Rufus, Martha Wainwright sing at Montreal funeral service for Kate McGarrigle

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MONTREAL - Anna McGarrigle stood at the podium and paused a moment before reading a poem paying tribute to her sister.
"Usually, when I'm on stage, it's with Kate," she said with a trace of wistfulness to the mourners at Kate McGarrigle's funeral on Monday.
Kate McGarrigle, who with her sister Anna gained renown as folk music's McGarrigle Sisters, died two weeks ago of cancer at age 63.
About 1,000 people packed Montreal's ornate Notre-Dame Basilica to bid a fond farewell to an artist many called down-to-earth and her son, Rufus Wainwright, summed up as "a free spirit."
Although they choked with emotion when they described her, Rufus and his sister Martha's voices soared into the highest reaches of the church during musical tributes to their mother.
Others, including singer Emmylou Harris, who covered McGarrigle's music, also sang at a service that concluded with a rousing gospel anthem and a Celtic lament.
"Her music, hers and Anna's music, was very inspirational to me but once I got to know them it was their company that I loved," Harris said after the service.
While music played a prominent role in the funeral, Kate McGarrigle's personal qualities as a person and a mother were highlighted by speaker after speaker.
"I will miss her smile, I will miss her hands," Rufus Wainwright told the congregation before he sat down at a piano set up a few metres from McGarrigle's flower-covered casket.
"I will miss her reckless humour," he said. "I will miss her fierce devotion to family and friends."
Martha Wainwright said that when she was growing up, "all my friends were jealous of me for having a mom that was so fun. She wanted to be in the game and have tea parties."
Martha Wainwright led a chorus of McGarrigle's last song, "Proserpina," and said she would always carry her mother in her thoughts and her heart.
"If you don't run into her too often on the streets of your mind, she's with me," she said, her voice breaking.
Sister-in-law Teddy Wainwright spoke lovingly of McGarrigle's musical talent and how everyone fell in love with her.
She said the cancer that eventually took McGarrigle exhausted her and her last words were "leave me alone" to a friend who was trying to get her to take a sip of water moments before she died.
The high-profile mourners included Quebec singer Michel Rivard and actress Monique Mercure, a longtime friend of the family who also delivered a tribute.
Quebec songwriter Luc Plamondon said the memorial was one of the most moving he's ever seen.
"She was a marvellous person," said Plamondon, who met McGarrigle in the 1970s "It was such a beautiful ceremony, very touching and her last song is incredibly beautiful.
"Everybody had something beautiful to say about her."
After his mother's casket was placed in the hearse to be taken away for burial, Rufus Wainwright told reporters he wanted to thank "everyone for their tremendous support and outpouring of love."
He also urged people to donate to support cancer research.
McGarrigle and Anna became known as the McGarrigle Sisters and began their careers performing at Montreal coffeehouses in the 1960s with a group called the Mountain City Four.
Their first album, "Kate and Anna McGarrigle," was released in 1975 to critical acclaim. It was selected as one of the best albums of the year by London's Melody Maker and the New York Times.
Some of their most well-known tunes included "The Work Song," "Cool River" and "Lying Song."
But they were perhaps best-known to Canadians for their distinctive rendition of Wade Hemsworth's "The Log Driver's Waltz," which was featured in a 1979 animated short done by the National Film Board.
In addition to Harris, other artists who covered McGarrigle's songs included Linda Ronstadt, Judy Collins, Elvis Costello and Billy Bragg.

Kate McGarrigle was invested with the Order of Canada in 1994, and she and Anna received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award in 2004.
She was married to Loudon Wainwright during the 1970s. The singer paid tribute to his ex-wife while accepting a prize at Sunday's Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
"I want to thank Kate McGarrigle, who taught me how to frail the banjo 40 years ago," Wainwright said as he accepted the Grammy for best traditional folk album. "Thank you very much."

Organizations: Melody Maker, New York Times, National Film Board

Geographic location: Montreal, Quebec, Mountain City London Canada Los Angeles

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