Since the passing of Canadian folk singer and songwriter Kate McGarrigle – one-half of the famous musical sister act with Anna McGarrigle – her children Rufus and Martha Wainwright have continued to honor their mother’s music and legacy. In the last three years, the singing siblings have mounted tribute concerts in London, New York and Toronto, featuring guest artists such as Anna McGarrigle, Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Broken Social Scene and Richard and Linda Thompson. During that period, the Kate McGarrigle Foundation was created to raise funds and bring attention to sarcoma, the cancer that Kate McGarrigle succumbed to in 2010 at the age of 63.
On Wednesday evening, the Wainwrights brought another tribute show to New York, entitled Kate’s Kids, to celebrate their mother’s music, this time at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House. Appearing with them again were their aunt Anna and her daughter Lily Lanken along with Jones, Harris and Mark Ronson. The show, proceeds from which will go to the foundation, coincided with the recent release of the film Sing Me the Songs that Say I Love You: A Concert for Kate McGarrigle, along with its two-disc soundtrack.
The two-hour show was a further testament to the introspective and impressionistic songwriting of Kate McGarrigle. It began with Rufus and Martha performing the empowering “I Am a Diamond,” originally written by Kate and Anna along with their sister Jane. They later performed together on the piano ballad “Southern Boys.” Both brother and sister shared the spotlight with the guest artists, such as when Rufus collaborated with Harris on the stark and melancholy “I Eat Dinner”; the Wainwrights also duetted with Jones on the hymnal and soulful “(Talk to Me of) Mendocino.”
The show wasn’t just about the music of Kate McGarrigle. The Wainwright siblings also performed their individual solo works: Rufus on the uptempo “Out of the Game” (accompanied by Ronson) and “Bitter Tears,” and Martha on the rocker “Radio Star” and “All Your Clothes” from her album Come Home to Mama. And in a moment of fun, both Rufus and Martha did a spirited cover of Elton John and Kiki Dee’s classic duet “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”
One of the highlights occurred when Kate’s sisters Anna and Jane performed “Blues in D,” from Kate and Anna’s debut album from 1976. Others included Martha’s interpretation of “Tell My Sister” and Harris’ performance of “Darlin’ Kate.” Towards the end of the concert, all of the artists joined together to perform “Proserpina,” one of the last songs Kate McGarrigle wrote. That was followed by the encore, which consisted of the traditional tune “Dink’s Song,” an appropriate gesture to the honoree.
As evidenced by the touching performances on Wednesday, Kate’s Kids was a reflection of the love and care put in by the Wainwrights to honor their mother’s music and do good for a cause. They will continue to do so later this summer for two benefit shows, in Kate McGarrigle’s native Montreal on August 8th at the Theatre Outremont. That will coincide with the opening of a square named after her, Place Kate McGarrigle, the day before.