Home Feature Dispatches from Northern Lights Festival Boréal day four (Sunday)

Dispatches from Northern Lights Festival Boréal day four (Sunday)

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Richard Inman photo by Robin Spick

The final festival day, and Martha Wainwright brought on the emotions for me. When she spoke, it was mesmerizing, telling heartbreaking tales with humour. Being the daughter of iconic folk masters, Kate McGarrigle and Loundon Wainwright III, and sister to Rufus Wainwright, what could not be fascinating in her anecdotes. I was struck by Martha’s humility as she shared experiences of her marriage breakdown, working as a mother with no pay and the heartbreak of sharing her children between two homes. The play between Martha’s unique experience of mundane realities, the tenderness and bleakness she expresses took me deep. I was not expecting it to hit as hard as it did when she sang “Report Card.” I can’t explain how suddenly my breath was taken away, listening to Martha Wainwright’s stunning, dreamy voice sing of her now teenagers who will never fill their little clothes or miss her as much as she misses them. The invitation to recognize, as she created a shrine for the barely mentioned deaths in our lives, the loss of our roles, of being needed the way we once were, takes us where we didn’t realize we needed to go. The mourning must happen, says this song, with the messy emotions, the gin and the gorgeous delivery for us on this beautiful evening. It was safe to feel emptiness with Martha Wainwright, in a crowd who loves her so. I am so very grateful for this performance.

Shot from the waist, up, Martha sings into a microphone and plays guitar in front of a black back drop.
Martha Wainwright. Photo by Marcia McVean.

Still charmed by Richard Inman’s show from last evening, and a chance sighting of the band at the Laughing Buddha in town, we headed down to the CBC stage to see the band perform again. Richard’s storytelling was raw, and his songs painted pictures of the western ranch landscapes and the depths of his troubled heart. His players backed him with a professional intimacy so assuring to watch. There was a little dancing when the band played a Waylon Jennings tune that resonated with pleasure and a familiar attitude. Nothing like the sound of classic country live on a Sudbury stage.

Mountain City Four. photo by Marcia McVean

A favourite of the festival was The Mountain City Four, complete with Anna McGarrigle, Martha Wainwright, in place of her late mother, Kate McGarrigle, longtime collaborator, Chaim Tannenbaum, and several McGarrigle family members. The sound was classic McGarrigle, with expert harmonies, multiple instruments, all topped by the sweet, soaring whisper tones, leaving the mundane for the ethereal.

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