YOUR NAME: Loreena McKennitt
HOMETOWN: Morden, Manitoba
YEARS IN RESIDENCE: I was born in Morden, and lived there for 17 years. My mother was a nurse and my dad a livestock dealer.
WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW: Stratford, Ontario
LAST TIME YOU WERE HOME? I go back a couple of times each year.
LOCAL SCHOOL ATTENDED: Morden Elementary and Morden High School, but I graduated from Balmoral Hall in Winnipeg.
LOCAL JOBS YOU HELD: I had a paper route and I was the organist at church. I wanted to be a vet, but music chose me instead.
YOUR LOCAL MENTORS, IF ANY: My music teachers—both passed on now— were Neil Hoeppner and Olga Friesen. I owe them a lot.
FAVOURITE HANGOUTS: The park. That was the place to go running, biking and play hide and seek.
BEST PLACE TO GET INTO TROUBLE: The Dairy Queen
BEST SWIMMING HOLE: Lake Minnewasta outside town. Took swimming lessons there (and got to lifeguard level). My mother, my brother and I would spend two weeks each summer there in a cabin—cold running water, hard benches for beds—and it was great.
YOUR TOWN’S CLAIM TO FAME (BEFORE YOU): Fossils, some of them 80 million years old, found in a nearby bentonite mine. Now they have the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT THIS PLACE? That the Agriculture Canada research station has done amazing work developing varieties
of roses, corn and apples. And that the Corn And Apple Festival every August is wonderful.
Loreena McKennitt is one of Canada’s most successful international artists, having sold more than 14 million albums around the world and achieved gold and multi-platinum status in more than 15 countries. She tours frequently, taking her “eclectic Celtic” music to places as distant as Turkey, Lebanon, Hungary and Greece, but when not on tour, she prefers to stay close to home at her farm outside Stratford, Ontario. As a self-managed, self-produced artist who heads her own record label, Quinlan Road, McKennitt has come a long way since she began her company more than 20 years ago, selling her first records from her kitchen table. Now, her CDs are marketed by major companies, including Universal Music and Verve, leaving her a little spare time to devote to her many community involvements. For instance, she is the Honorary Colonel of 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron in Winnipeg, a role that has given her a deep understanding of the work undertaken by Canada’s military and the families of those serving overseas. McKennitt also raised almost $4 million to found the Cook-Rees Memorial Fund for Water Search and Safety, purchased a Stratford school building to create the Falstaff Family Centre, and established the Three Oaks Foundation, a charitable body that supports cultural, environmental, historical and social groups. As a traveller who finds the journey as fascinating as the destination, Loreena McKennitt clearly relishes her small-town roots at the same time as she enjoys the bustle of running her own business, touring the world, and making music.
More than 40 years ago, in 1976, James Lawrence pasted together the first edition of Harrowsmith magazine on his kitchen table in rural Ontario. Totally unique, it was the first Canadian magazine to focus on organic living, alternative energy sources, and a country lifestyle. Lawrence’s ode to back-to- the-land virtues quickly attracted legions of fans and soon became Canada’s bible for rural living.