Q: How many people are travelling in your touring party, and what is your daily schedule on the road?
A: Well, the number of people on the road can vary slightly when one takes into account the “relief ” drivers: when the distance to be traveled by the trucks and buses exceeds the distance that one driver should undertake, additional drivers are needed. But overall, the number is somewhere between 35-40 people. This takes into account four buses, two trucks, caterers, merchandisers, lighting and sound crew, musicians, stage technicians, production and road managers, etc. It is like moving a little village around, setting up camp and striking it again, every day.
The daily schedule varies depending on what a person’s responsibilities are. If you are “crew” – which is everyone except the musicians, the road manager and assistants – it truly must be like a never-ending day.
Load-in usually occurs around 8 am, and the technical setup occurs all day long until sound check late in the afternoon. Caterers travel with the crew and set up at the venue right away and start making breakfast and the day’s meals for everyone. Someone often goes shopping for food locally.
The musicians and I often (but not always) travel earlier in the day to arrive at the venue for a sound check late in the afternoon. If we are lucky, we check into our hotel first. If not, we go straight to the venue and check in after the show at around midnight. Sometimes when drives are exceptionally long and it is too risky (due to potential traffic problems) to travel during the day, the band will travel overnight and check into a hotel room just for the day.
After sound check, we have dinner. It is one of the rare opportunities to see most of the traveling party, including the drivers, who likely will have been sleeping in the day (particularly the drivers of the crew bus and the trucks, as they almost always travel overnight.) This meal is a highlight of the day, and on this tour we have been blessed with exceptional caterers who are devoted to local fresh food. I love their company’s name, Saucery, and it is run by a wonderful team of three people, led by lovely Suzie. The show usually begins somewhere between 8 pm and 10 pm, depending on whatcountry we are in – and it can begin even a little later than that if we are in Spain.
Directly following the show, the musicians usually head back to the hotel and I stay at the venue to meet friends, business colleagues and special guests. Following this, I am usually found signing autographs if there are people waiting at the stage door. Then I head back to the hotel and crawl into bed somewhere between 1 and 2 am.
The morning always comes a bit too quickly and we are off once again, usually getting on the bus between 9 and 10 am, depending on where we are going. I usually spend these morning bus hours attending to administrative matters: some to do with the tour, and some to do with other QR matters back home. Once I arrive at the hotel or the venue for the next show, I may do some interviews.
Meanwhile, back at the venue at the end of the show the crew starts loading out the equipment and may not be finished this work until between 2 and 4 in the morning, again depending on how easy or complicated the load-out is. In Rome, for example, they could only send out one case at a time, of two trucks full of equipment, down an alley. Hence load-in and load-out were very long indeed. These stoic creatures, the crew, then trundle into the bus and into their bunks on the buses for a few precious hours of sleep before they get off the bus to load in again at 8 am.
And so, the next day begins. ~ LM
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Q: I notice that in your tour programme, you request that no photographs to be taken. What is your concern about photographs?
A: There are a few factors behind this request. The first consideration is that even though cameras have evolved to the extent that one can take photos without flashes going off, not everyone knows how to do this. I can think of a couple of concerts so far on this tour where, after all the pains we have taken to create an intimate and dramatic beginning, with just myself and a harp and a couple of other musicians, the lights flashing from the audience were like a fireworks display. Not only did it interrupt the mood I was trying to set for the song, I received numerous complaints from other audience members that they too found it disruptive.
Historically, it has also been the case in some theatrical productions – depending on what they are – that flashes can disrupt the concentration of the performers and cause them to forget lines. Then, too, there can be safety issues. I have been advised that this is still the case, although it is less of a concern for me personally from a safety standpoint.
Then there is the slightly thornier issue of taking photos of someone where permission has not been sought, or where the subject has explicitly asked that his or her photo not be taken, sometimes for religious, privacy or other reasons.
Additionally, now that we have entered the digital world, where photos are no longer kept in check as a result of the limitations of their format (analogue rather than digital), it is a fact that photos that would in the past have been kept for a photographer’s private collection are now peddled for public consumption. This, finally, can lead to the “pursuit” of well-known people.
As most of you know by know, I do not support or encourage the cult of celebrity. I believe that these concerts are a special time for us to spend together, unencumbered by the distracting process of physically capturing the moment. Rather, they are a time to focus our minds and hearts on the unique and personal experience of what we are sharing. I would say that this applies towhen I am signing autographs as well. For a person who has a public dimension to her career, constantly being photographed without permission can lead into a world where people start feeling that they “own” you as a performer, and have “rights” to you, including taking your picture whenever they wish. The far end of this scale is ‘stalking’
That said, we have not wanted to get heavy-handed with people who attend the concert. We decided therefore to simply place a courteous request in the programme so that the audience would be acquainted with my wishes and there would be no confusion. I hope there will be respect for my request. ~ LM
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Q: The song “Beneath The Phrygian Sky” (from An Ancient Muse) seems to take a different approach to some of your other songs. Can you explain?
A: This song was an attempt to bring some historical relevance to the present. Many times, as I undertook my research and travels, I was confronted with the questions: “What has history taught us, and do we have the capacity to learn from it?
As someone who has simply pursued her muse through an informal excavation of the past, I find that the historical landscape is littered with themes of war, peace, love, selfdetermination, liberty, identity, home, and cultural, religious and spiritual interactions. This song is rumination on how, over time and space, our basic needs as human beings seem to have remained the same: a need for identity, for belonging, for liberty, for spiritual engagement, for ways to resolve conflicts of interest.
As I must remind people, I am not an academic or an authority, but, like many people, an average person who learns about the world, history and life in my own personal way. The fact that I can then spin that personal experience into a musical document that is shared with others is almost secondary to the experience.
Certainly, when it comes to issues such as liberty, self- determination and our need to actively engage with our society, I am reminded of that wonderful Edmond Burke quote: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men [and women] to do nothing.” I cannot help but think of organizations such as Amnesty International, International PEN and Witness, which continue to undertake meaningful work in championing human rights, freedom of expression and encouraging people to move from being emotionally concerned with such issues, to actively working for our collective good.
If anyone is interested in further information regarding these organizations, we suggest that you visit their websites www.amnesty.org, www.internationalpen.org.uk and www.witness.org. ~ LM
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The Loreena tracks used in the series EZ Streets are: “The Mystic's Dream”, “Santiago”, “Bonny Portmore”, “The Old Ways”, “Ancient Pines”, “Courtyard Lullabye”, “Snow”, “Prospero's Speech”, “Full Circle”, “Huron ‘Beltane’ Fire Dance”, “Let All That Are to Mirth Inclined”, “Cymbeline” and “Seeds of Love”.
If you’re looking for a particular song, and not sure which one it is, why not visit Explore The Music on this website? We offer short sound samples of every song on every Loreena McKennitt CD. These sound samples should help you locate the particular songs you are looking for.
Loreena says: “There is something about the simplicity of voices singing in unison in a choir that has always had a special magic for me, whether it is at Christmastime in church or other gatherings, or throughout a variety of cultural and religious traditions around the world. Singing in a group is one of my earliest memories of making music, and it reminds me that in many places around the world, music is still something to participate in, rather than merely a fashion commodity to be purchased.
“The special sound of choral voices is something I hope to explore once again in the studio. It adds an air of community and shared experience that is very precious.”
However, as is often the case with such large-scale projects, there were a great number of artists asked to be involved, many logistic and creative arrangements to be satisfied, and – to make a long story short - the final arrangement of participating musicians did not feature Loreena. In many cases, it simply isn’t possible for everyone’s wish list – the people preparing the soundtrack, and the artists who have been contacted – to be big enough to include every avenue that has been explored.
Loreena certainly admires Howard Shore’s work (he is the Oscar-winning composer who wrote the main soundtrack and oversaw many of the collaborations) and she hopes to have an opportunity to work with him in future.
As for Loreena’s next recording, it’s a question that many of You Ask Us quite frequently! Loreena is presently in and out of the studio recording her next studio album, which is due to be released in autumn 2006. If you’d like to follow along with news of the new project, be sure to join the Quinlan Road Community via this website – you’ll be the first to receive the news.
“The Bonny Swans” is one of my favorite songs... but I noticed something that puzzled me. In the beginning, it is said that a farmer has three daughters and "they walked by the river's brim." The eldest sister pushes the youngest into the water, and she floats downstream and drowns. Then she is made into a harp, and brought to a court where it begins to play. At the end of the song, it is said that within the room are her "father, the king," her "mother, the queen," her "brother, Hugh," and William, presumably also her brother, as well as her "false sister, Anne" who drowned her "for the sake of a man." But didn't the daughters at the beginning of the song belong to a farmer, and weren't there three sisters instead of two sisters and two brothers? I've read through it numerous times and am still stumped! (Brock)
A.Loreena notes: “As with many traditional folk songs, it’s hard to say who wrote ‘The Bonny Swans’ because we simply are not quite sure. My friend Larry Fisher, a harp-maker and musicologist, notes that the song – also known in different incarnations as ‘Binnorie’ and ‘Twa Sisters’ – is a Scottish lowland murder ballad and has been recorded in countless different versions; there are at least 21 on record! One of the earliest versions dates back to 1656. As some of you will have observed from the lyric I have used, the story certainly seems to have contradictory statements (the number of sisters involved and the precise occupation of their father among them). I’d say that this, too, is often the case when a song is passed down and its lyric mutates over time – although it seems to me that this song never loses its power or its fascination, and the key themes (betrayal, loss, memory, rebirth and the Celtic image of the swan, symbolising death) remain.
“Larry recommends two website links with more information about this song and its many curious strands – happy hunting!”
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