You Asked Us

On Saturday, February 16, 2008 Loreena undertook a live text chat with members of the Loreena McKennitt Community. This was first in the line of anticipated online interactive experiences which she and Quinlan Road look forward to providing in the future, covering a range of topics, time zones and languages. Click here (PDF 63Kb) for a transcript of this inaugural chat.

A: Well, the number of people on the road can vary slightly when one takes into account the “relief ” drivers: when the distance to be traveled by the trucks and buses exceeds the distance that one driver should undertake, additional drivers are needed. But overall, the number is somewhere between 35-40 people. This takes into account four buses, two trucks, caterers, merchandisers, lighting and sound crew, musicians, stage technicians, production and road managers, etc. It is like moving a little village around, setting up camp and striking it again, every day.

The daily schedule varies depending on what a person’s responsibilities are. If you are “crew” – which is everyone except the musicians, the road manager and assistants – it truly must be like a never-ending day.

Load-in usually occurs around 8 am, and the technical setup occurs all day long until sound check late in the afternoon. Caterers travel with the crew and set up at the venue right away and start making breakfast and the day’s meals for everyone. Someone often goes shopping for food locally.

The musicians and I often (but not always) travel earlier in the day to arrive at the venue for a sound check late in the afternoon. If we are lucky, we check into our hotel first. If not, we go straight to the venue and check in after the show at around midnight. Sometimes when drives are exceptionally long and it is too risky (due to potential traffic problems) to travel during the day, the band will travel overnight and check into a hotel room just for the day.

After sound check, we have dinner. It is one of the rare opportunities to see most of the traveling party, including the drivers, who likely will have been sleeping in the day (particularly the drivers of the crew bus and the trucks, as they almost always travel overnight.) This meal is a highlight of the day, and on this tour we have been blessed with exceptional caterers who are devoted to local fresh food. I love their company’s name, Saucery, and it is run by a wonderful team of three people, led by lovely Suzie. The show usually begins somewhere between 8 pm and 10 pm, depending on whatcountry we are in – and it can begin even a little later than that if we are in Spain.

Directly following the show, the musicians usually head back to the hotel and I stay at the venue to meet friends, business colleagues and special guests. Following this, I am usually found signing autographs if there are people waiting at the stage door. Then I head back to the hotel and crawl into bed somewhere between 1 and 2 am.

The morning always comes a bit too quickly and we are off once again, usually getting on the bus between 9 and 10 am, depending on where we are going. I usually spend these morning bus hours attending to administrative matters: some to do with the tour, and some to do with other QR matters back home. Once I arrive at the hotel or the venue for the next show, I may do some interviews.

Meanwhile, back at the venue at the end of the show the crew starts loading out the equipment and may not be finished this work until between 2 and 4 in the morning, again depending on how easy or complicated the load-out is. In Rome, for example, they could only send out one case at a time, of two trucks full of equipment, down an alley. Hence load-in and load-out were very long indeed. These stoic creatures, the crew, then trundle into the bus and into their bunks on the buses for a few precious hours of sleep before they get off the bus to load in again at 8 am.

And so, the next day begins. ~ LM

A: There are a few factors behind this request. The first consideration is that even though cameras have evolved to the extent that one can take photos without flashes going off, not everyone knows how to do this. I can think of a couple of concerts so far on this tour where, after all the pains we have taken to create an intimate and dramatic beginning, with just myself and a harp and a couple of other musicians, the lights flashing from the audience were like a fireworks display. Not only did it interrupt the mood I was trying to set for the song, I received numerous complaints from other audience members that they too found it disruptive.

Historically, it has also been the case in some theatrical productions – depending on what they are – that flashes can disrupt the concentration of the performers and cause them to forget lines. Then, too, there can be safety issues. I have been advised that this is still the case, although it is less of a concern for me personally from a safety standpoint.

Then there is the slightly thornier issue of taking photos of someone where permission has not been sought, or where the subject has explicitly asked that his or her photo not be taken, sometimes for religious, privacy or other reasons.

Additionally, now that we have entered the digital world, where photos are no longer kept in check as a result of the limitations of their format (analogue rather than digital), it is a fact that photos that would in the past have been kept for a photographer’s private collection are now peddled for public consumption. This, finally, can lead to the “pursuit” of well-known people.

As most of you know by know, I do not support or encourage the cult of celebrity. I believe that these concerts are a special time for us to spend together, unencumbered by the distracting process of physically capturing the moment. Rather, they are a time to focus our minds and hearts on the unique and personal experience of what we are sharing. I would say that this applies towhen I am signing autographs as well. For a person who has a public dimension to her career, constantly being photographed without permission can lead into a world where people start feeling that they “own” you as a performer, and have “rights” to you, including taking your picture whenever they wish. The far end of this scale is ‘stalking’

That said, we have not wanted to get heavy-handed with people who attend the concert. We decided therefore to simply place a courteous request in the programme so that the audience would be acquainted with my wishes and there would be no confusion. I hope there will be respect for my request. ~ LM

A: This song was an attempt to bring some historical relevance to the present. Many times, as I undertook my research and travels, I was confronted with the questions: “What has history taught us, and do we have the capacity to learn from it?

As someone who has simply pursued her muse through an informal excavation of the past, I find that the historical landscape is littered with themes of war, peace, love, selfdetermination, liberty, identity, home, and cultural, religious and spiritual interactions. This song is rumination on how, over time and space, our basic needs as human beings seem to have remained the same: a need for identity, for belonging, for liberty, for spiritual engagement, for ways to resolve conflicts of interest.

As I must remind people, I am not an academic or an authority, but, like many people, an average person who learns about the world, history and life in my own personal way. The fact that I can then spin that personal experience into a musical document that is shared with others is almost secondary to the experience.

Certainly, when it comes to issues such as liberty, self- determination and our need to actively engage with our society, I am reminded of that wonderful Edmond Burke quote: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men [and women] to do nothing.” I cannot help but think of organizations such as Amnesty International, International PEN and Witness, which continue to undertake meaningful work in championing human rights, freedom of expression and encouraging people to move from being emotionally concerned with such issues, to actively working for our collective good.

If anyone is interested in further information regarding these organizations, we suggest that you visit their websites, and ~ LM

A: All of Loreena’s CD booklets include song lyrics – except in the case of instrumentals such as “Santiago”, “Huron ‘Beltane’ Fire Dance”, “Tango To Evora” and “Marco Polo”, of course! However, if you’ve misplaced your booklet, or you find the type size hard to read (CD booklets afford much less room than vinyl albums did!) please be sure to visit Explore The Music on this site. You’ll find lyrics for all of Loreena’s songs, whether the words were penned by Yeats, Shakespeare, Tennyson or Loreena herself. You can view the lyrics on the web page or print a copy with our printer-friendly versions at whatever type size you like.’

A: The short-lived but much-loved CBS series EZ Streets (1996-1997), which won an Emmy award and was nominated for two others, featured a theme by the acclaimed composer and musician Mark Isham. It also used songs by a number of recording artists, including Loreena McKennitt. All of the Loreena McKennitt songs you will hear in this series are available on her commercial releases.

The Loreena tracks used in the series EZ Streets are: “The Mystic’s Dream”, “Santiago”, “Bonny Portmore”, “The Old Ways”, “Ancient Pines”, “Courtyard Lullabye”, “Snow”, “Prospero’s Speech”, “Full Circle”, “Huron ‘Beltane’ Fire Dance”, “Let All That Are to Mirth Inclined”, “Cymbeline” and “Seeds of Love”.

If you’re looking for a particular song, and not sure which one it is, why not visit Explore The Music on this website? We offer short sound samples of every song on every Loreena McKennitt CD. These sound samples should help you locate the particular songs you are looking for.

A: “Dante’s Prayer”, from Loreena’s album The Book Of Secrets, features The St. Petersburg Chamber Choir, led by Nikolai Korniev. Loreena first enjoyed their work via the CD A Russian Easter (Philips), and their performance on “Dante’s Prayer” is an exerpt from “Alleluia, Behold The Bridegroom”, which you can also find on A Russian Easter.

Loreena says: “There is something about the simplicity of voices singing in unison in a choir that has always had a special magic for me, whether it is at Christmas time in church or other gatherings, or throughout a variety of cultural and religious traditions around the world. Singing in a group is one of my earliest memories of making music, and it reminds me that in many places around the world, music is still something to participate in, rather than merely a fashion commodity to be purchased.

“The special sound of choral voices is something I hope to explore once again in the studio. It adds an air of community and shared experience that is very precious.”

A: Loreena is indeed a great fan of The Lord Of The Rings books. When the soundtracks for the three Peter Jackson films were being prepared, Loreena was flattered to be contacted and invited to have discussions about those soundtracks.

However, as is often the case with such large-scale projects, there were a great number of artists asked to be involved, many logistic and creative arrangements to be satisfied, and – to make a long story short – the final arrangement of participating musicians did not feature Loreena. In many cases, it simply isn’t possible for everyone’s wish list – the people preparing the soundtrack, and the artists who have been contacted – to be big enough to include every avenue that has been explored.

Loreena certainly admires Howard Shore’s work (he is the Oscar-winning composer who wrote the main soundtrack and oversaw many of the collaborations) and she hopes to have an opportunity to work with him in future.

As for Loreena’s next recording, it’s a question that many of You Ask Us quite frequently! Loreena is presently in and out of the studio recording her next studio album, which is due to be released in autumn 2006. If you’d like to follow along with news of the new project, be sure to join the LM Community via this website – you’ll be the first to receive the news.

A: Loreena notes: “As with many traditional folk songs, it’s hard to say who wrote ‘The Bonny Swans’ because we simply are not quite sure. My friend Larry Fisher, a harp-maker and musicologist, notes that the song – also known in different incarnations as ‘Binnorie’ and ‘Twa Sisters’ – is a Scottish lowland murder ballad and has been recorded in countless different versions; there are at least 21 on record! One of the earliest versions dates back to 1656. As some of you will have observed from the lyric I have used, the story certainly seems to have contradictory statements (the number of sisters involved and the precise occupation of their father among them). I’d say that this, too, is often the case when a song is passed down and its lyric mutates over time – although it seems to me that this song never loses its power or its fascination, and the key themes (betrayal, loss, memory, rebirth and the Celtic image of the swan, symbolising death) remain.

“Larry recommends two website links with more information about this song and its many curious strands – happy hunting!”