Loreena McKennitt Biography - from Canada

Loreena McKennitt Biography

Loreena McKennitt is a rarity in popular music - a self-managed, self-produced artist who owns her own record label, whose music crosses stylistic and cultural boundaries, and who has sold more than 14 million records worldwide.

Her music, which combines elements of pop, folk and worldbeat styles, that’s often dubbed “eclectic Celtic”, resonates with enthusiastic listeners around the world. Her extensive catalogue features eight studio albums, four live recordings, three music DVDs, and two compilation albums. Available in more than 40 countries, they have garnered critical acclaim worldwide and gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards in 15 countries across four continents including Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, France, Spain, Italy, Turkey, and Greece.

Born and raised in the small prairie community of Morden, Manitoba, Canada, McKennitt began her career singing in local folk clubs in Winnipeg and in small-scale productions of Broadway musicals. She won a DuMaurier talent search competition in 1978, and represented her country that year at UNESCO in Paris and again in 1985 at Expo in Japan. In the 1980s, she moved to Stratford, Ontario – the home of Canada's renowned Shakespeare Festival – and was a featured actor, singer and composer in a number of festival productions including The Tempest (1982) and The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1984). In spring 2001, she returned to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival as composer for the critically-acclaimed production of The Merchant of Venice.

In 1985, McKennitt recorded her debut album, Elemental, and released it on her fledgling label, Quinlan Road, named for the rural road which ran past her farmhouse. She promoted the recording by busking in nearby Toronto, and by promoting her own concerts. Additional releases in 1987, To Drive the Cold Winter Away, and 1989, Parallel Dreams, and a flourishing live performance career – triggered in part by showcase performances she gave for arts presenters across the country – earned her a ground-breaking 1991 distribution deal with Warner Music Canada. The first release under that agreement, The Visit, was distributed around the world, becoming an international success with an impressive tally of gold and platinum certifications. Its success was to be later exceeded by the honours achieved by The Mask and Mirror in 1994, and the worldwide hit The Book of Secrets in 1997.


The Book of Secrets, recorded at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios near Bath, England, spawned the Billboard Top 20 single and MTV video hit "The Mummers' Dance", whose cross-format success on US radio was mirrored around the world. The album would go on to sell over four million copies worldwide, of which over two million were in the United States. Like its two predecessors, The Book of Secrets topped the Billboard World Music chart en route to becoming that chart's most successful "crossover" album ever. It also debuted at #1 on the national album charts in Greece and Turkey, was #3 in Canada, and reached the Top 10 in Italy, New Zealand and Germany, and the Top 20 in the United States, Spain and France.
In 2006, McKennitt released the album An Ancient Muse which would go on to earn a Grammy nomination. Soon after, in the fall of 2008, A Midwinter Night’s Dream, would be released  featuring a collection of seasonal music as seen through her broad lens of influences ranging from Celtic to classical to Middle Eastern. Also recorded at Real World Studios, it has gone on to achieve Canadian Gold certification for sales of over 50, 000.

Quinlan Road has also released a number of limited edition compilations and specialty items including the St Patrick's Day sampler "A Mummer's Dance Through Ireland", "The Journey Begins" box set featuring one disc of rarities and three recordings from the beginning of Loreena's career and the two disc set "A Mediterranean Odyssey" combining one disc of live performances commemorating the 2009 Mediterranean tour and one disc of thematically chosen studio recordings drawn from the back catalogue.

McKennitt released her first-ever live concert DVD, Loreena McKennitt: Nights from the Alhambra in 2007. The performances were filmed in Granada, Spain at the Palacio de Carlos V in the Alhambra Palace historic monument over three nights in September 2006; McKennitt is one of very few artists to have been granted the opportunity to perform in this breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage site. Selections from the concerts originally aired on PBS as a “Great Performances” special. This was followed by a limited release of the tour documentary A Moveable Musical Feast which was shot during her 2007 An Ancient Muse tour. Previously, in 1997, McKennitt released No Journey’s End, a half-hour video profile in which she explores the diverse influences behind her award-winning albums such as The Visit and The Mask and Mirror.

Her latest audio release, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, was recorded in the summer of 2010, and is a response to the many requests that she re-visit the traditional music with which she is so often associated.

Loreena McKennitt has twice been honoured with a Juno, the Canadian music industry's most prestigious award. In 1997, she was given Billboard's International Achievement Award. In 2002, she performed in the Government of Manitoba’s Golden Jubilee celebrations for the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip and, in 2003, she received a Commemorative Medal for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

These successes have led her to stages across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. She is an inveterate traveler who has used her fascination and interest in the history of the Celts as her primary musical and theatrical inspiration; she sees her work a form of musical travel writing. Her travels have included visits to China, Mongolia, Turkey and North Africa, as well as a trans-Siberian train trip across the former Soviet Union.

She has composed music for, or had songs featured in, a wide range of films. Her first screen credits include the National Film Board Of Canada's Women and Spirituality series (1989 – 1993) and Jean-Claude Lauzon's Léolo (1992), since which time she has enjoyed countless requests for the use of her recordings in major Hollywood films and TV productions. Her music provided the main titles music for the TNT miniseries The Mists of Avalon and, mostly recently, McKennitt contributed both music and narration for Disney’s Fall 2008 DVD release Tinker Bell.
Despite the demands of her own multi-faceted career, McKennitt continues to find time to encourage other independent recording artists to take control of their music and their careers.  She participates in music industry conventions and other gatherings as a speaker whose practical career advice has been of value to countless artists. She is a strong advocate for the protection of intellectual property, and has appeared before The House of Commons Standing Committee on Cultural Heritage to support of long-delayed copyright reform for artists.
A long-time participant in cultural and charitable endeavours on both the local and national scale, McKennitt is a member of the Order of Canada, the Order of Manitoba, and the recipient of an Honourary Doctor of Laws (University of Manitoba), Honourary Doctor of Laws (Queen’s University), Honourary Doctor of Letters (Wilfred Laurier University) and an Honourary Degree for Bachelor of Applied Business (Financial Services), George Brown College. In 2006, she was appointed Honourary Colonel of 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron at 17 Wing Winnipeg of the Canadian Air Force.

In 1998, McKennitt founded The Cook-Rees Memorial Fund for Water Search and Safety and raised nearly $4,000,000 for the Fund’s initiatives in the fields of water safety and research.  A major portion of the money raised for the Fund came from the sales of Live in Paris and Toronto, a two-CD set recorded with her band at the Salle Pleyel and Massey Hall in 1998.  Revenues from the release were also donated to the earthquake relief funds of the Red Crescent Turkey and Greece’s Hellenic Red Cross.
In her own community, McKennitt purchased the Falstaff School in Stratford in 2000 and, in 2002, founded the Falstaff Family Centre which offers facilities to a number of volunteer and not-for-profit community and family groups.  She has also established The Three Oaks Foundation, a charitable body which offers financial support to cultural, environmental, historical and social groups.


•    The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Quinlan Road, 2010)
•    A Mummers’ Dance Through Ireland (Quinlan Road 2009)
•    A Mediterranean Odyssey (Quinlan Road, 2009)
•    A Midwinter Night’s Dream (Quinlan Road, 2008)
•    The Journey Begins (Quinlan Road 2008)
•    An Ancient Muse (Quinlan Road 2006) 
•    Live in Paris and Toronto (Quinlan Road, 1999) 
•    The Book of Secrets (Quinlan Road, 1997) 
•    A Winter Garden: Five Songs for the Season (Quinlan Road, 1995) 
•    The Mask and Mirror (Quinlan Road, 1994) 
•    The Visit (Quinlan Road, 1991) 
•    Parallel Dreams (Quinlan Road, 1989) 
•    To Drive the Cold Winter Away (Quinlan Road, 1987) 
•    Elemental (Quinlan Road, 1985)

•    A Moveable Musical Feast (Quinlan Road, 2008)
•    Nights from the Alhambra (DVD/two CD set, Quinlan Road, 2007) 
•    No Journey’s End (Quinlan Road, 1994)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

PO Box 933, Stratford, Ontario, Canada N5A 7M3 
Tel. 519-273-3876 Fax 519-273-4553 

* Information is current as of October 2011

Troubadurs On The Rhine

Loreena McKennitt to release her first ‘unplugged’ recording to coincide with her European tour

“Troubadours on the Rhine” features the singer in a unique radio performance in a ‘house concert’ setting.

When Canadian singer Loreena McKennitt released her current recording, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, earlier this year, she visited several countries to help promote the album.

During the “promotional tour” she performed an hour-long concert in the studios of German radio station SWR1, accompanied only by Brian Hughes (guitars), Caroline Lavelle (cello) who have long been part of her tours and recordings.

Over the course of the evening McKennitt performed material from her new album, alongside traditional songs and fan favourites drawn from her catalogue, including The Lady of Shalott, Bonny Portmore and The Bonny Swans.

Troubadours on the Rhine will be available the week of February 27th internationally on CD and as a digital download on the artist’s own label, Quinlan Road. The recording will be distributed in Canada by Universal Music, in the United States on the Verve label, and in Europe via a variety of distributors. The concert will be released exactly as it was performed, without additional recording, overdubs or corrections.

“This is quite different from my other recordings,” said the artist. “The experience was akin to an intimate house concert that I might have performed in my living room for a handful of friends.”

Meanwhile, McKennitt — who has sold more than 14 million records world-wide — is preparing for her 2012 “Celtic Footprints” World Tour in March, with an opening leg that includes 32 European dates in 11 countries — playing to more than 60,000 people.


1.     Bonny Portmore (3:46)
2.     Down By The Sally Gardens (4:23)
3.     The Wind That Shakes The Barley (4:48)
4.     Between The Shadows (4:27)
5.     The Lady Of Shalott (7:00)
6.     The Stolen Child (5:30) 
7.     Penelope’s Song (3:56)
8.     The Bonny Swans (5:58)
9.    The Parting Glass (5:07)

Loreena McKennitt : vocals, harp, keyboards
Brian Hughes : guitars
Caroline Lavelle : cello
Recorded at: The Studios of SWR1 Germany
Produced by Loreena McKennitt
Graphic Design: Philip Manning
Recording released under license by courtesy of SWR1-Rhineland-Pfalz


Life | Outdoors