Between your love and mine

Yesterday, 21st September 2019, would have been Leonard Cohen‘s 85th birthday, which made last night’s performance of Between your love and mine at the National Concert Hall in Dublin an especially moving occasion.

The piece – a Requiem by Leonard Cohen, rather than a Requiem for Leonard Cohen – was created by John MacKenna who, in the summer of 2016 approached Leonard Cohen with the idea of creating a requiem in memory of young people who had died tragically, and for those grieving for them. It roughly follows the liturgical form of the Requiem mass but with text and music provided entirely by Cohen. Leonard Cohen – a Jew who had embraced Buddhism – often referred to Catholic themes and imagery in his songs and poems so the work is in no way a contrivance but has a compelling unity and honesty about it.

The first `hymn’ Come Healing sets the tone:

And let the heavens hear it,
the penitential hymn,
come healing of the spirit,
come healing of the limb.
Behold the gates of mercy
in arbitrary space
and none of us deserving
the cruelty or the grace.

Some of the songs were unfamiliar to me, but there are some of Leonard Cohen’s famous songs in Between love and mine, including Anthem and If it be your will. There are three principal vocalists: Katie Jacques, Shane Sullivan and Eric Butler. The latter in particular gave a superb performance demonstrating wonderful versatility in his voice, including a passable reference Cohen’s own deep tone (that someone once described as `like a boulder rolling down a granite tunnel’) but also deploying his own natural register to powerful effect, especially in Anthem where he summoned up his thundercloud in fiery tenor tones. Three backing singers, two readers (including John MacKenna) and a small band of strings, keyboard and drums make up the cast of this intriguing and emotionally powerful work.

Naturally, given the theme, it was a sombre performance but at the same time very uplifting. Leonard Cohen may not have been there in the flesh, but he was certainly present in spirit. In more ways than one it felt like he was the host.

And those who dance, begin to dance,
those who weep begin
and “Welcome, welcome” cries a voice
“Let all my guests come in.”

 

6 Responses to “Between your love and mine”

  1. “a Jew who had embraced Buddhism”

    I don’t think that he embraced Buddhism. He did spend several years in a (Zen, I believe) Buddhist cloister, and came out to go on tour again after his manager had lost all his money (all’s well that ends well?). Regarding his time in the cloister, he said something like “I’m not looking for a new religion; I’m perfectly happy with mine”. He was from Montreal, but his native language was English.

    “like a boulder rolling down a granite tunnel”

    A journalist once described fellow Canadian (and (secular) Jew) Geddy Lee’s vocals as “making Robert Plant sound like Leonard Cohen”, which gives you some idea of how high his tenor is. Before he was famous, I actually knew some people who thought that he must be a woman: the name (his mother’s attempt at “Gary” with a strong Polish accent (his parents met in the Auschwitz concentration camp)) could be female, the voice, typical 1970s rock-musician long hair but no beard. 🙂

  2. Anton Garrett Says:

    The cruelty of grace??

  3. Dorothy Lamb Says:

    It sounds a wonderfully memorable evening. Leonard sang ‘Come healing’ when I saw him at the NEC (in the Midlands). Another one to give you an escalofrio is ‘Alexandra leaving’.

    Sincerely

    Miss Lemon

  4. Leonard’s son album talks about his new, posthumous album in the Irish Times. Note: not out-takes, B-sides, curios, etc, but just stuff which wasn’t yet complete when he died.

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