Immerse yourselves in this…
My best friend introduced me to the music of Loreena McKennitt in the early nineties – and I was hooked immediately. Something about her ethereal energy, her wild red hair spoke to me – and her music is fantastic. I vividly recall playing ‘Huron Beltane Fire Dance‘ to a restive and disaffected year eleven group, in around 1994, and having the amazing experience of witnessing the miraculous calming of their troubled souls.
I have many of her CDs – and she has long been one of my favourite female artists – so, when my friend booked tickets to see her in concert, mine a joint birthday and Christmas present, I was absolutely thrilled.
For those who do not know, Loreena McKennitt is a Canadian World Musician. She and I are almost exactly the same age, and she comes from Irish and Scottish roots as I do – so I have always identified with her fascination for, and research into, the Celts, and especially the peoples of Ireland.
Last night was magical, extraordinary, moving, amusing, a chance to see someone I have admired for so long in the flesh. She was witty – telling us funny anecdotes about her travels to Ireland, including the tale of Brian Boru’s skull! – and knowledgeable, deeply so, about the Irish people who emigrated to Canada as a result of the potato famines of the 1840s. She spoke movingly about the various influences upon her own music and about the wonderful old people she saw, still performing in their eighties, in remote corners of Ireland.
She was touring as part of a trio: The multi-instrumentalist, Caroline Lavelle, who stunned us all with her cello-playing and sheer versatility, and the man who could handle anything remotely guitar-shaped with complete aplomb, Brian Hughes. The addition of a fiddler, dressed as a nineteenth century Irish immigrant, was both effective and evocative.
Loreena herself plays piano – and the instrument by which she is best known, the harp. The latter caused a few moments of consternation when it had a little paddy and snapped a string. But, with consummate professionalism and gentle humour, Loreena moved over to the piano (whilst her temperamental harp was being attended to) and changed the order of songs so smoothly that the whole thing could almost have been part of the act, had she not told us that it was the first snapped string in twenty-five years.
Here, for those who haven’t already had the pleasure, is a track:
What a shame she only had the one gig in London. Apparently, she is far better known in the rest of Europe, Germany in particular, than she is here. I cannot understand this myself as I think she’s brilliant: Mystical, beautiful, a true one-off in every sense – and the creator of some of the most extraordinary and innovative songs to have come into the world in recent decades.