Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kate McGarrigle

...died on Monday, the 18th of January. Her sister and singing companion Anna simply announced it on their site with "Sadly our sweet Kate had to leave us last night. She departed in a haze of song and love surrounded by family and good friends. She is irreplaceable and we are broken-hearted. Til we meet again dear sister. "

Kate McGarrigle was born and lived around Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts (along with Montreal). Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts is about 30 miles north of Montral located in the Laurentian Mountains, one of the oldest mountian ranges in the world. It seemed she and her sister Anna absorbed this "age" into their personalities; they were a patient and far-seeing couple of folks that seemed to slow down time whenever you were in their presence.

I only had two oportunities to see Kate perform, once in her home grounds of Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts and the last time at the TLA in Philly in the early '90's.

A college friend yanked me from my Pink Floyd/Alice Cooper/Rory Gallagher/Leon Russell music circle to "take a ride up North" with him. St. Saveur, he said. I was familiar with Mont Saint-Saveur as it offered great cheap weekday ski packages for the pecuniary-challenged college students, so I assumed we were in for some late Spring night-time skiing. He pulled up to a log-cabin style tavern in the village of St. Saveur, killed the engine, and cajoled me into the place for a meal and beer on him. He didn't mention that there would be some impromptu music and even some sashaying by the tavern's guests that night. There was an upright piano in the place, a bit worn at the edges and covered with dried salt on the side facing the entrance door. A long-haired woman was sitting at the piano, fooling around with the keys with a young girl. A pony-tailed guy was close by, plucking and tuning his guitar. A tall bearded young fellow with a fiddle comfortably tucked under his arm was talking to a younger woman by the far side of the piano. I remember her laugh, so comfortable and private in such a public place.
There was no announcement, there were no microphones, there was no stage lighting. I was biting into my poutine when the four of them just started playing. To most of the folks there, this seemed familiar; they simply kept eating or drinking, though their gabbing toned down immediately. To this newcomer, ears accustomed to high volume and much electricity, their non-powered sounds were a major departure. My beer got warm; my poutine, cold as I leaned back in my chair and simply listened to these friends playing without rush, without a schedule, without a check waiting at the end of the performance.
We left the tavern (I wish I could remember the name!!?) around midnight. "That was the McGarrigles", Ian said, as we slowly wended our way through the frozen parking area. It was as if he were announcing an event, a coming, not two women singing and playing with close friends on another Friday up in the Laurentians. A magical night with Kate and Anna.

Anna has it right. "She is irreplaceable and we are broken-hearted".

The Montreal Gazette obituary is here along with quite a few links to other information and perfromances by Ms. McGarrigle.

I blogged about one of the McGarrigles' haunting songs here, back in 2006.


I'm not sure we'll recover from this. That woman could pen the most heartbreaking lyrics:

Go, leave
She's better than me
Or at least she is stronger
She will make it last longer

This is much, much, much too soon for her to finally leave.
That is heartbreaking news.
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