When acclaimed figure skating champion Michelle Kwan skated to Eva’s “Fields of Gold” in 2001, we couldn’t have known that so many other top skaters would follow her example! Now Eva’s music is well known in the world of skating, at all levels, although vocal music is not permitted in some competitive events.
In the autumn of 2001, Eva Cassidy fans and figure skating audiences were delighted when champion skater Michelle Kwan performed a new exhibition program to Eva’s recording of “Fields of Gold.” Many consider it her most beautiful program ever.
“Skatingfan5” from the Michelle Kwan Forum wrote the following description of the skating elements of Michelle Kwan’s “Fields of Gold,” which was choreographed by Sarah Kawahara:
The program opens with a pivoting movement and then goes into what we’ve been calling the “Maribel Vinson Owen” move — a forward inside spiral that changes into a back outside arabesque through the connection of a 3-turn. Then a double axel, followed by a triple toe loop, and then a back Charlotte (done to the words “as her hair came down”) followed by raising her upper body into right backward outside spiral with right hand down – rocker into right forward inside spiral. Flying camel spin/back sit/Y-spin combination. Split “falling leaf” jump followed forward edge work, then two small backwards leaps (“kick jumps”) — a camel/back sit/upright spin combination, footwork into a triple lutz jump, footwork into outside spread eagle, long Ina Bauer (“see the children run”), hydroblade move into gliding backwards lunge, camel/layback/back sit/Y-cross variation combination spin, steps into deep edging (forward gliding moves), then ending with a backwards inside to outside spiral traveling 2/3 the length of the ice.”
During the early months of 2002, Michelle Kwan continued to skate to “Fields of Gold” and even acquired a stunning gold costume to go with the song. During one televised performance I was charmed to see Michelle Kwan singing along with Eva.
Feb. 23, 2002: After Michelle Kwan won the bronze medal at the Salt Lake City Olympics, instead of the hoped-for gold, I was sure that she wouldn’t choose “Fields of Gold” for her exhibition skate. I guessed wrong! Michelle Kwan did skate to “Fields of Gold” last night at the “Champions Gala” (exhibitions). I’m so glad I watched anyway! Alas, Eva was anonymous, but NBC didn’t seem to identify the other singers either. The commentator said something rude about “irony,” of course.
UPDATE: Steve in Virginia disagrees with me about the “irony” remark (above). He writes,
“I saw the live broadcast last night, and didn’t think it was rude at all. I thought the words to ‘Fields of Gold’ were even more meaningful and touching, given that Kwan didn’t win …
‘I never make promises lightly
And there’ve been some that I’ve broken
But I swear in the days still left
We’ll walk in fields of gold …’
I took Kwan’s meaning that there are ‘fields of gold’ beyond an Olympic
gold medal, and that the best is yet to come. I thought it was amazingly
classy of Kwan, bringing closure to a disappointing journey, yet with a great
amount hope for the future.
Much like Eva’s life.
And I think the NBC commentators picked up on that rather well. Just a thought.”
April 2002: EVA’S PARENTS MET MICHELLE KWAN! Hugh and Barbara Cassidy, and some friends and family members, went backstage before the “Champions on Ice” show in Baltimore to meet the show’s star, champion ice skater Michelle Kwan. Michelle is skating to Eva’s recording of “Fields of Gold” on the 95-city COI tour. Bill Straw of Blix Street Records presented Michelle Kwan with a gold record, which the SONGBIRD album has recently earned for album sales in the United States. The press release from Blix Street states, ‘ Kwan, known for her artistry and grace, has skated to the poignant “Fields of Gold” many times in the past year, but no performance was more memorable than the showcase of champions at the Olympics in Salt Lake City following the figure skating competition. To commemorate Kwan’s contribution to the visibility of the recording, Eva’s parents Barbara and Hugh Cassidy, along with Bill Straw, president of Blix Street Records, presented her with a Gold record backstage at the Baltimore Arena on April 11th during a tour stop.’ Many thanks to Sharon Weisz for sending these photos to me.
Backstage at “Champions on Ice.” From left to right, Anette Cassidy, Hugh Cassidy, Elana Byrd, Bill Straw, Michelle Kwan, Maggie Haven, Barbara Cassidy, Sarah Kass (Anette’s daughter), Kathy McCabe. Maggie tells me, “Bill Straw presented [the gold record] to her, Barbara thanked her and gave her a big hug and Sarah was thrilled beyond belief when Michelle pulled her close to her for a photo. Michelle chatted with us for awhile. She appears to be a very sweet young lady. It’s easy to see why she has become the ‘sweetheart’ of so many people.”
Kathy McCabe, another one of the fortunate group, recalls: “Michelle was so gracious and spent a long time with us explaining how she came to choose the music and what she feels like when she skates to it. She said it was a friend of her mother’s who brought her the CD and said she should skate to that song. She listened to it and right away she knew. She said it is the best song she has ever skated to, that she feels so free and not stressed when she skates to this song, it makes her feel beautiful, and like a beautiful skater, she went on and on about it. We watched the show after that, and when Eva’s voice came through the PA and Michelle skated so beautifully, it was hard to keep from crying. Bill Straw and Hugh held Barbara’s hands throughout the song and though she was immensely proud I could tell she was immensely emotional too.”
From left to right, Hugh Cassidy, Michelle Kwan, Bill Straw, Barbara Cassidy. Eva’s mother, Barbara Cassidy, asked Michelle Kwan how she came to choose “Fields of Gold” for her exhibition skate. Michelle said that people often suggest music to her, for possible use in her skating, and that someone had given her Eva’s album SONGBIRD. She had heard Sting’s original version of “Fields of Gold” and liked it, but when she heard Eva’s rendition of the song, she knew she wanted to skate to it, she knew it was her music. Michelle said she loved the whole album, especially “Fields of Gold.”
May 13, 2002: Michelle Kwan skated to “Fields of Gold” at the “Hershey’s Kisses Great American Figure Skating Challenge” which was televised in the US. Heather, who runs a wonderful Michelle Kwan website, sent me the following report:
“Eva was finally mentioned on the skating broadcast! They not only said that it was Eva Cassidy’s ‘Fields of Gold’ that she was skating to, but went into detail about how Eva died too young, why Michelle chose this song to skate to this season (remember, its debut was at a skating tribute to those who died in the 1961 plane crash, which ended the lives of the entire US figure skating team), and how Michelle received the gold
record. Here’s what they said:
Peggy Fleming: She’s skating to “Fields of Gold” by Eva Cassidy who died very young. Michelle picked this music early in the season in tribute to lost lives and unfulfilled dreams, and it’s really taken on an whole new meaning this season.
Terry Gannon: Eva Cassidy, by the way, passed away of Melanoma back in 1996 at the age of 33 and Michelle Kwan has been given a Gold Record by
her record label for her contribution to the visibility of the recording.
After they said this, I thought of you, and how they finally mentioned her! Maybe people complaining all season finally worked? 😉 ”
Early April, 2003: Michelle’s last “Fields of Gold”? Congratulations to skater Michelle Kwan, who won her fifth World Championship on Saturday in Washington DC. At the post-competition gala, she again skated to Eva’s “Fields of Gold.” How appropriate to have the final performance of “Fields of Gold” take place in Eva’s birthplace.
November 9, 2002: Former Olympic Gold Medal champion Kristi Yamaguchi is the second figure skater of international standard to use Eva’s music in performance. Heather writes, “I saw ‘Divas on Ice’ tonight, and for Kristi’s second number, she skated to Eva’s ‘Imagine.’ It was really frustrating because they announced probably 90% of the music before the skaters did each program, but did they announce that Kristi was skating to Eva Cassidy’s Imagine? Nooo! 🙁 My mom was so annoyed. Anyway, the program was one of the most beautiful of the show, and my favorite. It got probably the biggest ovation of the night. It was wonderful. I said to my friend that Eva’s voice throughout the arena just adds so much to the program. I can’t imagine a badly skated program to any of Eva’s songs. Can we make it a requirement that all skaters must skate to her once in their lifetime? Though Michelle and Kristi skating to her music would be hard to top.
Garrett from the “Michelle Kwan Forum” was kind enough to give me a description of the program: ‘Kristi skated to “Imagine” with lots of grace and smooth skating. She has a light way about her which makes her fun to watch. She did a series of beautiful moves – Outside spirals, backward spirals, Ina Bauers, and spread eagles. She landed a triple toe, triple loop, and a double axel. She also completed a few spins like a flying camel and layback spin. Overall this program is a very light and beautiful program.’ Garrett is twelve years old and training as a competitive skater. Thanks, Garrett!
December 2004: Olympic Gold Medalist Sarah Hughes is now the third top-rank figure skater to perform to the music of Eva Cassidy. Hughes skated to “Over the Rainbow” during the “Smuckers Stars on Ice” tour beginning in January 2005.
Laurie gave me permission to quote from her post on one of the on-line skating discussion forums. She wrote after seeing the premiere of the “Stars on Ice” show in Lake Placid, “Sarah is wearing a beautiful light multi-hued gray chiffon-type dress. Flowy connecting moves, spirals, double jump which might have been a flip, Ina Bauer, camel spin, back spirals, Ina Bauer, falling leaf, forward spiral, double loop, forward spiral, her always wonderful layback, steps with lots of edge work to them, flying camel? it was a camel spin, anyway. Really pretty and graceful program full of spirals and showing off Sarah’s nice edges.” Thanks, Laurie!
2006: Congratulations to Kimmie Meissner, the new World Champion in women’s figure skating! The 16-year-old from Maryland won her title in Montreal, Canada. Meissner skated to Eva’s “Over the Rainbow” at the exhibition gala which followed the competition! According to Sylvia at “Michelle Kwan Forum,” the ESPN announcers did not identify the singer, which is typical of television coverage of skating events, where the focus is naturally on the skaters.
Kimmie continued skating to “Over the Rainbow” during her part-time participation in the “Champions On Ice” tour in 2006.
Sylvia at the Kimmie Meissner Forum responded to my request for a “move by move” description of Kimmie’s OTR program. I was able to get similar descriptions for the other skaters who performed to Eva’s music, and found it very helpful to understand what I was watching! Sylvia writes, Blue dress with silver flowers/vine motif across the top. RFO [right forward outside edge] spiral to other held out moves at the beginning of the program; double Axel jump; planned triple flip jump [popped to a single at Worlds]; spin combination: forward camel spin to a forward outside edge change with arms clasped behind her back / forward sit spin / layback / change foot to back sit with an edge change / rise to catch foot Y; triple Lutz jump from the traditional long backwards glide entry; spiral sequence: RFI [right forward inside edge] change to RFO [right forward outside] edge on same foot to a LBI [left back inside edge] catch foot spiral; stars to butterfly to back sit spin [lowering her head to touch her spinning leg] with an edge change; small split jump into various turns into a triple Salchow jump; layback spin [classic position to sideways lean with a dropped free leg]; back pivot to end pose.
After Kwan, Yamaguchi, Hughes, and Meissner, Eva’s voice became a “regular” at the rinks of the world. Just do a search on YouTube and you’ll find dozens! Some notables have been ice stars Torvill and Dean skating to Eva’s “Fields of Gold,” Italian champion skater Carolina Kostner and “Imagine” in 2013-14, and the winning pair on ITV’s “Dancing on Ice, Series 5,” Hayley Tamaddon and Daniel Whiston, skating to “Songbird.”
Thank you, everybody who contributed to these reports!