December 15, 2022 Loreena McKennitt – Under A Winter’s Moon (Live Album Review)
Canada’s Loreena McKennitt is one of the most unique talents in the world of modern music. A soprano with the voice of an angel, she has accomplished a great deal as a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer. Doing so while unifying various cultural stylings, ranging from Middle Eastern and Celtic, McKennitt has also always broadened her audience’s minds. Doing so yet again, on November 18, 2022 she released her newest album Under a Winter’s Moon.
Released via UMe through her own label Quinlan Road, fittingly, it is a live album. An interesting piece of work, it was captured from various recordings at a historic sanctuary in Stratford, Ontario on a handful of nights close to the winter solstice in December of 2021. Consisting of carefully selected pieces, in all it encompasses 23 tracks of music and storytelling. Put out as a six-panel, two-disc digipak, the seasonal readings are by Canadian Indigenous actor and Companion of the Order of Canada recipient, Tom Jackson, Gemini Award-winning actor Cedric Smith, and Ojibway artist and flautist Jeffrey Red George. Feeling more like a grand theater production, it is a unique look at the Christmas season from a very worldly view.
As stated, Under A Winter’s Moon is a walk-through Christmas carols, tales and several music styles… so be prepared to be taken on a journey. This in mind, it all begins with Jackson reading the Indigenous creation story The Sky Woman Story. Educational, the whole second set then breaks Smith’s reading into six parts of A Child’s Christmas in Wales; a nostalgic piece of prose by the late, great Welsh Poet Dylan Thomas. In between it all you have some enchanting songs; this includes the a cappella styled “Bululalow,” showing off the beautiful voice of McKennitt, as well as the gentle “Let Us the Infant Greet” complete with traditional arrangements that are reminiscent of the Middle Ages.
Additionally, the traditional Irish song “The Wexford Carol” shines bright, while the instrumental piece “Banquet Hall” is nothing short of impressive. Continuing on, the theatrics continue to dazzle with “Dickens’ Dublin” as it begins with the sound of horse shoes clanking. Thereafter “Un Flambeau Jeanette, Isabelle / I Saw Three Ships Medley” draws you in with a flute, and then continues with an instrumental arrangement that paints marvelous visual imagery. Other standout moments also include “Jeffrey George Recites Winter Diamonds,” “Huron Carol,” but also closer “Let All That Are to Mirth Inclined” as McKennitt and company truly capture the Christmas spirit.
As always, Loreena McKennitt finds a way to bring together different traditions, heritages and styles in a very elegant fashion. Furthermore, her vocal, as well as instrumental skills continue to impress. That said, while each song on this album might sound different, they are all very humble and pure in their presentation. With so much to take in, Under a Winter’s Moon is truly something that should be enjoyed as a whole piece, and not in fractions. This in mind, do just that, invest in the digipak, and feel the passion beam from the stereo speakers, because Cryptic Rock gives this album 5 out of 5 stars.