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Loreena McKennitt, Celt folk music and LGBT inspiration

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SAN DIEGO – In the 90’s, there was a huge Celtic musical movement in the United States and Loreena McKennitt was at the forefront of that affection even in the LGBT community. Her haunting song “The Mummer’s Dance” stayed on Billboard’s Hot 100 for 20 weeks. Today she continues to bring inspiration to her audiences.

On March 10, music fans in the San Diego area will be presented a rare treat as McKennitt, master interpreter of Celtic music and its origins, takes the stage at Spreckels Theatre.

For the first time since 2007, McKennitt is touring the U.S., presenting a series of scaled back concerts which, she says, allows her to share the stories behind her songs and her many travels.

Miss McKennitt and I recently talked, and we discussed the origins of the tour, her love of the Celts, and the appreciation of her music within the LGBT community.

In order to understand the nature of this particular tour, McKennitt took us back to 1981, when she began a project focusing on an era in Irish history from 1840 at the beginning of the Irish Potato famine up to 1922 at the beginning of their civil war.

It was a time of great upheaval within the small country when many migrated to other parts of the world in an attempt to forge a better life for themselves and their families. Many of these immigrants found their way to the shores of Canada, the singer’s own homeland, and her project was meant to tell the stories of some of these families through eyewitness accounts and the songs associated with the time period.

“It was a project that I would never finish but when we were setting up to do this performance a year and a half ago, I thought it might be interesting to weave some of that material into the performance, as well,” she says.

Several years after the initial project was set aside, she attended an extensive exhibition on the Celts in Venice where she learned that, far from merely being natives to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, they were actually descended from a vast collection of tribes that traveled across Europe and into Asia Minor as far back as 500 BC.

Intrigued, she spanned the globe for decades, finding history through song, and developed what would become her signature sound by incorporating instrumentation from these varied regions into her band.

She insists, though, that she is not setting herself up as an academic on the subject, but an artist who was moved by its design.

“I think I’m just someone who’s taken a keen interest in the same way that some people would be collecting coins or hats or food from around the world,” she said. “There was something inherent in the Celtic music that made it quite infectious, and I’ve noticed that response from people around the world. So, I was one more victim of this infectious and inspirational music.”

Inspirational music is something that the LGBT community holds sacred.

Many of McKennitt’s albums such as The Mask and the Mirror and The Visit are odes to transformation, self-discovery, and victory in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

The singer says she is absolutely delighted that her music has found its way into the LGBT community and that they can find solace and strength within it.

”I think that one of the most fascinating and meaningful things that I’ve learned in my travels is that people the world over, when you distill them down, they have pretty much the same needs,” she says. “They have a need to be loved. They have a need to belong. They need to exert themselves with determination, and these are principles that I think are just universal and timeless.”

Traveling with a simple trio of musicians on the tour has allowed McKennitt to really take part in her favorite part of exploring new regions.

She points out that being able to drive short distances between venues instills her with a sense of place and allows her to really come to know the people and attributes of new cities in a way that is simply impossible while traveling by plane and with a large band.

“You know, whether it’s in Ireland or Morocco or whether it’s in Texas or Quebec City, I love the act of just being able to engage with people and welcome any opportunity to do that. So, we’re really looking forward to this!” she said.

Loreena McKennitt is a master storyteller and musician and she is inviting each member of her audience to explore with her the themes and ideas that speak to the Celt in all of us.

Whether we discover the warrior, the lover, or the priest within ourselves, the universality of the music she presents is sure to create a memorable evening for the LGBT community and beyond.

Tickets are still available via Ticketmaster to see Loreena McKennitt at Spreckels Theatre at 121 Broadway, Suite 600 in San Diego on March 10, at 8 pm.

Loreena McKennitt – The Mummers’ Dance by dudel_didel

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