Two events happened Wednesday night, one that I largely heard about and one that I witnessed. The first was the World Series Game 7 loss of the Cleveland Indians to the Chicago Cubs. The other was a concert at the Palace Theater in Columbus, Ohio. I mention both of these because some strange time convergence was taking place for me Wednesday night. The artist I heard was the same one I saw perform nine years ago, the same night the Cleveland Indians were playing in a must win game against the Boston Red Sox. The Tribe lost that night and the Red Sox went to the World Series. Strange how history seemed to be running an encore.
But I’m not writing this post to recount baseball history (much as I would have loved to see Cleveland win both that ALCS and the 2016 World Series). No, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the artist and the performances I’ve see by Loreena McKennitt.
First, if you have no idea who Loreena McKennitt is, please go here to learn more about both her and her music.
My connection to Loreena goes back several decades at this point (first discovered her in 1991 with The Visit) and Wednesday’s concert was the second time I’ve had the privilege of seeing her live. Her previous performance featured many additional musicians who basically filled the stage but this time she shared the stage primarily with only two other extremely talented artists – Caroline Lavelle and Brian Hughes. It is rare for me to admit that an event transported me to someplace wondrous but this trio certainly did.
Loreena’s music and lyrics are a blend of history, poetry, various literary works, and speak deeply to the human condition and experience. Each of the musicians seamlessly played no fewer than three instruments a piece throughout the performance. The joy they take in their craft was evident every moment they played. Even though the concert was in a large theater it felt much more intimate as the vibrant performances enveloped the crowd. But the best part for me was hearing Loreena’s stories.
She spoke of her journey as a performer and artist. Loreena’s music has always danced between a type of mysticism and real history. Both were on display Wednesday as she played a medley of her songs as she read her own reflective journals about her research into the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1849) and how many of the heartrending stories from that period are being repeated today in the migrant crisis in Europe. She shared humorous tales of busking in London, the tale of how she ended up using the harp she plays, of colorful locals in Ireland having some fun with providing her directions, and of how trying those early days of struggling to get her material recorded and marketed were.
I can relate, as can many struggling artists. I began to reflect on how easily we can forget those hopeful, desperate first steps of pursing any dream and the gifts and growth these struggles ultimately provide.
We also tend to negate the need for a little magic in our lives. No, maybe magic isn’t the right word. Wonder. People seem to feel such a need to fill every waking minute with some form of distraction that we, as a society, seem to place little value on wonder. One of the qualities I’ve always appreciated about Loreena McKennitt’s music is that her work does speak to wonder. Her arrangements and lyrics are vivid, rich, and beautiful. They remind you of forgotten ways of life, of stories you once read, of nature’s role in our lives, and of the presence and need for some healthy mysticism in a chaotic world.
Loreena’s works have helped to shape some of my own. I often find inspiration for writing in music and I’ve visualized and arranged entire scenes in my Frankenstein The Resurrection Trinity series to several of her songs and attempted to capture some of the wonder inherent in her work into mine. Regardless of the medium, I’d encourage any artist, especially young ones, to find other artists whose creativity inspires you and challenges you to grow. The world could do with more wonder.
As for Loreena, she shared a new song with us and I’m looking forward to listening to where her artistic journey takes her next. P.S. Loreena if you ever read this (hey, I can hope) you’re more than welcome to a free copy of any of my books. Just ask and thanks for another magnificant show 🙂