Loreena McKennitt

A delicate harpist and a singer of striking purity, Canadian Loreena McKennitt channelled her love and understanding of Celtic music into an engagingly fragile music style that proved to be key in the rise of new age music through the 1980s. Yet nobody was more surprised with the direction of her career than McKennitt herself as her ambition in her younger days had always been to be a vet. The daughter of a nurse and a livestock trader, her first love was classical music. She started playing piano at the age of five, joined a childrens choir, did some dancing and spent most of her childhood immersed in music, but largely abandoned it when she went to study at the department of agriculture at the University of Manitoba. However, music kept calling her back and she was drawn into the folk club scene in Winnipeg where she met Irish and Scottish musicians and became hooked on Celtic music. She subsequently concentrated on playing Celtic harp, started busking on the streets, began to write her own songs and slowly her career took off. Something of a visionary, she formed her own label Quinlan Road to release her 1985 debut album 'Elemental' which she recorded in one week at a bar in Southern Ontario. She followed it with Christmas album 'Drive the Cold Winter Away' and, continuing to control her own career, honed the mellow, atmospheric new age, almost mystical style which made her an international star with the albums 'Parallel Dreams' (1989), 'The Visit' (1991), 'The Mask & Mirror' (1994), 'A Winter Garden' (1995) and 'The Book of Secrets' (1997). Her songwriting is strongly influenced by poets Yeats, Keats, Blake and Tennyson and her popularity reached a peak when she was invited by the Film Board of Canada to compose the music for the film series 'Women & Spirituality' and she also wrote the music for the films 'Highlander III', 'Jade' and 'The Santa Clause'. Following the tragic death of her partner Ronald Rees, she took time out from music, maintaining a low profile and working on charity causes, but after a decade without releasing anything new, she returned in 2006 with the album 'Ancient Muse'. Restored to the forefront of folk music, she followed it with the seasonal album 'A Midwinter Night's Dream' (2008) and 'The Wind That Shakes the Barley' (2010) on which revisited the traditional style of her early work. In 2018 she released 'Lost Souls', her first new full-length album of original material for 12 years, drawing on different world music influences and the mysterious balladry which had established her reputation so profoundly in the first place, including a lush musical setting of the Tennyson poem 'Lady of Shalott'.

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