Loreena McKennitt

Loreena McKennitt


Many people come to know the public persona of an artist and wonder what they are like off-stage. I may not be the best person to paint that picture, but let me try.

I grew up in rural Manitoba, Canada, the daughter of a nurse and a livestock dealer and enjoyed a fairly free and easy rural childhood. I aspired to be a veterinarian as a child but, in the way that “the best laid plans get sent sideways”, I found that music chose me rather than me, it. Interestingly, even after many years of performing, I don’t consider myself to have the strong extroverted personality best suited for a career in music, but rather one which is more comfortable on a farm, in an informal gathering of friends.

I became smitten with what is now referred to as Celtic music in the late 1970s, but it was only when I started to connect with its history that my journey really began. At an exhibition of Celtic artifacts in Venice in 1991, I learned about the geographic and historic spread of the Celts. I found myself drawn into a rich, ancient tapestry of sounds and rhythms and stories. I discovered myths and traditions that resemble one another from far corners of the globe, people who share traits and yet are distinctive.

My starting point is the belief that, in one way or another, we are all an extension of each other’s history. Wanting to learn about our neighbours is also a desire to learn about ourselves. I have simply chosen the Celtic vehicle in which to do this. No doubt I could have chosen another conduit for my music – let’s say the history of hats – and experienced just as interesting a journey as I have had with Celtic history. But that vehicle has taken me to so many places and people worldwide and also down paths and into themes with little Celtic connection whatsoever.

But music is not only a marvelous medium for self-education and creative expression. I am also in awe of music’s unique capacity to induce and enhance moods and psychological states and the great linkages it has to physiology. This is illustrated in the field of music therapy, not only for humans but also for animals. I think of dairy farmers who pipe in classical music to induce cows to give more milk, or of a recent film set in Mongolia called The Story of the Weeping Camel, in which a mother camel rejects her calf only to reclaim it following a musical ritual. I think of the MIT professor who uses MRI scans to study the impact on the brain of the meditation and chanting of Kundalini yoga.

I am deeply interested in these connections between physiology and our spiritual and psychological beings, and the many events and experiences that inspire us. Surely some creativity comes from this set of intersections.

Beyond music, I have a free-ranging curiosity about many things and a pretty hefty filing cabinet to prove it! My drawers are chock-a-block full of clippings and materials on subjects ranging from childhood development to environmental issues, agriculture, politics, food and nutrition, puppets, religion and many world issues.

Some of these interests are knit deeply into my daily life and our work at Quinlan Road, as I think it’s important to give to and be part of our greater communities. In 1998, I started the Cook-Rees Memorial Fund for Water Search and Safety, when three people very dear to me – Ronald Rees, Richard Rees and Gregory Cook – perished in a boating incident not far from where I live. Thanks to the generosity of friends and families in Stratford and around Canada and the world, we’ve been able to support a range of initiatives involving water safety education as well as search, rescue and recovery exercises. I cannot tell you how inspiring it has been for me to get to know the wonderful, dedicated people working in this area, many of whom go out to risk their lives on our behalf every day.

Another project close to my heart has been the establishment of the Falstaff Family Centre. This initiative began as an effort to rescue a redundant school house in the city where I live and bring it to its next incarnation. It is a lovely, sturdy building, very close to the river and by working with people in the community, we’ve been able to turn this historic building into a centre for community and children’s activities.

Each spring, I carve out time to plant my garden in order to keep some remnants of an intimate relationship with food, the land and the seasons and every autumn, I set aside time to celebrate the harvest at Thanksgiving.

And just as one builds a company’s mission statement based on values and principles, I have done the same thing for myself. Certain principles have become my compass points. I reference them whenever I make important choices and decisions, professionally or personally. They are things to which I strive and am pleased to share some of them with you.

  • Be compassionate and never forget how to love.
  • Think inclusively.
  • Reclaim noble values such as truth, honesty, honour, courage.
  • Respect one’s elders and look to what they have to teach you.
  • Be empathetic.
  • Look after the less fortunate in society.
  • Promote and protect diversity.
  • Respect the gifts of the natural world.
  • Set your goals high and take pride in what you do.
  • Cherish and look after your body, and, as the ancient Greeks believed, your mind will serve you better.
  • Put back into the community as there have been those before you have done the same and you are reaping what they sowed.
  • Participate in and protect democracy. It does not thrive as a spectator sport.
  • Undertake due diligence in everything.
  • Seek balance and space, and solitude.
  • Don’t be afraid to feel passionate about something.
  • Learn to be an advocate and an ambassador for good.
  • Be mindful of your limitations.
  • Indulge and nurture your curiosity as it will keep you vital.
  • Take charge of your life and don’t fall into the pit of entitlement.
  • Assume nothing and take nothing for granted.
  • Things are not necessarily what they seem.


Loreena McKennitt is well known as a composer and singer. In a recording career spanning more than three decades, Ms. McKennitt’s ‘eclectic Celtic’ music has received critical acclaim world-wide, and gold, platinum and multi-platinum sales awards in 15 countries across four continents. To date, she has sold over 14 million albums with a catalogue that includes seven studio recordings, three seasonal recordings, a live in-concert DVD and two DVD documentaries. She’s won two Junos, Canada’s premiere music award, and has performed for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Less well known is the fact that Ms. McKennitt is a highly successful businesswoman who has created an independent record label with celebrated international success.

Born in Morden, Manitoba, Canada, she moved to Stratford, Ontario in 1981, where she initially worked with Canada’s renowned Stratford Festival. In 1985 she established her own record label, Quinlan Road, a move which has made her a rarity in the music industry.

In the early years, Ms. McKennitt ran the operation from her kitchen table, selling her recordings by mail order and producing her own concert tours. Today, she leads her own company with responsibilities that include everything from creating strategic business plans to overseeing marketing and promotion.

Ms. McKennitt’s business acumen is also applied to the three charitable foundations she established. Her Three Oaks Foundation provides financial support to cultural, environmental, historical and social groups.

The Cook-Rees Memorial Fund for Water Search and Safety, founded in 1998, has raised more than $4 million in support of water safety education, as well as search, rescue and recovery operations.

In 2000, Ms. McKennitt purchased a recently-closed public school in Stratford and transformed it into the Falstaff Family Centre. Responding to concerns identified by the local community, the Centre focuses on the needs of families and children in Perth County, Ontario, which is where she resides.

Ms. McKennitt’s passion for business is matched by her passion for human rights. In 2006 and 2007 she was involved in a landmark human rights privacy case in Britain, where the courts ruled in her favour. The judgment, which was upheld by the House of Lords, has helped to advance privacy law around the world.

Ms. McKennitt is a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Manitoba. In 2002 and 2012 she was the recipient of Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals and in 2013 she was appointed to the rank of Knight of the National Order of Arts and Letters by the Republic of France.

From 2006 to 2013 Ms. McKennitt held the position of Honorary Colonel of the 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron in the Royal Canadian Air Force and upon completion of the appointment was awarded the RCAF Commander’s Commendationin recognition of outstanding professionalism and dedication.

She also holds honourary degrees from the University of Manitoba (Winnipeg), Sir Wilfrid Laurier University (Waterloo), Queen’s University (Kingston) and George Brown College (Toronto).

Awards & Honours


14 million albums sold worldwide over a catalogue spanning seven studio albums, three seasonal recordings, six live recordings, three compilations and three DVDs.

Canadian sales awards include one five-times platinum certification for sales of over 500,000 copies (The Visit), two four-times platinum certifications for sales of over 400,000 copies (The Mask and Mirror, The Book of Secrets), one platinum certificate for sales of over 100,000 copies of An Ancient Muse, four gold certifications for sales of over 50,000 copies (Elemental, To Drive the Cold Winter Away, Parallel Dreams, A Winter Garden: Five Songs for the Season) and triple platinum for sales of the concert DVD Nights from the Alhambra.

U.S. sales awards include one double-platinum certification for sales of over two million copies for The Book of Secrets, whose success was led by the radio-driven Top 20 Billboard single “The Mummers’ Dance”, which became a worldwide hit. U.S. sales awards also include two gold certifications for sales of over a half million copies (The Mask and Mirror, The Visit).

Italian sales awards include silver certification for An Ancient Muse. Gold certification sales awards were granted for Nights from the Alhambra in Australia and Germany. Gold, platinum and multi-platinum sales awards in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, New Zealand, Spain and Turkey.

  • GRAMMY Award nominee, Best New Age Album 2013, for Troubadours on the Rhine.
  • GRAMMY Award nominee, Best Contemporary World Music Album 2007, forAn Ancient Muse.
  • North American Folk Alliance Award, World Music Recording of the Year 2008, for An Ancient Muse
  • Juno Award nominee, Music DVD of the Year 2008, for Nights from the Alhambra
  • Billboard International Achievement Award, 1997
  • Juno Award, Best Roots/Traditional Album 1994, for The Mask and Mirror
  • Juno Award, Best Roots/Traditional Album 1992, for The Visit


  • Original music for “The Merchant of Venice”, The Stratford Festival of Canada, 2001
  • Original music for the National Film Board of Canada Studio D documentary series “Women And Spirituality”, 1985-1989
  • Film soundtrack contributions include the Hollywood productions “Highlander III”, “Jade”, “Holy Man” and “Ever After” (trailer), Jean-Claude Lauzon’s feature film “Léolo”, the Canadian/Venezuelan feature film “Una Casa Con Vista Al Mar” and the award-winning Italian director Marco Tullio Giordana’s “Quando Sei Nato”
  • Composed and performed a key song for the Disney release “Tinker Bell”, which she also narrated, 2008
  • Composed and performed a featured song for the Disney production “The Santa Clause”, 1994
  • Television soundtrack uses include TNT’s miniseries “The Mists of Avalon”, and American series “Due South”, “Northern Exposure”,  “Legacy” and “Roar”


  • Member of the Order of Canada, 2004
  • Member of the Order of Manitoba, Canada, 2003
  • HRH Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, 2002
  • HRH Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, 2012
  • Knight of the National Order of Arts and Letters, Republic of France, 2013
  • Royal Canadian Air Force Commander’s Commendation in recognition for outstanding professionalism and dedication, 2013
  • Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner’s Commendation for continued community service in promoting water safety, 2003
  • Honorary Doctor of Letters, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada, 2002
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Manitoba, Canada, 2005
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada, 2005
  • Honorary Bachelor of Applied Business, George Brown College, Toronto, Canada, 2010
  • Canadian Ambassador, Hans Christian Andersen Bicentenary, 2005

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