Born and raised in the Canadian prairie town of Morden, Manitoba, Loreena McKennitt expressed her passion for music at an early age through both Highland dancing and classical piano lessons. In her teens, McKennitt entered high school in Winnipeg where she was first exposed to the Celtic folk boom.
McKennitt soon began performing and after completing high school, moved to Stratford, Ontario where her obvious talents were appreciated by the town’s Shakespearean Festival.
A 1982 trip to Ireland, home of Yeats – ne of her most enduring inspirations – was fulfilling for McKennitt. Upon returning home she recorded a Celtic interpretation of Yeats’ “The Stolen Child” on harp. At the same time she released a self-help book on manufacturing and selling independent music.
Quinlan Road, McKennitt’s record company was set up in 1985. Working as a busker, helped by word-of-mouth buzz within cafes and bookshops, she released Elemental with the majority of copies being sold from her trunk. Shortly after the release, McKennitt scored two movie soundtracks Boyo and Heaven on Earth. Her follow-up was the recording of Christmas carols on To Drive The Cold Winter Away (1987). A diverse theme of cross-cultural native/celtic integration was featured on 1989’s Parallel Dreams, which featured the single “Breaking the Silence”, dedicated to Amnesty International. McKennitt was becoming a worldly artist whose vocal abilities and instrumental talents led her to be commissioned to score the Canadian film series “Women and Spirituality.”
McKennitt’s artistic vision took dramatic change after a trip to Venice, Italy where she left with a deeper, more profound connection to the Celts. The result was the release of The Visitwhich proved wildly worthwhile.
Warner Music finally took notice, no doubt due to the fact that McKennitt sold 50,000 copies on her own, and deemed she was worthy for major distribution. She landed her first Juno Award with The Visit and the National Film Board of Canada used the instrumental “Tango to Evora” for a documentary production.
McKennitt’s renaissance continued with the 1994 release of The Mask and Mirror which won the 1995 Juno for ‘Best Roots/Traditional Album.’ Paramount Pictures also noticed the release and used “The Mystic’s Dream” for the film Jade.
Her seventh release in 1997, ‘The Book of Secrets’ produced the hit “The Mummer’s Dance”, which was later released as something no McKennitt song had ever been released before – a dance remix. Through this single, and the ‘wakening’ of audiences to her massive talent, Loreena’s celebrity was forever ensured. With millions of albums sold in over 40 countries, McKennitt remains the only act with Quinlan Road. She has won critical and audience praise for her poetic, Celtic/folk/pop sounding masterpieces.
Recently, McKennitt has become involved in the Cook-Rees Fund for Water Search and Safety after losing her fiancé, Ronald Rees and two friends in a boating accident in Lake Huron. The release of her first full-length album ‘Live in Paris and Toronto’ by Quinlan Road was a money-raising effort for the fund. “If this campaign can help save just one life, then it will be more than worth the effort.”