Michael Lohr reviews Loreena McKennit's combined CD/DVD offering.
After seeing Loreena McKennitt perform live on her most recent tour I can tell you without a doubt that the Nights from the Alhambra DVD and accompanying CD are the next best thing to being there.
Filmed live in HDTV in the Moorish heart of Medieval Spain at Alhambra Castle in Granada, which also served as the palace of King Charles V, this production originally aired on the PBS television series Great Performances. Nights from the Alhambra displays Loreena in all her creative, multi-textured prominence. From her signature Celtic ballads such as “Bonny Portmore” and “She Moved Through The Fair” to her rich, narrative world music compositions, “Santiago”, “Caravanserai” and “Marco Polo” to her biggest hit, “The Mummer’s Dance” from her platinum recording The Book of Secrets, this collection covers every aspect of her career. Nights from the Alhambra also contains and some highlights from the making of her most recent recording, An Ancient Muse.
On Nights from the Alhambra, as on all her projects, Loreena weaves a tapestry that is equal parts historical, cultural and spiritual. She has been mislabeled as a ‘Celtic’ performer, which is a misnomer. Loreena draws her inspiration from a variety of muses.
From such diverse literary influences as Shakespeare, Tennyson and Sir Walter Scott to various figures of world history as well as ancient myths and legends, Loreena McKennitt educes a melange of material and metaphors from these various topical areas. To call her just a Celtic performer would be like calling Leonardo Da Vinci, just a painter.
In concert, Loreena makes use of many non-Western musical instruments including the oud, the Turkish clarinet, the kanoun and the tabla, all of which are on prominent display on Nights from the Alhambra. There are a multitude of guest musicians as well including renowned Jazz guitarist Brian Hughes (guitar, bouzouki, oud), Steafan Hannigan (percussion, bodhran, Uillean pipes) and the uncommonly talented Caroline LaVelle on cello.
When speaking about the castle itself, the Nights from the Alhambra concert and subsequent DVD/CD release, Loreena said, “I believe that the real beauty of the Alhambra is that it holds our dreams of the eternal within its stones. That same eternal truth, perhaps, that we performers strive for when we share our songs and stories.” This is the essential beauty of Nights from the Alhambra, it captures the mystery and thrill of Loreena’s live performance in a way that most live concert discs never achieve.