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  • Friday, January 29, 2010
    Remembering Kate McGarrigle

    By David Bither

    Kate McGarrigle passed away last week after fighting a rare form of cancer, clear cell sarcoma. Along with her sister Anna, Kate was responsible for a body of work over 30 plus years that was as striking for the quality of their songwriting as it was for the wholly unique and personal sound of their music and, especially, their intertwining vocals. There is something that imbues the voices of family in a way that is virtually impossible to duplicate, from the Louvins and Everlys to the Wilsons, McGarrigles and so many more.

    At Nonesuch, we often talk about the family of artists we have been so privileged to work with over the years. Kate is one that I will remember with the greatest affection. The first project we ever worked on together was Emmylou Harris’s Red Dirt Girl—it was Emmy’s first record for Nonesuch and a departure for her, best known as a peerless interpreter of others’ songs, in that she decided to write an entire record’s worth of material herself. Kate sang harmony and played piano and accordion on a couple of tracks but more important, I think, was the encouragement she and Anna gave Emmy that provided her the confidence to take such a step.

    On Emmy’s next record, Stumble Into Grace, Kate and Anna were more directly involved, co-writing or arranging three songs and performing on much of the record. The three arranged the traditional song "Plaisir d'Amour" for the album, heard here:

    ---

    Around that same time we were working on Robin Holcomb’s fourth Nonesuch record, The Big Time. Robin had met the McGarrigles but didn’t know them well. Nonetheless, we contacted Kate and Anna to ask if they might consider adding their voices to a song Robin was making and they immediately agreed to join us in New York on what I recall was a weekend afternoon.

    They hadn’t heard the material before that day but it didn’t stop them from stepping right into the booth to sing after a brief rehearsal—and they wound up adding their voices to not one but three songs. You can hear their otherworldly choral accompaniment near the end of what I believe is one of Robin’s greatest songs, “Like I Care”:

    ---

    And finally it was time for us to take on a McGarrigle project when Kate and Anna brought us their Christmas album, The McGarrigle Christmas Hour, where they were joined by—speaking of family—Kate’s children Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Anna’s daughter Lily Lanken, and other unofficial family members like Emmylou Harris. They not only created a record that stands refreshingly apart from the usual Christmas fare but also produced some particularly memorable live concerts where anything might happen: the whole extended family was on stage at Carnegie Hall, seemingly making it up as they went along. Here you can hear "Wise Man," a song Kate and Anna co-wrote, from the album:

    ---

    Anna, Rufus, and Martha very movingly paid tribute to Kate in the Times of London after her death; you can read it at entertainment.timesonline.co.uk.

    In 2008, Kate established the Kate McGarrigle Fund in association with McGill University Health Centre, the Jewish General Hospital through the MUHC Foundation, the Cedars Cancer Institute, and Cancer Research UK in order to raise money and awareness for the fight against sarcoma. For more information and to make a donation in honor of Kate, please visit muhcfoundation.com/kate.

    It was our great honor to know and work with Kate and we extend our deepest sympathy to her loving family.

    David Bither is Executive Vice-President of Nonesuch Records.

    Journal Articles:Artist News

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Remembering Kate McGarrigle

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on January 29, 2010 - 12:06pm
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Friday, January 29, 2010 - 18:00
Excerpt: 

Kate McGarrigle passed away last week after fighting a rare form of cancer, clear cell sarcoma. Along with her sister Anna, Kate was responsible for a body of work over 30 plus years that was as striking for the quality of their songwriting as it was for the wholly unique and personal sound of their music and, especially, their intertwining vocals. Here, Nonesuch Executive Vice-President David Bither offers his own remembrance.

Copy: 

By David Bither

Kate McGarrigle passed away last week after fighting a rare form of cancer, clear cell sarcoma. Along with her sister Anna, Kate was responsible for a body of work over 30 plus years that was as striking for the quality of their songwriting as it was for the wholly unique and personal sound of their music and, especially, their intertwining vocals. There is something that imbues the voices of family in a way that is virtually impossible to duplicate, from the Louvins and Everlys to the Wilsons, McGarrigles and so many more.

At Nonesuch, we often talk about the family of artists we have been so privileged to work with over the years. Kate is one that I will remember with the greatest affection. The first project we ever worked on together was Emmylou Harris’s Red Dirt Girl—it was Emmy’s first record for Nonesuch and a departure for her, best known as a peerless interpreter of others’ songs, in that she decided to write an entire record’s worth of material herself. Kate sang harmony and played piano and accordion on a couple of tracks but more important, I think, was the encouragement she and Anna gave Emmy that provided her the confidence to take such a step.

On Emmy’s next record, Stumble Into Grace, Kate and Anna were more directly involved, co-writing or arranging three songs and performing on much of the record. The three arranged the traditional song "Plaisir d'Amour" for the album, heard here:

---

Around that same time we were working on Robin Holcomb’s fourth Nonesuch record, The Big Time. Robin had met the McGarrigles but didn’t know them well. Nonetheless, we contacted Kate and Anna to ask if they might consider adding their voices to a song Robin was making and they immediately agreed to join us in New York on what I recall was a weekend afternoon.

They hadn’t heard the material before that day but it didn’t stop them from stepping right into the booth to sing after a brief rehearsal—and they wound up adding their voices to not one but three songs. You can hear their otherworldly choral accompaniment near the end of what I believe is one of Robin’s greatest songs, “Like I Care”:

---

And finally it was time for us to take on a McGarrigle project when Kate and Anna brought us their Christmas album, The McGarrigle Christmas Hour, where they were joined by—speaking of family—Kate’s children Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Anna’s daughter Lily Lanken, and other unofficial family members like Emmylou Harris. They not only created a record that stands refreshingly apart from the usual Christmas fare but also produced some particularly memorable live concerts where anything might happen: the whole extended family was on stage at Carnegie Hall, seemingly making it up as they went along. Here you can hear "Wise Man," a song Kate and Anna co-wrote, from the album:

---

Anna, Rufus, and Martha very movingly paid tribute to Kate in the Times of London after her death; you can read it at entertainment.timesonline.co.uk.

In 2008, Kate established the Kate McGarrigle Fund in association with McGill University Health Centre, the Jewish General Hospital through the MUHC Foundation, the Cedars Cancer Institute, and Cancer Research UK in order to raise money and awareness for the fight against sarcoma. For more information and to make a donation in honor of Kate, please visit muhcfoundation.com/kate.

It was our great honor to know and work with Kate and we extend our deepest sympathy to her loving family.

David Bither is Executive Vice-President of Nonesuch Records.

featuredimage: 
McGarrigle Family

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