How a Table Led to a Toast

Susan Waterfall, Associate Artistic Director

“It was the May of Covid. The weather was beautiful and Laurie York was filming our gardens and the land, getting the hang of her new drone camera. I was enthralled when she showed me the slow-moving overhead images.

“The 2020 season had been cancelled. We were looking for a way to reach out to the Festival family, to share our sadness, and to affirm our commitment to a festival in 2021.

“At the same time, our son Julian and his wife Emily were making plans to flee Covid Los Angeles. Allan (Pollack, Artistic Director) and I were clearing out an old barn to make more living space for them. My eye fell on a Victorian wooden table. It had been in the kitchen of our 1909 farmhouse when I bought the place in 1972. The table had been shoved into the back of a shed because of a rickety leg, but it had served our land for over a hundred years. It was a beautiful symbol of Mendocino Coast history and I suddenly imagined it standing on the headland, photographed by Laurie’s eye and soaring camera. The film was born.”

Laurie York, Filmmaker

“In Spring of 2020, I was working on an aerial garden film of Susan Waterfall and Allan Pollack’s gorgeous land and garden when Susan got the idea to film a tribute to the Mendocino Music Festival. A true visionary, Susan described her idea to me and we set a date to film on the headlands—a date which had to be changed several times due to high winds and cloud cover. Finally, on the perfect evening in June, when I arrived at the headlands, Susan and Allan were setting up the table and I began filming as the celebrants arrived.

“It didn’t hit me until I saw how many people were participating that I had one chance—without rehearsal—to capture the footage needed as the sun began setting and light was quickly changing. The pressure was on! I’m glad I hadn’t thought about it too much beforehand because there were so many factors out of my control. Prior to the shoot, Susan, and Barbara Faulkner (Executive Director), had explained clearly to everyone what we’d be doing out on the headlands, and we shot for about 30 minutes until the light had dimmed.

“It wasn’t until I viewed the footage that the soundtrack popped into my head. The McGarrigles’ “Talk to Me of Mendocino” seemed right somehow. The master recording, owned by Warner, would have been extremely expensive to license, but Hilleary Burgess (Digital Media Manager) had the idea to acquire a less expensive sync license and do our own cover of the song featuring local musicians. I used the original McGarrigles’ recording as the prototype to present an idea of the project, to ask permission from Anna McGarrigle to purchase a sync license for the new cover of the song. Barbara Faulkner and I immediately knew Gwyneth Moreland’s voice would be perfect, and keyboardist and composer Julian Pollack produced the soulful arrangement of the cover recording.

“Amazing how much work can go into the creation of a 4-minute film, but it was all a labor of love.”

Gwyneth Moreland, voice and guitar

“The loss of live music has left such a hole in our community this year and the heartache that I’ve personally felt over this has been considerable. When Laurie wrote me to see if I’d be up for singing “Talk to Me of Mendocino” for this film, I think I might have actually jumped for joy and screamed. The act of learning the song and then stepping into my home studio (blowing the dust off the equipment) was truly therapeutic. Though parts of the song don’t actually apply to me since I grew up here, I let myself get totally wrapped up in the emotion of it and I have to say it felt really good. I love what Julian did with the song and I am so glad we got to collaborate on this together. The film Laurie created has touched so many people already and I’m so glad I got to be a part of it. Let’s all lift a glass to many more years ahead for the very important (and very much missed) Mendocino Music Festival!

Julian Pollack, pianist and arranger

“When I first heard “Talk to Me of Mendocino,” which was just this year, I deeply resonated with the song. In a sense, I felt that it was describing my life! Except for that fact that I also grew up here in Mendocino. So, the song described a return home. When Gwyneth sent me her “demo” for arranging the song, I remember transcribing her performance and having to stop it in the middle because it got me so emotional. Her beautiful performance is what inspired my arrangement and mix of the song. She handed me a gorgeous vocal, and I recorded the piano part with a few small harmonic tweaks, and then added some synthesizer parts with an Oberheim OB-Xa and a Minimoog. From there, I arranged some string parts and a few auxiliary “country” guitar parts. The whole arrangement and recording came together rather swiftly, as it seemed obvious what to do—in the most wonderful of ways.”