Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Loreena McKennit: A Winter Garden

I've been a big fan of Loreena McKennitt's music for years. I think I first heard "Mummer's Dance" on the radio or at some New Age bookshop. My mom started collecting her CDs soon afterwards, and my whole family became huge fans. I heard her described somewhere once as "Enya with a library card," but I think she's a lot more than that. She's an incredibly talented musician and her music will simply transport you.

I thought I'd heard pretty much every one of her albums until I ran across this little gem at Chapters the other day. I've always listened to To Drive the Cold Winter Away obsessively during the Christmas season and I had no idea she had another Christmas album. A Winter Garden was a revelation for me.

The first three of five tracks on A Winter Garden will be familiar to listeners. "Coventry Carol," "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" and "Good King Wenceslas" are Christmas standards sung with their traditional tunes, through McKennitt has created interesting arrangements for them.

Coventry Carol is hauntingly beautiful and the arrangement is quite traditional. The arrangement for "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentleman" is overtly Celtic and might require a bit more getting used to (it sounds like a marauding band of ancient gypsies doing their own interpretation of the tune). "Good King Wenceslas" is a bit more modern in feel, it is still very traditional.

My favourite piece from the album is "Snow," a poem by Archibald Lampman (1861-1899) set to McKennitt's own music. It has that tremendous mystical and romantic quality that is the hallmark of her work. My only real quibble with the album is that this song should come at the end. It forms a nice bookend with "Coventry Carol."

The album's final track "Seeds of Love" is also composed by McKennitt and is the weakest link in the album. The melody is lovely, but the lyrics themselves, though traditional, just aren't as powerful as those of the other songs. Nevertheless, the album ends to quickly--it will leave you wanting more. I think it's time she came out with another Christmas album!


Anonymous said...

The cover art is lovely. I love pomegranates...on my plate and in art!

Bebe said...

It's Bebe (Southern~Gardener from the Vic forum). Just found your site and it is lovely! The artwork is so pretty and you write very well ~ am also interested in trying that stollen recipe!
Blissfully, Bebe :)

Tracy said...

What a find! Thank you for this recommendation. My husband and I are bit L. McKinnett fans and we were not aware of this. The cover is gorgeous too. We'll be adding this to our wishlist! Thank you for visiting my blog. It was wonderful to meet you here and find your lovely place here in blogland. I look forward to coming back! Happy Day :o)