Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Farewell, Kate McGarrigle

Kate McGarrigle of the singing McGarrigle Sisters, and mother of Rufus Wainwright, has died at 63. I listen to their old albums all the time these days. I will miss the songs they won't have a chance to sing together now.

There's nothing quite like the vocal blend of sisters, whose voices are distinct yet similar enough to merge into one pure sound throughout their harmonies and unisons. When I listen to the sisters singing the old folksongs of their French-Canadian village, they can make make my hair stand on end, the way superb Gospel choirs and other large, extraordinary vocal ensembles sometimes do.

I heard Kate and Anna perform at the Tsai Performance Center at BU; it must have been in the early 1990s. We were among the last to get tickets, and were very fortunate — we were pointed toward an extra row of folding seats put up just in front of the stage. We found ourselves sitting almost under the sisters' noses. Their concerts were famous for being informal and intimate, and we felt as though we were sitting in their living room. I'll always remember.

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