TVFH-alhambraIssue 3 Volume 2
The View From Granada
by Loreena McKennitt
November 1st, 2006

“Tell me, O Muse, of those who have travelled far and wide”: each time I reflect on this saying adapted from Homer’s Odyssey, which seems to capture the essence of the new recording An Ancient Muse so well, I think that hindsight can be such a wonderful thing

A few seasons have come and gone since last I wrote an update for The View from Here. The last dispatch spoke of the excitement of the days becoming longer, and our progress in the recording studio on the path to completing An Ancient Muse. The great wheel of time has turned a few notches along, and the recording is now done, and indeed the days are getting shorter.

We spent much of the spring and summer working away – some would say finding our way! –  on the completion of the recording. And, as ever, the studio environment of Real World provided us with the right measure of professional services as well as company and camaraderie with other people working there – Maggi and Geraldine in the kitchen and Andy the groundskeeper to mention just a few.

As the summer wore on, the possibility and inevitability of the live concert for PBS television loomed ahead. Just as we were finishing up the recording and exploring a few different mixes of things, we launched the wheels for the concerts at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain on Sept 13, 14 and 15.

Although there were some bumps on the road in the preparations for these concerts, on the whole the performances and the process of reaching them was exciting and exhausting. After the shows, it was wonderful to meet a great number of the people who attended these concerts and who had travelled from many countries. I was touched by the very kind words that many of them shared with me and in many respects, these moments were amongst my fondest recollections of these evenings.

Then, too, it was wonderful to be back in the part of Spain which had so influenced me more than ten years ago as I had prepared for The Mask And Mirror. I was impressed then, and it has ever more meaning to me now given the present state of world affairs, to reflect on the very rich and diverse history of Andalucía, and in particular those several hundred years when Judaism, Islam and Christianity co-habited relatively harmoniously. The stunning architecture of the Alhambra and its sensuous and succulent gardens reminded me of the wonderful Arabic influences which had come from north Africa, up through the south of Spain and onward through Europe – not only in the fields of architecture and agriculture, but also in the areas of mathematics, astronomy and literature 

As usual and much to the chagrin of the airlines I’m sure, I packed books for this Spanish Odyssey of mine. One that I brought with me and of which I have become quite fond is called Spain: the Root and the Flower, by John A Crow. It is a rich weave of history, giving an interpretation of the civilization of Spain from its earliest beginnings, with chapters on the Romans, the Jews, the Moors, and the author pays particular to Spanish art, literature, architecture and music. I enjoyed going back to it

Some of my other favourite moments during my sojourn in Granada came in wandering the lovely narrow streets of the Albaicin, chockablock with a mixture of enterprises, including guitar shops, tapas bars and restaurants; or the many mornings of walking up to the Charles V rotunda where the performances were held, in through the arch of the Alhambra, and along the switchback road. On one corner sat our sound truck (as it couldn’t get through the next archway); I’d poke my head into the  truck equipped with multi channel digital recording facilities, and offer a friendly hello to the engineers. As I walked past the fountains, there was always the sound of running water. And finally I would arrive at the rotunda, always a busy hub of activity: hammers, people, cameras, and the din of multifarious preparations. It was exciting to finally see the show come together.

The autumn is now moving along quite fast as we make preparations for the release of An Ancient Muse as well as finishing the mixing and editing of the TV concert, Nights from the Alhambra, which we expect to be broadcast in the United States in March and potentially further afield, too. There is always much to be done. We are presently exploring touring plans for March, April and May in Europe and North America. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we will be able to announce those plans as well.

So you can see, there have been many views from here… and “here” has, as ever, been a moving feast of activities. I hope that now that we are launched, it won’t be too long before I and my musical companions have the opportunity to bring the sounds of An Ancient Muse to a concert hall near you. – LM