Time to put away the ornaments and take down the tree and close the chapter on Rufus and Martha Wainwright’s Christmas 101, which rocked the West Coast this holiday with three separate unbelievable shows.
The first in Oakland, at the Fox Theatre on December 19, sparkled with Rufus and Martha and many members of the family – not to mention guest stars Emmylou Harris, Van Dyke Parks and Maria Muldaur. Rolling Stone wrote a great review of the show, calling out many of the high points.
Then on to Los Angeles, for two nights at Royce Hall at UCLA. The audiences raved in the grand old theatre and Carrie Fisher brought down the house with her hilarious monologue and then touching (but acerbic) rendition of "White Christmas", accompanied by Rufus and Martha and the ensemble.
Rufus stunned the audience each night with his accapella, unamplified version of “Cantique de Noel” the original French version of "O Holy Night”, his voice soaring through these glorious theatres – no mikes, no monitors – just the incredible power of his magnificent instrument. “A parlour trick” he called it when the audience gave him a standing ovation. Some parlour.
Martha brought the audience to their knees with her rendition of “Trois Anges” melting into “I’ll be Home for Christmas”, not to mention the always poignant, “Proserpina”, the last song Kate McGarrigle ever wrote. Towards the close, Martha and her brother, joined by the entire ensemble of sons, nephews, cousins, aunts, grand nieces, and great friends had everyone clapping to an uproarious version of the Pogue’s song, “Fairy Tale of New York”. So many great talents to thank: Emmylou Harris, Van Dyke Parks, Carrie Fisher, Maria Muldaur, Lily Lanken, Sylvan Lanken, Jenni Muldaur, Sloan Wainwright, Vinnie Dow, Julianna Raye, Bernadette Colomine and Sam Collin, Jorn Weisbrodt, the entire Robert McMillan family (Anna, Bob, Gigi and Islay), Kathleen Weldon, Christopher Albetta, and of course, the matriarch of the McGarrigle family – Jane McGarrigle on piano and vocals. Our newest family angel: Arcangelo Wainwright Albetta.
And then, our superb band: Brad Albetta (bass and MD), Doug Petty (piano), Butch Norton (drums), Joel Zifkin on violin, and Doug Wieselman on horns and guitar. David Schnirman on sound and production.
Also a big shout out to those who made us beautiful and Christmassy – in Oakland, Asia Thorpe and her team and in Los Angeles, the incomparable Sean James.
Three magical evenings, all designed to celebrate the Wainwright/McGarrigle Christmas show family tradition, which began some seven years ago under the stewardship and design of Rufus and Martha’s late mother, the legendary Kate McGarrigle. Since her death three years ago, the new Christmas shows have been dedicated to raising money for sarcoma research, the rare and underfunded disease that killed her.
This year’s jaunt to the West Coast (long a dream of Kate’s), through the generosity and kindness of three enchanted audiences, a glorious ensemble of talented and dedicated artists, we were able to raise over $45,000 for our new foundation: The Kate McGarrigle Foundation, an organization devoted to finding a cure for sarcoma and preserving the legacy of one of greatest singer/songwriters in our lifetime.
A Happy New Year indeed!