Biography

Talitha MacKenzie, a native of New York, has been singing all her life. Whistling and humming tunes from the age of six months, her first public performance was at a family wedding, a week before her third birthday. She began studying classical piano at the age of four and by thirteen she already had music students of her own.

Growing up in multicultural New York, she became enthralled with traditional singing from all over the world. Having first heard Gaelic song at the age of seven, she was in her teens when she began to collect field recordings of old-style traditional singing. With nothing but a Teach Yourself Gaelic textbook, she began the arduous task of learning the language, so that she could perform the songs that she loved. At the same time, she was studying French and Russian at school and consuming Slavic and French Impressionist piano music by the book.

First enrolling as a student of Russian at Connecticut College, she transferred and then graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music, her degree in Music History/Ethnomusicology. It was here that she led the Eastern European Music Ensemble and sang in the Conservatory Choir, performing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (under conductors Seiji Ozawa, Colin Davis and Claudio Abbado). Her first job after graduation was team-teaching a course in Music & Dance at Harvard University.

Between college and conservatory, a job at World Tone Music (on Manhattan's 7th Avenue) placed Talitha at the centre of the International Folk Dance Scene, where she was inundated with exotic modes and unusual rhythms. She also became involved in a number of specialist dance ensembles (including Renaissance/Baroque, Balkan and Celtic). This, along with her work as shantyman and deckhand on Tall Ships, gave her a unique insight into the organic rhythms of movement-related music.

By the mid-1980's she had recorded an album with Boston-Irish group ST. JAMES GATE and her first solo album, SHANTYMAN!. After several years of touring solo across America and performing mouth music with Scottish dancebands, Talitha moved to Scotland in 1987, where she performed with the Scottish Folk Ensemble Drumalban.

In 1988, she co-founded the duo Mouth Music, whose groundbreaking eponymous album (featuring contemporary World Music arrangements of traditional Gaelic songs) topped charts in Music Week and Billboard, receiving international critical acclaim. While her music partner left to pursue other projects (still using the name Mouth Music), Talitha continued the original Mouth Music project under her own name, releasing a second solo album, SÒLAS (solace), in 1993.

In 1995, a role in the Gaelic play, REITEACH, took her on tour throughout Scotland. Later that year, she signed a contract with Shanachie Entertainment Corp., recording her third solo album, SPIORAD (spirit), in France, with producer Chris Birkett (whose credits include Sinéad O' Connor, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Alison Moyet).

Talitha has spent much of the past ten years composing, teaching and directing the a cappella Women's Group Sedenka, who have performed at the Edinburgh Peace Festival, the International Festival of the Sea and the Thames Festival (London), among many other venues.

Having worked in Hollywood (where she sang with Dessislava Stefanova, director of the London Bulgarian Choir) on the soundtrack of the blockbuster film TROY), Talitha has invested her earnings in setting up her own label, SONAS Multimedia, and recently released her fourth solo album INDIAN SUMMER.

She recently bought back the rights to her album SPIORAD, and, after singing the opening track at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Thames River Pageant, she rereleased a new version of SPIORAD on her own label. She is currently lecturing at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and planning to tour again in 2014.