Sound Advice: Loreena McKennitt (Oct. 31)

Celtic Folk legend Loreena McKennitt plays the Taft Theatre.

click to enlarge Loreena McKennitt - Photo:  Ann E. Cutting
Photo: Ann E. Cutting
Loreena McKennitt
Beyond her Scotch/Irish parents, Loreena McKennitt was neither culturally nor environmentally predisposed to Celtic music, and yet she’s become one of the legends of the form over the past three decades.

Blending foundational Celtic Folk with Middle Eastern elements, Gregorian chanting and a veritable kitchen sink of musical ideas from around the world, McKennitt has created a catalog with the powerful impact of a hymnal for a non-specific religion. With a clear and ringing soprano reminiscent of New Age Celtic diva Enya, Renaissance’s Annie Haslam and Steeleye Span’s Maddy Prior, McKennitt has become a global phenomenon on her own terms; each of her nine studio and five live albums, accounting for nearly 15 million in sales, has been released on her Quinlan Road label, meaning she has retained complete control over her image and output from the very start of her career.

The Manitoba native intended to explore the veterinary arts, but after discovering Celtic music, McKennitt learned the Celtic harp, moved to Ontario and busked on Toronto streets for the money to record her first album, 1985’s Elemental. One of the unique aspects of McKennitt’s songwriting process is in her preparation to create new material, which typically involves a good deal of inspirational travel that informs both the theme and the content of the resultant songs. She also draws on literature as an influence and source material, quoting William Blake, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, William Shakespeare and Dante, among many others, in her lyrical passages.

McKennitt took an eight-year hiatus after her fiancée’s drowning death in 1998, playing only sporadic live shows until the 2006 release of An Ancient Muse, her first studio recording since 1997’s The Book of Secrets. Since her return to active performing, McKennitt has released two studio albums and three live albums, the latest in each category being 2010’s The Wind Shakes the Barley and 2012’sTroubadours on the Rhine, respectively. 

Over the past quarter century, McKennitt’s work has shown up in numerous films and television shows, and she has received several awards, nominations and honorary titles, including a couple of Juno Awards, a Billboard Music Award, a Western Canadian Music Award and a pair of Grammy nominations, and she continues to administer the Cook-Rees Memorial Fund for Water Search and Safety, which she created in response to the death of her fiancée, Ronald Rees, his brother and their friend. 

If you’re looking for a spiritual experience and not necessarily a church, Loreena McKennitt is happy to be your choirmaster. 

Click here for tickets/more info on Monday's show.

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