Friday, January 22, 2010

In memory: Kate McGarrigle

Kate McGarrigle, half of the beloved Canadian folk duo The McGarrigle Sisters, singer and songwriter, mother of musicians Rufus and Martha Wainwright, died from a rare form of cancer on Monday of this week, at sixty-three.

On that day, she was surrounded by her family, and left the world, they said, on "a haze of song".


I can't count the performances I saw at various folk festivals in '70s and '80s. They were a graceful, generous, cerebral pair who took risks within the folk form. In a time lit with dissent, they united French and English-speaking audiences in the transcendent sweetness of their harmonies.

Which song to select to remember her? Here is "Ce matin", a haunting song in French, which still reveals their Celtic roots. Kate plays piano.



9 comments:

Deja Pseu said...

What a beautiful song. It's so hard to believe she's gone.

Frugal Scholar said...

I've been listening too.

lagatta à montréal said...

Kate and Anna were half-Irish (dad) and half French Québécoise (maman). But there are deep Celtic roots in Québécois music as well, due to Irish and Scottish immigration and the Breton roots of many of the French speakers.

They were so much a part of the soundtrack of my youth here. "Entre Lajeunesse et la sagesse" is about my neighbourhood.

It is a beautiful day today - the sun is shining, but it is not frigid, as it usually is when sunny here in January. Just below freezing. I'm trying not to dwell too much on all these losses - I knew at least two of the people who died in the Haiti earthquake, Magalie Marcellin and Myriam Merlet. Magalie founded the first shelder for battered women in Haiti, with funding from a Québec international solidarity group, and both women were very active against sexual violence and the human trafficking that alas alway increases in the wake of natural disasters and wars in poor countries. They were about my age (50s). Magalie had lived in Québec for several years during the Duvalier dictatorship. We knew these women through the World March of Women, which started here. They were a lot of fun.

And a dear friend of many decades died last week in Paris, just before the quake. Like Kate (they were the same age - 63) - he had been seriously ill for some time but I would have liked to have been able to say goodbye.

This doesn't prevent me from listening to the McGarrigles or to Lhasa de Sela, on the contrary but I have to fight feelings of overwhelming bleakness, which is palpable in the faces of the many Haitians who live hereabouts.

Guess it is time for small pleasures; a walk, a coffee and croissant somewhere in or around Marché Jean-Talon.

Wabasis Trace said...

Thank you.

Duchesse said...

lagatta: Sometimes so much loss comes at once, I am sorry. They sound like remarkable women. One of my sons is moving to Montreal at the end of the month! So perhaps we can meet sometime at the Marché.

Wabasis Trace: You're welcome and thank you for reading.

Duchesse said...

Pseu and Frugal: I am sad that we meet or reunite with these marvelous women at the end of their lives, but still, we honour them by witnessing their gifts.

lagatta à montréal said...

Don't worry, I had a wonderful walk on perhaps the loveliest day of the winter, and an espresso and a Chilean empanada at a lovely little café just across from the market.

I too was very honoured to meet these women, my contemporaries.

I found one on Myriam in English: http://i3.democracynow.org/2010/1/19/haitian_feminist_leader_myriam_merlet_1953

Everything I have on Magalie is in French. I did translate one article, but I don't want to turn this blog away from its purpose. I think it is important to be able to discuss the "decorative" parts of live intelligently; my studies were in fine arts and literature, after all.

Yes of course we can meet at le Marché; for me that is just a short walk and it is right between two métro stations. I won't ask you where your son is studying, or if he is working somewhere.

Pseu and Frugal, I've been following Kate and Anna at least since mid-1970s.

I feel emotionally "fragile" right now, but I don't mean depressed. Radio-Canada (French-language CBC) played Kate singing La vache qui pleure, and it made me tear up. On the surface it is a children's song, but it is also about our relation to "dumb animals". And of course it is about a lot of "human women", as the horror in Haiti reminds us.

In French, "veau" is both the live calf, and the meat veal.


But such emotional fragility is also a precondition for creativity...

------------------------

La vache qui pleure

by Kate & Anna McGarrigle

Album: La vache qui pleure

Dans un pré, au fond d'un vallon
Il y a, pauvre et seule,
Une vache, une vache qui pleure
Je pleure mon veau que je ne peux pas élever
Je pleure mon veau qu'on m'a enlevé
C'est comme ça à chaque année

{x2:}
Grande misère, grand malheur
Grande douleur, la vache qui pleure

Pourquoi faut-il donc qu'elle pleure
Qu'elle perde tout son bonheur
Qu'elle vive cet arrache-cœur ?
Je cherche mon veau, j' le cherche d'heure en heure
J'ai peur qu'il ait eu grand malheur
Et je ne veux pas qu'il meure

{x2:}
Grande misère, grand malheur
Grande douleur, la vache qui pleure

Pourquoi donc la vache qui pleure ?
Elle a perdu tout son bonheur
Elle cherche son veau, d'heure en heure
Elle a perdu tout son bonheur

À chaque année, son grand malheur
À chaque année, un arrache-cœur
Elle ne voudrait pas qu'il meure
À chaque année son grand malheur

{x2:}
Si peu de justice dans ce monde
De la naissance jusqu'à la tombe
Du berceau jusqu'à la tombe {x2}

Duchesse said...

Lagatta: "Si peu de justice dans ce monde". At these times I too am comforted by walking and observing life around me, especially children. My son will be working in a bistro for the immediate future, then attending graduate school, but not sure where yet. I'm happy to have a reason to visit Montreal from time to time, a city I visited for work regularly in the 1980s, and to which always return with delight. He'll be living near Marché Atwater.

lagatta à montréal said...

Yes, it is important to get out and about and not dwell too much on all the bad news. (This pertains as much to the previous post about perfectionism and internet as to this one). I'm heading back out for a walk down to St-Laurent and Mont-Royal to meet a friend at a café.

A great place for summer stays near Marché Atwater is the McGill University Solin Residence apartments. They are available for travellers between May 15 and Aug 15.
http://www.mcgill.ca/residences/undergraduate/tour/solin/