by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Kate McGarrigle - "Proserpina (live at Carnegie Hall)".

This is a very sad song. There are a few reasons it's here.

First, because Kate McGarrigle is alive again, every time I listen. "Proserpina" was recorded in London less than two months ago; she is joined by family, surrounded by friends. Her son, Rufus Wainwright, called the Royal Albert Hall show "the greatest performance of her life". There she is, right there, singing as she's always sung, or perhaps even better, a voice of wildflower and thorn. She sings with her sister, Anna, and her children, and her niece; her new grandson, scarce weeks old, squirms in a hospital not far away. Even from there, I am certain, he can hear the harmonies.

I also share this song because it was a new one, written by Kate at the end of her life, toward the end of a long illness. Yet this is not a song of the expiring, of the slowing heart: it's a work of strong beauty, of brave melody and deft singing, with (dare I say it) a magnificent hook. "Proserpina" is not about falling away, but about coming home.

And she sings it triumphantly. She is already very, very sick and yet still she is Kate, wry and caring, unflinching. Earlier in the concert, she describes the story of Proserpina, of Persephone - a grim legend. Someone in the crowd calls out, (warmly but) sarcastically: "Merry Christmas!" For Kate there is no flutter of hesitation or embarrassment: there is only laughter. She and the whole great room laugh. As the McGarrigle sisters have always known, these things (sorrow, joy) go together.

Now, with streets swept of snow, with too much sadness in this city's new young year, I listen to both the sad songs and to the happier ones. We all strain to hear the harmonies.

[goodbye, Kate McGarrigle / buy / website / video of "Proserpina"]

(We're very glad to still have you here, Anna.)

Posted by Sean at January 21, 2010 11:06 AM

Stunning performance and a beautiful tribute. But wasn't it recorded at the Royal Albert Hall? We don't have a Carnegie Hall in London.

Posted by Alan at January 21, 2010 1:19 PM

Thanks for catching my mistake, Alan.

Posted by Sean at January 21, 2010 1:47 PM

Thanks for this, Sean. Moving song. Rest in peace.

Posted by David at January 21, 2010 3:13 PM

i think it's actually rufus who calls out "merry christmas!".

Posted by Nadyne at January 21, 2010 11:06 PM

of course it's rufus who sarcastically says Merry Christmas. that's so his style. :)

thanks for posting this beautiful song. Kate McGarrigle will be missed, but thank goodness we still have her music.

Posted by ebs at January 22, 2010 5:14 PM

thats beautiful

Posted by mojgani at January 23, 2010 12:02 PM


Posted by ru at January 23, 2010 3:14 PM

Thank you so much for the mp3 of this song. I have fallen in love with it. And with Kate over and over again every time I listen to it. Heartbroken. Truly a loss. She was one of the better ones.

Posted by Leila at January 23, 2010 4:18 PM

So wonderful...ethereal beauty before us...singing.

Posted by Lindy Winnell at March 10, 2010 1:21 AM

Sean, I changed computers and lost my mp3 of Proserpina. Would you send it to me? I am devastated to not have that song. It seems to be impossible to find anywhere. Thanks for your original generosity - and here's hoping it can be repeated. If not, no worries. Leila

Posted by leila at October 23, 2010 10:25 PM

Hi - Found your site while searching for a download of Kate's "Proserpina". Alas, the link has gone. Could you please email me if you can help? With thanks, Robert

Posted by Robert at November 13, 2010 3:56 AM

What an amazingly beautiful song and performance. What a treasure lost. RIP Kate.

Posted by Megan at April 12, 2014 2:40 AM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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