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Meet Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz

By Published: May 10, 2005
Kate: I haven't written that many songs. I started writing "Man of God" when I lived in the ashram. The inspiration for that and for "Going In" is people looking to each other, taking care of each other, seeing the highest in each other. I come from a background of organized religion, and have felt disappointed in the leadership of the church in general, not that I didn't gain a lot from it.


Kate: I haven't been scatting nearly as much as I used to. I've been improvising with the words. Scatting on one tune after another it's easy for the music to disintegrate so that it doesn't feel like anything.

Irish folk music

Kate: It's a part of me. I don't do it all the time, just when it feels right. I don't claim to be authentic in my accent or anything—this is just how I hear it. It seems to resonate with most audiences. Keith: Last year on St. Patrick's Day I was playing a gig in a hotel lounge where customers don't often listen. People kept requesting the singer to do Irish tunes. She had a book of Irish tunes but we didn't really know them, and they came out like diatonic jazz tunes. So I called Kate on my cell phone and asked her to sing one. She started singing "Peggy Gordon," and I put the cell phone up to the microphone that fed the little amp. Immediately the whole place fell silent. It sounded far away and "static-y" like a short wave radio transmission from Ireland. Everyone was completely transfixed.

Moss (vocal group)

Kate: Luciana had an idea to form this group with different kinds of singers. Lauren Kinhan and Peter Eldridge are from New York Voices. Theo Bleckmann is known for being more experimental. The group is open to all kinds of material. Luciana rearranged Joni Mitchell's "Shadows and Light." I wrote a piece to some e.e. cummings poetry. We're hoping to continue for a long time.

The Different Moods of the Blues

Kate: I knew Eli Yamin from the ashram. He invited me to do this blues group with Lincoln Center Arts Education Institute. We've been doing these tours—some are at Lincoln Center, some are at colleges, high schools, and elementary schools. We all contribute music. There's no string bass—Bob Stewart plays tuba (Howard Johnson subs when Bob can't make it.) I'm learning about stamina and how to approach each show as a new one even though the songs are the same.

Karen Hammack

Kate: She's still one of my favorite pianists. When I went to New York I really missed working with her. She's a great accompanist, listens very well, has a great feel, leaves lots of space. I look forward to having her as a guest Monday night. Karen played on Show Me [McGarry's first Palmetto CD].

Clinics ("The Art of the Duo")

At our clinics we talk about ways to find that space where the duo feels open and free rather than limited. It's all there: you just have to give yourself to the situation and not try to duplicate a larger band. A lot of it is about independence. If the singer is able to move the music forward rhythmically and harmonically on their own, that frees up the accompanist to orchestrate, play counterpoint, play with textures, then the singer has more coming back to interact with. It opens the whole thing up. We also talk about being able to be both a leader and a follower. Some people are used to leading 90% of the time and some are used to following 90%. We want them to think about mixing it up.

Next project

Keith: It'll probably be a trio with bass and drums and maybe some voices. I'm hearing Kate wordlessly doubling some of the melodies and maybe Theo Bleckmann too.

Kate: Maybe a more straight ahead record, more standards-based. At some point I would love to do a record of Toninho Horta's music. I feel strongly about his harmonies and his melodies and the words even though it's not my first language.

Visit Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz on the web.

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