“Candles” is the closing song on Rufus Wainwright’s acclaimed new album, Out of the Game, but it was the perfect opener at his taping for an upcoming episode of PBS’s Live from the Artists Den. The magnificent Church of the Ascension, on Manhattan’s lower Fifth Avenue, was a breathtaking backdrop for the gorgeous tale of searching for a place to light a memorial for his late mother, singer Kate McGarrigle. Resplendent in tails and gold sequined pants, Wainwright paid additional tribute to McGarrigle during the 22-song set with an emotional, solo rendition of her “On My Way to Town” before bringing out super-producer Mark Ronson, who helmed the new album, and closing the evening with the rousing, disco-flavored “Bitter Tears.”
The Church of the Ascension in New York’s Greenwich Village was originally founded in 1827. The current, Gothic Revival building was consecrated in 1841 and designed by Richard Upjohn, making it the first church on Fifth Avenue. It was also the site of President John Tyler’s marriage to Julia Gardiner in 1844 and has been attended by many prominent New Yorkers. The church interior was remodeled in the 1880s under the supervision of noted architecture firm McKim, Mead, and White to include sculptured angels, mosaics, and a gorgeous, central mural and stained glass windows by John Lafarge. The church building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.