Eileen McGann is an Irish-Canadian folk singer, songwriter and traditional Celtic musician. Her album, Beyond The Storm, was Juno Award-nominated in 2002. She has released seven solo CDs and has established an almost 30-year career touring across North America and Great Britain.
Eileen McGann was born in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada to Irish parents and was the third of four children. The family gradually moved to Calgary, Alberta, with Eileen the last to join them in 1990, after completing her studies at the University of Toronto & the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies, followed by an MFA in Drama in England. In 1999, she moved to rural Vancouver Island, British Columbia, where she is now based.
Her musical career began in her teens, mainly singing Irish and Scottish traditional music in Toronto, and she was a member of the Fiddler's Green Folk Club where she performed on a regular basis. She began playing major Canadian folk festivals in 1984 and shortly thereafter began touring across Canada and the US. Her professional career began while she was still attending university—where she ultimately earned four degrees (BA, BEd and two MA's) in various subjects, including history, philosophy, theatre and medieval studies.
Her interpretations of Celtic traditional songs made her name quickly on the Canadian folk music scene. With the release of her first album, Elements (1986), which included seven of her own songs, McGann began to be redefined as a singer-songwriter, even though she continued to sing Celtic traditional music. This album garnered attention in Great Britain, including a favourable review in Folk Roots magazine, as well as North America; she played her first British festival, the Glasgow MayFest in 1987.
Her second album, Turn It Around (1991), was hailed as one of the top albums of the year by the Boston Globe newspaper.
Her 1995 release, Journeys, continued her practice of including a number of her own compositions along with interpretations of lesser-known traditional Celtic songs. Responding to the requests of traditional music fans, her 1997 CD, Heritage, was entirely traditional Celtic and British material and was distributed by Borealis Records in Canada and is still in distribution by Greentrax in Scotland (July 2013).
In 2001, McGann released Beyond The Storm, which received a 2002 Juno Award nomination in the category of Best Roots or Traditional Album – Solo.
In 2004 McGann released a compilation CD entitled Light, which included three new songs as well as a themed selection of songs from previous albums. The CD is described as "songs of hope, healing and the spiritual journey", and was brought about at the request of an Alberta-based healer's collective which had been using McGann's songs in their work as inspiration for their clients.
Her seventh solo CD, Pocketful of Rhymes, was released late in 2010, and comprises an eclectic collection of original and traditional songs. This album garnered McGann a 2011 Canadian Folk Music Awards (CFMA) nomination as "Traditional Singer of the Year".
Some of her best-known songs include "Too Stupid for Democracy," a take on various political systems; "Requiem (for the Giants)," a lament for the loss of old-growth forests; "Turn It Around," a portrait of homelessness, and other songs on environmental, political and social themes, as well as songs on wilderness and canoeing. Her songs have been recorded by other artists (including Roy Bailey, Bram Taylor and Herdman-Hills-Mangsen) and included on compilation CDs in Britain, the US and Canada. Often her songs convey a woman's point-of-view, are about women in history (i.e., "Isabella Gunn"), or lament the plight of women.
All of McGann's CDs have been released on her own independent Dragonwing Music record label, which she began in 1986. Aside from her first album, McGann has been producer of her own CDs, with sideman and partner David K co-producing and engineering the most recent four releases.
In addition to performing at folk clubs, halls and festivals, McGann also teaches at a variety of music camps, and does individual workshops in songwriting, vocal styles, and traditional song.
In October 2011, BerLen Music of Ontario released The Eileen McGann Songbook, with 50 of her written and recorded songs, as part of the "Essential Canadian Songwriter Series."
McGann is also a painter of colourful, semi-representational landscapes and treescapes, mostly of Western Canada. She has exhibited in gallery shows on Vancouver Island.
In addition to her painting, McGann draws Celtic knotwork. She teaches classes, tutorials, and workshops in visual art, including how to draw Celtic knotwork designs freehand at music and arts festivals.
|2010||Pocketful of Rhymes||*Dragonwing Music
|2001||Beyond the Storm||*Dragonwing Music
|1991||Turn It Around||*Dragonwing Music
As part of "Trilogy" (Eileen McGann, Cathy Miller and David K):
|1996||Two Thousand Years of Christmas||*Dragonwing Music
- The Eileen McGann Songbook, BerLen Music, Guelph, Ontario, 2011