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Kate And Anna McGarrigle: Sibling Harmony

A couple of decades back, I got a chance to work with Kate and Anna McGarrigle on Good Evening, a radio program in St. Paul, Minn. We just called them up, offered union scale for payment (plus plane fare and nice hotel rooms), good food and a fun show. Kate and Anna arrived on the Friday before the Saturday broadcast.

At rehearsal, I came finally to understand sibling harmony. We'd told Kate and Anna they could sing anything they wanted ,as long as they did "Talk to Me of Mendocino." I'd been to the Northern California town once and found it enchanting, but I loved the song even more. Kate sat at our Steinway D and played the opening, singing, "I bid farewell to the state of old New York." After Kate's opening, Anna leaned into the mic and joined her sister for the chorus: "Talk to me of Mendocino / Closing my eyes I hear the sea / Must I wait / Must I follow / Won't you say come with me."

When Anna created the harmony of the chorus, I started to cry. Just those notes — "talk to me." I cried standing offstage during the broadcast, along with many in the audience. I still cry a bit when I hear the song.

Anna and Kate were funny in performance. They would make it all seem like something they barely knew how to do. On another show, they disappeared just before airtime. We couldn't find them. They'd left the theater and gone shopping!

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Noah Adams, long-time co-host of NPR's All Things Considered, brings more than three decades of radio experience to his current job as a contributing correspondent for NPR's National Desk., focusing on the low-wage workforce, farm issues, and the Katrina aftermath. Now based in Ohio, he travels extensively for his reporting assignments, a position he's held since 2003.