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The Singing Sisters of

Flying Pi

By Ashley Wahl Photographs by Mark Steelman

C

arolyn Atkinson bakes exquisite pies, both sweet and savory, but her ginger pie is a customer favorite. For this pie, so popular that Revolution star Tim Guinee once paid to have it shipped from Wilmington to a film set in New Mexico, Carolyn soaks the ginger in Scotch for twenty-four hours to “take out the fire but leave the fragrance.” But it’s only one reason the customers keep coming back. Flying Pi Kitchen is a small operation on the corner of Fourth and Chestnut that’s obviously best known for its freshly baked pies, but if you happen to go on a day when owner Carolyn is accompanied by one or both of her sisters, the gals just might serve up something sweeter than any item on the menu: the gift of song. When we first heard Carolyn and sister Lisa Morgan McLeod sing Las Mañanitas, which is sort of a Mexican version of the Happy Birthday song, we got goose bumps. Their voices — deep and rich as you-know-what — were perfectly matched, with an operatic resonance that rarely exists offstage. “You should hear us when Kathy is here,” said Carolyn of their older sister, Kathleen McLeod. “We’re a three-part harmony.” Lisa sings tenor. Carolyn, middle sister, is alto. Kathleen has the highest range. “Kathy used to have an absolutely silvery soprano voice,” says Carolyn. “But then we got old,” says Kathleen, half jokingly. Spend just a few moments with the McLeod gals and understand that these sisters share a bond as unusual as their talent. And when you ask

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

them why they first began singing a traditional Mexican birthday song to customers, sometimes whether it was their birthday or not, no doubt they will flash back to their childhood days in Southern California. “We used to go to a particular restaurant in San Diego where the kitchen staff would sing Las Mañanitas to us on our birthdays,” says Carolyn. The girls, of course, would sing along. It was second nature to them. “There weren’t five thousand channels on television,” says Carolyn. “We sat around the living room and sang.” So when an early Pi customer announced it was her birthday, the sisters did was was natural to them. They sang Las Mañanitas. Their voices were like the perfect recipe for the most decadent pie you’ve ever had. And thus they became the Singing Sisters of Flying Pi. Those who have been patrons of Flying Pi since its 2010 opening might know that Lisa and Kathleen never planned to work here, but when Carolyn’s business partner bailed after just one month, they pledged to help to keep “the Pi” open. “My sisters were gracious enough to come in and work for nothing,” says Carolyn. “ — for a song,” quips Kathleen. “That and she fed us,” says Lisa. Now, with business on the up-and-up, Lisa and Kathleen only work at the Pi when Carolyn is in a pinch. “But if someone gave us enough notice, Kathy and I could probably change our schedules to come sing [Las Mañanitas] for them,” says Lisa. “Or we could phone it in,” says Kathleen. Of course, they still come for the ginger pie. b December 2014 •

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December Salt 2014  

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

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