Snow angel: Sarah McLachlan remembers mother on holiday album

By |2018-01-15T23:06:28-05:00November 30th, 2006|Entertainment|

Sarah McLachlan’s mother passed away a week before Christmas four years ago. But she still lingers in the shining star atop the tree. In the snow on Christmas morning. On the iced over lake.
On the songstress’ first holiday album, “Wintersong,” the bittersweet title track evokes McLachlan’s somber mourning for her mother, who slowly lost her life to cancer.
“I guess my idea was to remember her in a really beautiful moment as opposed to focusing on the negative, which I’m very prone to do,” the musician says. “It’s a reminder to myself to, in the hardest times and darkest hours, try to find something positive.”
McLachlan’s fondest memory of her mother was her Martha Stewart-like ways. Her mother constantly assured the children ate healthy – except during Christmas. “… That was the one time every year where we just got to let it all go and be absolute gluttons,” she laughs. “I remember all the sweets, and that’s a very sweet memory.”
Because McLachlan’s tunes typically muster from a specific encounter, “Wintersong,” the only original track on the album, was a challenge to pen. “… I’m not used to writing with any kind of theme in mind,” she says.
On her first album in three years, the multiple Grammy winner covers a slew of Christmas classics and records a faithful remake of Joni Mitchell’s “River.” “As a songwriter, it’s one of those ones you really wish you’d written yourself. And in some ways I feel like I could’ve written it. I don’t mean that in any kind of pompous way, it’s just that I connect with it on so many levels,” she says.
On John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” a student choir from Vancouver backs McLachlan. “It was very poignant back then and is perhaps even more so now, so I thought that was an important one to put on there,” she notes. “I’m going to be doing that one at the tree lighting in Rockefeller Center, which is fabulous. I’ve always wanted to do that.”
The choice to record an album eliciting the wintry aura versus the religious side of Christmas wasn’t difficult for McLachlan. “Well, marketing potential aside, I wanted to create a record that was about more than just Christmas,” she says. “Christmas can be very commercial and corny, and I wanted to delve into the more contemplative side of what the holidays do to a lot of people. It can be a really lonely, melancholy time.”
As Christmas nears, McLachlan shuffles Harry Belafonte’s holiday album with some Frank Sinatra. And, as her four-and-a-half year old daughter learns Christmas carols in school, McLachlan accompanies her at home. But only on the piano. “She’s like, ‘Don’t sing, Mommy. Just play.'”
McLachlan’s well aware her legions of gay fans await her non-holiday return. Because mommy time sucks up a large portion of her time, though, she’s only written one song. “I’m pretty busy right up until Christmas, so I figure in the New Year I’ll really start.”
In the meantime, McLachlan’s putting her matriarchal mindset to work. She recorded a sentimental song, “Ordinary Miracle,” for December’s live-action film “Charlotte’s Web.”
Although gay audiences connect with McLachlan’s universal lyrics involving relationships and love, at one point some suspected she was a lesbian herself. But, as time told, she’s not.
“I’m very aware that the gay and lesbian population needs to have their own identity, and I totally respect that, but from my point of view, people are people. I have lots of gay and lesbian friends, but I never say, ‘That’s my lesbian friend!'”

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, GQ, Vanity Fair and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.