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Suggested Albums: Loreena Mc Kennitt 's album "The Book of Secrets" (1997) in her own words

Official Press - Loreena comments track by track

"Once you have lasted the secrets, you will have an even stronger desire to understand them."

The songs on this rccording have been assembled like a mosaic, with disparate pieces collected from many places and fitted together one by one. I was inspired, in creating this prologue, by both my own travels to Greece and Turkey, and the resonances of the journeys of others encountered in my research. One such exploration was that of the 6th century monk John Moschos, whose travels from Mount Albos in Greece to Byzantium were the subject of this book The Spiritual Meadow. I found another in William Dalrymple's From The Holy Mounioin, in which the author retraces Moschos' footsteps in the 1990s.

A musical painting of the traditional folk custom of mumming, which has its rools in the tree-worshipping of the peoples who inhabited great regions of a foresled Europe now long gone. Mummers, dressed in masks and costumes bedecked with ribbons and rags. are performers who parade through village streets to neighbouring houses, singrng songs and carrying branches of greenery. Though such celebrations appear to be related to our Hallowe'en, they usually occur at different times of the year, particularly the New Year and close to May Day.
The chorus and last verse of this song are taken from an original mummers' song traditally sung in Abingdon in Berkshire.

The lyrics to this song tell the story of an elderly Irish monk in, the 7th century. Having spent most of his life in the isolated rcligious community of Skellig Michael on the west coast of Ireland, he then travels with his fellow monks to Hurope, perhaps to Haly. On his deathbed, he passes on to a fellow brother the responsibility of continuing his work: the copying, and thus the preservation, of ancient texts.
Those illuminated works, it has been argued, were of crucial importance in reintroducing classical literature to the F.uropcan continent after the decline of the Roman Empire. Despite their weighty content, the manuscripts handed down to us also display the lively personalities of their long-ago scribes. Many are embellished in the margins with irreverent asides, comments to the lonely monks' far-off loved ones, and charming drawings of birds, mice and other small creatures.

This piece was conceived with the exotic voyages of Marco Polo in mind. A thirteenth-century Venetian merchant. Polo's quest may have been for the rich rewards of silks and spices, but he brought back more than merchandise: his tales of the East fired the imaginations of his fellow Europeans for centuries to come. What wonders did he encounter on his journey? What new sights and sounds? Thinking of his travels, I have incorporated an authentic Sufi meody into the body of my own melody.

This is my musical setting of the lamed narrativc poem by Staffordshire-born poet Alfred Noyes. His early works at the dawn of the twentieth century were remarkable for their popularity, not only with litterary society and fellow poets such as Swinburne, but also with readers from all social classes. Recording at Real World Studios, I learn that this very area of Wiltshire had its own highwaymen two centuries ago, and the lush, dramatic beauty of the countryside seems to fit Noyes' lyrics perfectly.

Perhaps this music will conjure up echoes of Venice's rich, and at times fantastically opulent, past. One such moment was surely the occasion of the young Henry 111 of France's visit to "the most serenene city in 1574. Upon his arrival, he was dazzled by an extraordinary pageant arranged in his honour: floating archcs, ralis ofglass-blowers creating figurines as they floated past, commissioned paintings by masters of the era. Jan Morris describes that scene, in delicious detail, in her book Venice.

I was fascinated by Murat Yagan's autobiography, I Come From Behind Kaf Mountain. It relates his initiation into the world of Sufism through equestrian training in a remote and mountainous part of the Caucasus. This led me on to the further exploration of certain Sufic sentiiments "Music and singing do not produce in the heart that which is not in it."

I travelled by train across Siberia in December of 1995. Although my initial intention was to find a solitude which would allow me to work on the themes and ideas for this recording, I was drawn in and distracted by the moving tableau of humanity which passed by my window. At the same time, I had begun to make my way through Dante' s The Divine Comedy. When I retumed to it, something about all those souls I had met and seen seemed to hauntme; seemed connectced, somehow, to Dante's words.

Track Listing

All compositions by Loreena McKennitt except as noted

  1. "Prologue" – 4:22
  2. "The Mummers' Dance" – 6:07
  3. "Skellig" – 6:07
  4. "Marco Polo" – 5:15
  5. "The Highwayman" (Lyrics by Alfred Noyes, abridged by Loreena McKennit) – 10:19
  6. "La Serenissima" – 5:09
  7. "Night Ride across the Caucasus" – 8:30
  8. "Dante's Prayer" – 7:11

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