Archive for Leonard Cohen

Between your love and mine

Posted in Music with tags , , on September 22, 2019 by telescoper

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.”

 

Famous Blue Raincoat – R.I.P. Leonard Cohen

Posted in Music, Poetry with tags , on November 11, 2016 by telescoper

leonard-cohen

I heard the news this morning of the death, at the age of 82, of the great Leonard Cohen (above). The media are full of appreciations of his work and comments from admirers. I can add very little except that so many of the comments I’ve seen on social media have described his death as like the loss of an old friend, which is exactly how I feel.  He often dealt with dark and troubling themes, but always with defiant humour instead of despair: “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”.

Sadly the light has gone out, this time for good. At least he will live on in our hearts through his music, though sadly he won’t live to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (which I think he deserved more than Bob Dylan).

As a tribute here is what I think is his best song, Famous Blue Raincoat

Rest in Peace, Leonard Cohen (1934-2016).

 

P.S. I don’t mind telling you that I’ve just about had enough of 2016.

 

 

 

(Guest Post) De Profundis

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on September 12, 2013 by telescoper

Time for a guest post, methinks. Here is a review of a recent concert by the one and only Leonard Cohen. I wasn’t lucky enough to be there myself, but the pseudonymous Miss Lemon certainly was, and here are her reflections on the performance.

–0–

Merveilleux, superbe, meraviglioso, di sogno – I have run out of English superlatives to even try to begin to describe the masterclass that was Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas concert (NG Arena 8 September 2013). It’s not often that you can put the words magical and Birmingham in the same sentence (spoken as a Brummie) but this was one such occasion.

My initial introduction to the venerable man was as a teenager in the mid-70s. Whilst my parents and I sat downstairs probably watching something like Family at War, upstairs my slightly older, and much more in touch with her poetic side, teenage sister would allow the, as I/we heard it then, drones of Leonard Cohen to seep through the ceiling, much to the familial annoyance below. However, sometime later intrigued as to quite what this dirge-like music was, whilst Sis was back at school (I was fortunate to have longer school holidays), I listened to the Songs of Leonard Cohen and was bewitched by the, as I now realise, legend that is Leonard.

I first saw Mr Cohen back in the early ‘80s – a memorable and unexpectedly good-humoured concert – but nothing could have prepared me for Sunday’s dreamlike experience. His voice even more distinctive than I remember it and now ‘aged into a worn leather bass’. An audience whose ages ranged from early 20s to late 70s filled the cavernous halls of the NG Arena in Birmingham.  A large number of men of a certain age, not all with balding pates and ponytails, were adorned with Cohen fedoras and the first vision on the stage was that of all of the band wearing fedoras so that immediate identification of the great man himself was made a little difficult, which brought a wry smile to the assembled throng in the forum.

His nine-piece band, among them a glorious violin virtuoso, proved more than suitable playmates. An appealing alchemy of Leonard at his self-deprecating best enchanting us with songs old and new, the beautiful and haunting version of Alexandra Leaving sung by Sharon Robinson – even after three hours, like a bird on the wire, hey why not ask for more?

The esteemed Mr Cohen – modest and most generous of spirit – age has not diminished his ability to pen glorious words and sublime songs and to send 10,000 people home with a smile which would last even longer than his concert, nor has it dimmed the twinkle in his eye. He was indeed ‘born with the gift of a golden voice’.

Sincerely

Miss Lemon

There’s a shoulder where death comes to cry

Posted in Music, Poetry with tags , , , on July 26, 2012 by telescoper

I heard this song Take this Waltz by Leonard Cohen a long time ago, and found it very mysterious as I didn’t know what it was about. Lately I found this youtube clip with a preface by Mr Cohen himself that explains that it is a tribute to the Spanish Poet Federico Garcia Lorca. I can’t say I know much about Lorca’s poetry, even in English translation, but I wish I did.

Lorca was born in 1898, and was murdered in 1936 by fascists during the Spanish Civil War. His body was never found.

The Rain Falls Down

Posted in Music with tags , on June 3, 2012 by telescoper

The rain falls down on last year’s man, 
that’s a jew’s harp on the table, 
that’s a crayon in his hand. 
And the corners of the blueprint are ruined since they rolled 
far past the stems of thumbtacks 
that still throw shadows on the wood. 
And the skylight is like skin for a drum I’ll never mend 
and all the rain falls down amen 
on the works of last year’s man. 

I met a lady, she was playing with her soldiers in the dark 
oh one by one she had to tell them 
that her name was Joan of Arc. 
I was in that army, yes I stayed a little while; 
I want to thank you, Joan of Arc, 
for treating me so well. 
And though I wear a uniform I was not born to fight; 
all these wounded boys you lie beside, 
goodnight, my friends, goodnight. 

I came upon a wedding that old families had contrived; 
Bethlehem the bridegroom, 
Babylon the bride. 
Great Babylon was naked, oh she stood there trembling for me, 
and Bethlehem inflamed us both 
like the shy one at some orgy. 
And when we fell together all our flesh was like a veil 
that I had to draw aside to see 
the serpent eat its tail. 

Some women wait for Jesus, and some women wait for Cain 
so I hang upon my altar 
and I hoist my axe again. 
And I take the one who finds me back to where it all began 
when Jesus was the honeymoon 
and Cain was just the man. 
And we read from pleasant Bibles that are bound in blood and skin 
that the wilderness is gathering 
all its children back again. 

The rain falls down on last year’s man, 
an hour has gone by 
and he has not moved his hand. 
But everything will happen if he only gives the word; 
the lovers will rise up 
and the mountains touch the ground. 
But the skylight is like skin for a drum I’ll never mend 
and all the rain falls down amen 
on the works of last year’s man.

I’m your Man

Posted in Music with tags , on January 7, 2012 by telescoper

Everybody Knows…

Posted in Music, Politics with tags , on November 30, 2011 by telescoper