Loreena Mckennitt

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In The Bleak Midwinter
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The Bells Of Christmas
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Christmas Music Playlists with Loreena Mckennitt Songs

Let Loreena Help You Swim Against Winter's Chilling Tide

Loreena McKennitt is a Canadian performer of Irish extraction who specialises in Celtic music. She has sold in excess of 15 million records since she set out in the mid 1980's with a good deal of her output concerned with winter's frosty climes. Understandably this makes for enjoyable festive listening especially as the fire crackles warmly in the corner. For her first seasonal affair you must go back as far as 1987 when her album 'Drive the Cold Winter Away' was released. All 10 songs were recorded in hallowed venues throughout Ireland and Canada including a working monastery in County Limerick which leveraged another dimension out of the already haunting old timer 'The Wexford Carol'. McKennitt contributed an admirable 3 new compositions to the album with all the others drawn from traditional sources of various vintage. ‘In Praise of Christmas’ and ‘The Seasons’ were the low-ebbed opening tracks with the light instrumentation no contest for McKennitt’s soprano. McKennitt own ‘The Stockford Carol’ sits accomplished amongst the more established material, neither disturbing the flow nor introducing anything radical to the slow tumble of gentleness.

While 'Drive the Cold Winter Away' is probably quite a way from the bauble heavy nature of contemporary Christmas music it is nonetheless a godsend for those looking for meditative solace over the holidays. The harp playing is pronounced throughout with songs like ‘Let Us The Infant Greet’ transporting you to your local church as the clock is about to strike midnight on Christmas Eve. Following 'Drive the Cold Winter Away' it would be a number of years before Loreena touched on the sounds of the season again but her own composition 'The Bells of Christmas' was featured on the soundtrack to the hugely successful 1994 movie 'The Santa Claus'. This was a marked change from her earlier Christmas album as it included backing vocals and a general sense of cinematic greatness in the instrumentation.

Loreena's eventual Christmas follow up to 'Drive the Cold Winter Away' came in 1995 and this time it was in the much shorter format of an EP called 'A Winter Garden: Five Songs For The Season'. Only McKennitt’s reading of the Archibald Lampman poem 'Snow' had been previously released but with its soft harp parts contrasting with McKennitt’s searing yet crystal clear vocals it was hard to resist. The EP's lead single was 'God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen', a 6-minute epic that a clear move in the direction of world music. This characteristic means this rendition would be just as home in the Australian outback as back home in snowy Canada.

McKennitt’s EP would see the light of day again in 2008 on ‘A Midwinter Night’s Dream’, an album that saw all 5 tracks reworked as well as the addition of 8 new festive recordings. A pair of these new tracks 'The Seven Rejoices of Mary' and 'Noël Nouvelet!' were released as singles in time for that year’s Christmas season. The former was folk in direction with the air of an old Irish lament while the latter had an eastern sound with a sense of mystique and the unknown felt at every turn. In late 2012 McKennitt joined many of the world’s brightest female lights, like Sarah McLachlan and Andrea Corr, in performing Christmas songs at the ‘The American Christmas Carol’ concert in Carnegie Hall in aid of Kate Winslet’s Golden Hat Foundation which raises awareness for autism.

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