thick concrete walls below ground level) with its church-like acoustics together with the music melted into an almost eerie experience. -- Ernst J Oud

High on a sacred mountain in Southern France, the whitened ruins of Montsegur are a reminder of the last actively visible gnostic school in the West, the Cathari. Below Montsegur lies a peaceful meadow, its name,"Field of the Burned", the only indication of the grim event that took place there a little over 700 years ago. In March, 1244, 205 Cathars were burned alive on the site, rather than renounce their creed. -- Judith Mann

Speculation still exists about the nature of the treasure - sacred books, the Grail Stone, or the Grail Cup? And where might it be hidden? In one of the many limestone caves that surround Montsegur? In an abandoned, water-logged mine deep in the Ariage? Mute witness to all, the ruin of Montsegur does not reveal these secrets. Patiently it waits in the brilliant sun for the last sign of the Cathars, the greening of the laurel. -- Judith Mann

At the end of seven hundred years, the laurel will be green once more. -- Anon. Troubadour, 13th Century

Era by Eric Levi I first came across French musician Eric Levi through a lovely friend Estie. We share a great many things in common, one of which is a love of good music.

Little known, if known at all, in England, Eric Levi has composed a trilogy simply known as Era.

The two couplet verse found on the first Era album

When the children of Montsegur came down from the pog
The sun had not yet returned day to the world
On their pale faces could be seen their grief and sadness
Without faith they went.

Time had passed, the children have grown with great hope
And sometimes, when they look up to the mountains
They can hear those strong and beautiful voices
Beating on the sound of a rhythm, the Cathar rhythm.

led Ernst J Oud to write

At the start of the 13th century Catholicism reigned supreme but a number of Christian diversions where popular. The acts of Pope Innocentius III made large amounts of people hostile towards Catholicism because it seemed that Church did present Rome instead of faith. A fertile environment for heresies, one of these was Catharism, of which the largest group formed in the South of France, in the Languedoc area near Toulouse.

Montsegur Catharism preached that the body is evil but that one's soul is divine and therefore must be set free. During the 13th century the Inquisition and Crusades controlled from Rome eradicated the Cathars. Montsegur (Mont Segur = Safe Mountain) was one of the last Cathar bastions to fall when (after a siege of 10 months) the Cathars on Montsegur were given 14 days to surrender. They had the option to deny their faith or be killed. Almost all chose to keep faith so 205 men and women were burned at the stake on March 15th 1244.

There is a lot of mystery about the Cathars and Montsegur. On July 21st the sun's rays enter and leave the ruins through four openings. Did the Cathars have some solarian rites?

Also it is believed that just before the surrender of the Cathars at Montsegur, a party was secretly sent down to rescue the Cathar's treasure and hide it in secrecy, never to be found again ...

and to provide some useful links (a couple don't seem to work, so I have added a couple) ....

The music is often classed as New Age, but this can be misleading as Gregorian Chant, Rock, Dance ....

There is no near comparison, but maybe Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells III (1998) or the works of Vangelis ....

Eric Lévi (aka Eric Lewy) first rose to fame in the 1970s with the French hard rock band Shakin' Street. Lévi played guitar alongside singer Fabienne Shine, bass-player Corinne Marienneau and Shakin' Street's other guitarist Louis Bertignac.

In 1975, Bertignac and Merienneau left to join the legendary rock group Téléphone, which dominated the French music scene between 1976 and 1985. Lévi carried on with Shakin' Street, managing to launch a relatively successful career on the American music scene, eventually splitting up in the mid-1980s.

Eric Lévi went on to reinvent himself as a successful solo artist, reemerging on the French music scene in the 1990s as a composer of soundtracks. Lévi went on to compose music for films such as L'Opération Corned-beef (1990), and the 1993 box-office hit Les Visiteurs (remade in English as The Visitors). Les Visiteurs was a time-travel comedy set between the middle ages and the present day. The soundtrack for the movie mixed medieval-style compositions (à la Carmina Burana) with synthesizers and electro-beats. With the success of the film in France, the theme song Enae Volare mezzo became an overnight hit.

The huge success of the Les Visiteurs soundtrack encouraged Lévi to go back to the studio and begin experimenting with more medieval/synth fusions. Out of this fusion came the Era trilogy.

Spring 1997, the first of the Era trilogy was released. It sounded like it was recorded in the vaults of a Medieval cathedral. Era is a mix of rock, disco, and Gregorian chant in pseudo-Latin (performed by the English Chamber Choir), with lead vocals provided by talented singers such as Florence Dedam, Harriet Jay, Eric Geisen, Murielle Lefèbvre and Guy Protheroe, and the rhythm section, featuring bass-player Lee Sklar and drummer Chester Thompson (both from Phil Collins' backing group). Protheroe, a renowned conductor and musician (who had already worked with Lévi on the soundtrack of Les Visiteurs), was also responsible for conducting the choir on the album.

Era, the album the concept (a bit like the Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells album/concept), was a huge hit, rocketing to the top of the charts all over Europe, selling over 5 million albums worldwide.

Needless to say, Era and Eric Levi, are unknown in the UK. But the other curious feature for such a wide-selling artist/album, is that you can look very hard to actually find a copy of Era (or any works by Eric Levi) on sale, or find more than a brief mention of him on the net.

As with the Tubular Bells follow-up albums, Era II, and Era III have not had the same commercial success, though Era II has still managed to notch up a respectable 1 million sales.

Different versions of Era I (1997) have been released in different countries. The German and French releases Include Misere Mani (found on Era II (2000)), but exclude Sempire d'Amor. The UK release includes After Time, but excludes Mother remix.

I'll save you from yourself
From the demons of the night
They promise fame and fortune
All that you eagerly desire.

I'll save you from yourself
From those voices calling you they say
Sell your soul to Evil
Then you'll be dancing forever.

Attacks on the Cathari were led by the brutal fanatic, Simon de Montfort. Whole towns loyal to the Cathars were massacred.

De Montfort's first attacks on Montsegur were successfully repulsed. Montsegur stood firm as a symbol of hope. When the first rumblings of persecution were heard in 1204, Montsegur was rebuilt and fortified with a garrison. Originally the ancient ruin was used by the Cathars as a meditation site. Now, according to legend, it served an additional function as a refuge for the sacred treasure of the Grail, the safekeeping of which was allegedly part of the function of the Cathari.

By 1215, the Council of Lateran established the dreaded Inquisition. During the next 50 years the toll of those killed by the Roman Catholic Church climbed to one million, more than in all of the other crusades against heresies combined. Throughout these trials, Montsegur quietly defied the Church, standing as a bastion of faith.

montsegur cross photo by Judith Mann era cross The murder of two Dominican Inquisitors at Avignonet was the pretext for resuming attacks against the fortress-temple. The Cathari and their supporters resisted for six months, but through an act of treachery, the difficult mountain was scaled, and in March of 1244, Montsegur surrendered. Singing, 205 Cathars marched down the mountain and into the large bonfires awaiting them. A memorial solar cross silently testifies to their martyrdom.

This is the same cross used by Eric Levi in the Era trilogy. Also the same cross used by the Kights Templar. As with the Cathars, the Templars were guardians of the Holy Grail.

Coins and sacred objects left behind by the Cathars were distributed to the conquerors, but according to Inquisition records, the real treasure vanished the night before the capitulation. Four Cathars and the Cathars' treasure were said to have been let down the steepest side of the mountain by ropes and disappeared.

Montségur: la tragédie cathare, written and performed by the French Canadian early music ensemble La Nef, is based upon the massacre of the Cathars at Montsegur.

Tubular Bells was first recorded 30 years ago in one week of studio time at The Manor House near Oxford by the then unknown 19 year old musician, Mike Oldfield. Mike Oldfield's album Tubular Bells, Virgin Record's first release, sold 16 million copies and was the foundation of the Virgin empire. A 30th Anniversary re-recording of the original Tubular Bells has been made, but to everyone's disgust, it has copy-protection, which will cause problems playing on a lot of equipment.

Copy-protected CDs are strictly speaking not CDs as they fail to meet the Phillips standards for CDs. Phillips, the joint-holders with Sony of the Compact Disc standards, have gone so far as to describe copy-controlled CDs as 'worthless peices of plastic', as there is no guarantee they will play on any CD device.


Some months after I had finished this web page, I was reading The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. It tied together many of the things I had recently been working on. The core of the plot is the search for the Holy Grail. Reading The Da Vinci Code I became even more aware of the symbolism in the Era trilogy. Whilst I was in the middle of reading the novel, I walked into a small music shop. To my amazement, there on the shelves were Era II and Era The Mass! Within a few days, they were able to get me Era. After I had finished reading the book, I passed through an airport shop. There on the shelves, were Era and Era The Mass, Era The Mass was a special limited edition. Listening to Era, it seemed to be a different version to that which I had borrowed from my lovely friend Estie. I lent a copy of Era to my friend Reni, who is also a friend of my friend Monika. Reni said it was very good, and to my surprise, said she had heard it before. Monika, if it had not fallen through, was going to live with Estie. Synchronicity!
For Estie for the introduction to Eric Levi.
(c) Keith Parkins 2003-2004 -- June 2004 rev 4