98 minutes / 2017
Winnipeg’s favorite singer-songwriter Steve Bell gets his own documentary. Bell’s been a traveling man for decades, crisscrossing the country, doing thousands of gigs, winning a couple of Junos, and even performing with symphonies across Canada. He’s also headed south regularly and traveled the world. But he’s never really “made it big.” This is the story of both his contentment with the success God has given him, and the many friends who, encouraged by his music, want him to reach that larger audience and are doing what they can to help.
While Bell’s music is only shared here in snippets, it might be enough to inspire the young musician in your midst to start tickling the ivories once more or to pick up their long abandoned guitar. And Bell’s appearance with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra can’t help but foster an appreciation for this full grand sound (the swelling music even got to Bell, who shared that during this concert had to keep focussing on “Don’t cry, don’t cry.”}
The film is also an eye-opener for all that’s required to make it as a Christian musician. There are no guarantees, no matter how hard a man might work. But whether he’s on a high or low, Bell manages to keep smiling… for the most part. He can see the humor in being a quiet success. At his Winnipeg Symphony performance he shared this story with the audience:
“Have you guys seen all those bus boards that we’ve had out advertising the concert? They’ve got me on the side of the busy. It’s cool to see yourself on a bus, except for… I use the bus. So it gets a little awkward. But this actually happened: I was staying on Henderson Highway, I had my guitar, and all of sudden I hear this voice behind me saying ‘You play guitar?’ And I turned around and this guy was standing there and he wanted to talk about guitars. So I turned, my back to the street. He started talking about his guitars and he asked me what kind of music I did and I told him and then he said, ‘I’d like to hear you sometime. Where can I hear you play?’ No word of a lie: the bus pulls up… my face stopped right there, and I just kind of tilted the same way and I smiled at him and got on the bus. It was just very awesome!”
As the documentary details, Bell is the son of a Baptist pastor who has his first break with an album giveaway on a Roman Catholic TV program. That’s one reason I wonder if Bell might tend to blur some important Christian distinctions. While the Steve Bell output I’m familiar with has always been orthodox, that’d be a caution to keep in mind if you’re looking into more of his music.
I started watching this with kids, and while one of our girls cut out to go play with the neighbors, we also has a neighbor come by and plop down for the whole of it. So it has broad appeal, even among the younger set who’d never heard of Bell before. And if you have any musicians aspiring to a professional career, this might be one to watch together, and discuss what trade-offs they would and wouldn’t be willing to make for such a career. It definitely comes with a cost.
To watch Wings of an Eagle for free, head on over to RedeemTV.com, where you’ll need to sign up for a free membership to gain access.