Lessons I Learned From A Loreena McKennitt Concert


Untermyer Gardens. Photography By Suzanne Claire

Yes, lessons from Loreena McKennitt, but in a unexpected way.  In October of 2015, I attended two Loreena McKennitt concerts. One at the The Town Hall Theatre in Manhattan (New York) and the other at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Connecticut. It was a really special evening.  Loreena McKennitt is a fantastic artist; singer, songwriter, composer, musician; some of you may already know this, if you are familiar with her and her music. Now, I went to hear her sing, to listen and see the musical connection between her and her band members:
Caroline Lavelle and Brian Hughes

Of course. That’s generally why we go to concerts, right? To hear, watch and listen?  Well, from these two concerts, I got more than what I expected.  I got two big forms of advice, which felt like it was directed towards me. 

No, it wasn’t a person to person communication. Don’t I wish. But it was something that Loreena said at both concerts that hit home. Loreena, was speaking of her musical journey, and in the midst of her talk with us (the audience), she said (and I paraphrase) that if there is a certain kind of music you are interested in pursuing, you should probably do some research on it. Now this may seem mundane, or basic information, but it resonated deeply with me.  It was as if, she got up from her chair, moved her lever harp, and looked straight at me, pointedly.   Why did this resonate with me so much? Because I’m trying to pave the way for music I believe in. The music is Eclectic New Age. The New Age is a “reach from within” music. It’s the music that thrives and encourages looking from within; understanding what is in us and above all, finding our purpose and the meaning of our lives. The music comes in different forms of musical expression, but what drives it, is the same as the meaning of New Age. My challenge has been feeling comfortable saying this.  And believing that people will find it to be useful in their lives.  But through research, as Loreena mention, can help give a musician a clear path and a platform, to express the concept.  I have not done extensive research on New Age, but it does say, that New Age music has a lot to do with finding what is within ourselves.  The quest to define the path we are on, to find our life purpose.   

The second big advice, I heard from Loreena, was near the end of the concert at Ridgefield Playhouse, in Connecticut.  I should preface this by saying that at the concert in New York, I gave her four long stemmed sun flowers and my Spirit of Heart CD. I wasn’t sure if I should give this to her, because most of the songs on the cd is made with synthesized loops, added to my vocal harmonies. There are two songs where I play the harp. The reason I was reluctant to give it to her was because of the use of the loops. Although they sound like real instruments, I guess you could call it a bit fabricated. But it was my very first attempt at an album of all songs that I had written and felt strongly about. Also, vocally it was satisfying because it was a chance to add a great deal of harmonies, that are melodic and also sometimes dissident.   

But what Loreena said, made me look from within. Again I paraphrase.  She said, or rather asked us, the audience, that while we engage in music, let it be with other artists.  If engaging in music, do this with people. Make music together.  For me that was a big lesson. I worked on the cd project on my own, from the songwriting, to deciding what kinds of music, to all the vocals and vocal harmonies. I did get help from one of my close friend, Li, in vetting which songs would go on the album.  That, I handed over to her, because I really wanted it to be a group process.  You know, a project that involved a few people. But because I didn’t know about the direction of where my music would go, I wanted to find out for myself. I wanted to use my instincts, if you will. 

But I do find it important to work with others, when making music.  I love the concept of collaborating with other musicians. Though I do have musical experiences with band members, as I am in a band. (We play now and then) but just not the music that I make. It's a different style from what they are use to.  

Well, the advice Loreena McKennitt gave is certainly something I will take to heart, in a good way.  I guess this is good advice for all of us, who want to build our musician-ship :)

This was Loreena's stage set up at the Town Hall Theatre in New York