Kate and Anna McGarrigle

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Kate (February 6, 1946 – January 18, 2010) and Anna (born December 4, 1944) McGarrigle were a duo of Canadian singer-songwriters from Quebec, who performed as a duo until Kate McGarrigle's death on January 18, 2010.


Anna McGarrigle and Kate McGarrigle were born in Montreal of mixed Irish- and French-Canadian background, but lived their childhood in the Laurentian Mountains village of Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts, northwest of Montreal, where they learned piano from village nuns. In the 1960s, in Montreal, while Kate was studying engineering at McGill University and Anna art at the École des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, they began performing in public and then began writing their own songs. From 1963 to 1967 they teamed up with Jack Nissenson and Peter Weldon to form the folk group Mountain City Four. Into the twenty-first century, Kate and Anna McGarrigle continued to write, and recorded and performed music, with assorted accompanying musicians including Gerry Conway, Pat Donaldson, Ken Pearson, Michel Pépin, Chaim Tannenbaum and Joel Zifkin.

Their songs have been covered by a variety of artists including Maria Muldaur, Nana Mouskouri, Linda Ronstadt,[1] Emmylou Harris,[1] Billy Bragg, Pet Shop Boys, Chloé Sainte-Marie, Judy Collins,[1] Anne Sofie von Otter and others. The covers of their songs by well known artists led to the McGarrigles getting their first recording contract in 1974. They created ten albums from 1975 through 2008.[1]

Although associated with Quebec's anglophone community, the McGarrigles also recorded and performed many songs in French. Two of their albums, Entre la jeunesse et la sagesse (also known as French Record) and La vache qui pleure, are entirely in French, but many of their other records include one or two French songs as well. Most of their French songs were co-written by Philippe Tatartcheff, with occasional input from Kate McGarrigle's son, Canadian-American solo artist Rufus Wainwright. Rufus and his sister Martha Wainwright, also a singer, are the children of Kate and her former husband, singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III.

Their version of Wade Hemsworth's song, "The Log Driver's Waltz" grew famous as the soundtrack for a 1979 animated film by Canada's National Film Board. They provided backing vocals on Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds's 2001 album No More Shall We Part. They appeared on the children's TV show Sharon, Lois & Bram's Elephant Show in Season 4, episode 50 entitled "Sibling Rivalry".

They were appointed Members of the Order of Canada in 1993 and received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award in 2004.[2][3]

Another sister, Jane McGarrigle, is a film and television composer who wrote and performed several songs with the duo.

Kate died January 18, 2010 at the age of 63 after fighting a rare form of cancer.[4][5][6]




  • 2009 - A Not So Silent Night (with Rufus & Martha Wainwright)
  • 1999 - "The McGarrigle Hour" (with Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Loudon Wainwright, [Chaim Tannenbaum, Jane McGarrigle, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Lily Lanken)

Other contributions[edit]

Film work[edit]

Before Tomorrow is a Canadian drama film, released in 2008. The film is an adaptation of the novel For Morgendagen by Danish writer Jørn Riel.

The sisters were the subject of an eponymous 1981 documentary film directed by Caroline Leaf.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "McGarrigle sisters writing a memoir". Toronto Daily Star, 14 April 2014, E2.
  2. ^ Betty Nygaard King. "McGarrigle, Kate and Anna". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Thecanadianencyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  3. ^ Clarkson, Adrienne (November 5, 2004). "Speech on the Occasion of the Presentation of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards". Archive.gg.ca. Retrieved January 24, 2010. 
  4. ^ Russell, Tony (January 19, 2010). "Kate McGarrigle obituary". The Guardian (London, England). Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  5. ^ "Kate McGarrigle:Singer-songwriter and head of a musical dynasty". The Telegraph. London, England. 2010-01-20. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  6. ^ Everett-Green, Robert (19 January 2010). "Goodbye Sweet Harmony". Globe & Mail (Toronto, Canada). Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  7. ^ "Kate and Anna McGarrigle". Documentary film. National Film Board of Canada. 1981. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 

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