Loreena McKennitt – The Book Of Secrets (1997)

FrontCover1Loreena Isabel Irene McKennitt, CM OM (born February 17, 1957) is a Canadian musician, composer, harpist, accordionist, and pianist who writes, records and performs world music with Celtic and Middle Eastern themes. McKennitt is known for her refined and clear dramatic soprano vocals. She has sold more than 14 million records worldwide

The Book of Secrets is the sixth studio album by Loreena McKennitt, released in 1997. It reached #17 on the Billboard 200. Its single “The Mummers’ Dance,” remixed by DNA, was released during the winter of 1997–98, and peaked at #18 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #17 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. The album is certified double-platinum in the United States. It has now sold more than four million copies worldwide.

The DNA remix of “The Mummers’ Dance” was made into a music video.
“Skellig” relates the dying words of a monk from a monastery that existed during the 6th–12th centuries on the island Skellig Michael (Great Skellig), 11.6 km west of Ireland.
“The Highwayman” is an adaptation of the poem “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes.
“Night Ride Across the Caucasus” was featured in the 1998 film Soldier.
The music from “Night Ride Across the Caucasus” was featured in the song Kokli by Ulytau.
“Dante’s Prayer” is a reference to Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. (by wikipedia)

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Some artists or albums can hit you so hard on a personal level that you can’t help but fall for them at first listen. Such is my liaison with Loreena McKennitt. Even though the level of my knowledge is nonexistent when it comes to new age/world/celtic music, McKennitt’s voice is such that blends perfectly with the instrumentation of her compositions. She sounds sincere in a manner that travels the listener right into the scene of the tale she narrates. Her music can transport you to the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East, Ireland, all over the world. Most of all though, her work is introspective; by listening to her albums, one can view life from a different perspective.


The Book of Secrets is McKennitt’s sixth release and her most successful album in terms of sales, having reached double platinum status in the US. The nature of music on this release is mostly soothing with only a few faster and lively moments. Nevertheless, the majority of the album consists of mid tempo songs centered around McKennitt’s expressive voice. However, that doesn’t mean that the instrumentation is second rate or cannot stand by itself without the vocals. With string instruments ranging from acoustic guitars to violin, hurdy gurdy and cello to table, drone and bodhran used for percussion, the arrangements are lush and immaculate.


Another important aspect of the album is the lyrics. Often, Loreena McKennitt does extensive research on the subjects that her albums deal with to the point where she visits places that her music draws influences from. Therefore, those of you who like to read lyrics will definitely feel more engaged while listening to The Book of Secrets. Moreover, a flaw that one might find at albums consisting of mid tempo songs is that they tend to sound a bit samey and linear. For most part, that’s not the case with this album as it contains a variety of melodies coming from different cultures. Therefore, even though the tempo is almost constant throughout The Book of Secrets, one can hear influences from the Middle East or the Mediterranean accompanied by the relevant instruments; an element that helps diversify the songs.

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Overall, regardless of one’s taste, this is an album that people who seek for emotional music should give a chance. It’s a pity that Loreena McKennitt seems to be enjoyed mostly by older audiences because her work can appeal equally to younger folks so give this album a spin and you won’t regret it. (by manosg)


Anne Bourne (cello on 06.)
Aidan Brennan (guitar on 03.,  mandola 0n 04. + 07.)
Martin Brown (guitar, mandolin, mandola on 05.)
Stuart Bruce (assembled drone on 01., vocal drone on 04.)
Paul Clarvis (snare drum on 05.)
Nigel Eaton (hurdy-gurdy on 02. + 04.)
Steáfán Hannigan (bodhrán on 05.)
Nick Hayley (serang, rebec, lira da braccio on 07.)
Brian Hughes (oud on 02., 04., 07. , guitar on 01., 04., 06., 07.,  irish bouzouki on 04., 05., 07.,  guitar synthesizer on 04., vocal drone on 04.)
Robin Jeffrey (guitar on 06.)
Martin Jenkins (mandocello on 03., 04., 05. + 07.)
Manu Katché (drums on 01., 02., 04. + 07.)
Caroline Lavelle (cello on 02., 05. + 08.)
Rick Lazar (percussion on 01., 02., 04., 05. + 07.)
Joanna Levine (viola da gamba on 03. + 06.)
Hugh Marsh (violin on 02. – 08.)
Loreena McKennitt (vocals, piano on 08., keyboards, harp on 06., kanun on 01.,  accordion on 04. + 05.)
Osama (violin on 04.)
Steve Pigott (keyboards on 03. + 08.)
Donald Quan (tabla on 02., 04., 07., timba, esraj on 01., viola on 02., 04., 05., 06., 08.,  keyboards on 03., 04., vocal drone on 04.)
Hossam Ramzy (percussion on 02., 04., 05. + 07.)
David Rhodes (guitar on 02.)
Danny Thompson (bass)
Bob White (tin whistle on 03., shawm on 04.)
String Quartet (on 03. + 07.):
Andy Brown (viola)
Chris van Kampen (cello)
Iain King (2nd violin)
Jonathan Rees (1st violin)

01. Prologue 4.20
02. The Mummers’ Dance 6.04
03. Skellig 6.07
04. Marco Polo 5.11
05. The Highwayman 10.22
06. Night Ride Across The Caucasus 8.27
07. Dante’s Prayer 7.10

All music written by Loreena McKennitt. All lyrics written by Loreena McKennitt except 05, which was writen by Alfred Noyes)



  • (coming soon)


Loreena McKennitt – The Mask And Mirror (1994)

FrontCover1The Mask and Mirror is an album by Loreena McKennitt. Released in 1994, the album has been certified Gold in the United States.


Like most of Loreena McKennitt’s albums, The Mask and Mirror is heavily influenced by her travels. Her experiences in Spain and Morocco, specifically, serve as the inspiration for this album.

As her introduction to the album, McKennitt wrote:

I looked back and forth through the window of 15th century Spain, through the hues of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, and was drawn into a fascinating world: history, religion, cross-cultural fertilization….For some medieval minds the mirror was the door through which the soul frees itself by passing…. for others the pursuit of personal refinement was likened to polishing the mirror of the soul. From the more familiar turf of the west coast of Ireland, through the troubadours of France, crossing over the Pyrenees, and then to the west through Galicia, down through Andalusia and past Gibraltar to Morocco….the Crusades, the pilgrimage to Santiago, Cathars, the Knights Templar, the Sufis from Egypt, One Thousand and One Nights in Arabia, the Celtic imagery of trees, the Gnostic Gospels…who was God? and what is religion, what spirituality? What was revealed and what was concealed…and what was the mask and what the mirror?

Accompanying all the selections, as the liner remarks, are some of the entries in a traveler’s log that McKennitt kept all throughout her journey.

The album’s cover uses a collage made from the medieval The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries.

Loreena McKennitt
Photo by Donna Griffith

Press play and enter the world of Loreena McKennitt, where walls dissolve into thick, billowing mists as the ground beneath your feet turns to compacted earth and the sky above opens up to reveal a black cloak dotted with shimmering stars draped beneath silk-like clouds. Were McKennitt’s composing and songwriting abilities lacking of any luster (as they most certainly are not), her voice would still possess the strength to hold her fifth album, The Mask and Mirror, up on its own. But the combination of this talented woman’s vocal prowess and songwriting ability makes her all the more similar to her work — ethereal and almost unbelievable in its level of quality. A mythical menagerie, The Mask and Mirror contains songs that lift the veil to reveal the soul of McKennitt’s work in eight dreamlike, Celtic-inspired tracks.

The opening track, “The Mystic’s Dream” (featured on the TNT movie The Mists of Avalon, based on the novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley), is a haunting tune that features McKennitt at her most heavenly peak as a vocalist, evoking the spirits of the instruments and Gregorian chant-like background vocals that accompany her on the track. The album excels at conjuring up mythical visions in the listener’s imagination, as with the gypsy-like tune “Marrakesh Night Market,” which echos of the picturesque scene the title invokes. The soul-searching “Full Circle” best exhibits McKennitt’s ability to transpose the true meaning of the lyrics into her songs.


Even after the song ends, the somber mood lingers softly in the air. The balalaika (a three-stringed triangular-shaped instrument), the bouzouki (an eight-stringed instrument), and the hurdy-gurdy (a stringed instrument that also has keyboard and percussion parts) are among the rare, strange instruments introduced on many of the songs, including the lighthearted, uplifting “Ce He Mise Le Ulaingt? (The Two Trees),” on which these instruments demonstrate their incredible quality and prowess. The lyrics of this track are none other than the words of the poem of the same name by William Butler Yeats. McKennitt’s unique use of the lyrical words of William Shakespeare, combined with her skillful adaptation of the words to the heavenly, undulating music, make the final track, “Prospero’s Speech,” an inspiration in itself. (by Kerry L. Smith


Anne Bourne (cello, background vocals)
Al Cross (drums)
Nigel Eaton (hurdy gurdy)
Ofra Harnoy (cello)
Brian Hughes (guitar, oud, balalaika, sitar)
Patrick Hutchinson (Bagpipes, pipe)
George Koller (bass, tambura, cello, esraj, tambura)
Rick Lazar (drums, percussion, udu)
Donal Lunny  (bouzouki, bodhrán)
Hugh Marsh (fiddle)
Loreena McKennitt (vocals, keyboards, goblet drums, accordion, piano,pipe)
Ravi Naimpally (tabla)
Abraham Tawfik (oud)
background vocals:
Victoria Scholars Choir conducted by Jerzy Cichocki
strings (on 07.2.)
Adele Armin – Andy Benac – David Hetherington – David Miller –  Douglas Perry –  Fujico Imajishi – Heinz Boshart – Kent Teeple – Mark Sabat – Marie Berard – Morry Kernerman – Sharon Prater – Susan Lipchak – Sylvia Lange


01. The Mystic’s Dream (McKennitt) 7.43
02. The Bonny Swans (Traditional) 7.21
03. The Dark Night Of The Soul (Traditional/St. John Of The Cross) 6.44
04. Marrakesh Night Market (McKennitt) 5.30
05. Full Circle (McKennitt) 5.57
06. Santiago (Traditional) 5.59
07. 1. Cé Hé Mise Le Ulaingt? (“Who Am I To Bear It”) (Hutchinson) 1.31
07.2. The Two Trees (Traditional/Yeats) 7.35
08. Prospero’s Speech (Traditional/Shakespeare) 3.23


Inlet02ACommunication … before we had the internet

Loreena McKennitt – The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2010)

FrontCover1The Wind That Shakes The Barley is the 9th studio album by the Canadian singer, songwriter, accordionist, harpist, and pianist Loreena McKennitt, which was released on November 12, 2010

Canadian singer/harpist Loreena McKennitt returns to her roots on The Wind That Shakes the Barley, making an album more in the traditional style of her 25-year-old debut, Elemental, than the more adult alternative hybrid efforts that have been more typical of her work since. Thus, the Celtic side of her music is emphasized in the inclusion of Scottish and Irish traditional songs like the title track, “The Star of the County Down,” and “On a Bright May Morning.” The last song prominently features her harp, as does the instrumental “Brian Boru’s March,” and she is accompanied by her usual backup musicians, including Ben Grossman (hurdy-gurdy), Brian Hughes (guitar), Caroline LaVelle (cello), and Hugh Marsh (violin). The chief attraction continues to be her haunting voice, which she employs to ethereal effect much of the time, although “The Star of the County Down” finds her taking a livelier, more direct approach, while in “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” her vocal is not so much ethereal as eerie. For many of McKennitt’s fans, this will be an album they have been waiting to hear for a long time. For others, it may be a change of pace in which an artist reveals the sources of her individual style. (by William Ruhlmann)

Ben Grossman (hurdy-gurdy drone, bodhrán, frame drum, taber, triangle, bells, shaker)
Ian Harper (pipes, whistle)
Brian Hughes (irish bouzouki, drone, guitar)
Caroline Lavelle (cello)
Hugh Marsh (violin)
Loreena McKennitt (vocals, keyboards, accordion, harp)
Pat Simmonds (guitar, button accordion)
Jeff Bird (mandola on 01. + 05., mandolin on 03., 06. + 08., bass on 01. + 08.)
Andrew Collins (mandolin 0n 02. + 07., mandocello on 07.)
Andrew Downing (bass on 05.)
Jason Fowler (guitar on 05.)
Chris Gartner (bass on 04.)
Tony McManus (guitar on 02., 04., 07. + 09.)
Brian Taheny (mandolin on 04.)


01. As I Roved Out (Traditional) 4.59
02. On A Bright May Morning (Traditional) 5.08
03. Brian Boru’s March (Traditional) 3.51
04. Down By The Sally Gardens (Traditional/Yeats) 5.39
05. The Star Of The County Down (Traditional) 3.34
06. The Wind That Shakes The Barley (Traditional/Joyce) 6.01
07. The Death Of Queen Jane (Traditional) 6.04
08. The Emigration Tunes (McKennitt) 4.42
09. The Parting Glass (Traditional) 5.13