As Penticton poets, musicians and artists prepare for Anthem: A Leonard Cohen Tribute, the Western News caught up with some of the performers to find out what kind of role Leonard Cohen played in their lives.
Penticton spoken-word poet Shane Koyczan helped organize the performance, which sold out the first night quickly, now playing two nights (Dec. 17 and 18) at the Cleland Community Theatre.
“One of the reasons I’m able to do what I do is, you find the voices that appeal to you in life and they become part of your own voice and Leonard Cohen has definitely been that for me,” Koyczan said. “He taught me to communicate with the world when I didn’t know how to.”
Each performer has taken on two songs to highlight during the ensemble show.
“I got really lucky that they’re two of my favourite songs because there were a lot of songs we were all choosing from and debating who was going to do what,” Robbie said. “Leonard Cohen’s, the line that he plays with sensuality and sacredness and Joan of Arc, to me, is the embodiment of that. It’s been one of my favourite songs since I was a teenager.”
Local musician Jared Jackel is bringing banjo, guitar and more as well as taking on two Cohen songs from his 1977 album Death of a Ladies Man.
“Which I hadn’t heard until he died actually. It’s a super insane album. Phil Spectre produced it and it definitely sounds like it, very crazy, and I didn’t really know Leonard Cohen did that kind of stuff,” Jackel said. “Doing this and learning all these songs is definitely very cool to be exposed to all the different kind of stuff he does.”
“That’s how I was first introduced to Leonard Cohen was a Jennifer Warnes cassette tape that I wore out, you couldn’t read the writing on it anymore,” Wiltse said.
She’s also performing Who By Fire from 1974’s New Skin for the Old Century.
Getting together to with local musicians and artists to put on the performance has reignited her love for Cohen.
“Then just working with such amazing, amazing people. It really makes you realize how much talent there really is in Penticton and the response from the community shows you how much love there is for Leonard Cohen,” Wiltse said.
“There’s just a certain quality to Leonard Cohen’s earlier acoustic songs that I like, that’s kind of what draws me to him,” Berry said.
“He maybe wasn’t an incredible singer, technique-wise, but he was telling a story.”
“They’re beautiful songs, it was hard to chose. It’s like going to McDonalds and ordering some french fries and deciding which one is your favourite. They’re all going to be good,” Oneill said.
Oneill said Cohen was a hero to him growing up.
“He was actually doing the thing we all aspired to. He was living as an artist,” Oneill said. “Leonard has kind of been the soundtrack to a lot of my life.”
As Oneill puts it, there are “a lot of mouths to feed,” with 10 performers, but thankfully there is enough Cohen to go around.
“His body of work was so huge and encompassed so much different stuff that we could all find things that we wanted to do that were radically different from what everyone else was doing from different points in Leonard’s career,” Oneill said.
The performance also features Mia Harris, Stefan Bienz, Tavis Weir and Alexandra Goodall.
“It’s definitely challenging when you have this many people because there is a lot of people who want to jump in on these moments, they hear what other people are doing and want to become part of it and that’s amazing that energy is really great,” Koyczan said. “But we also need to allow space for very intimate moments to happen because that’s one of the appealing things about Leonard’s work is that it’s just so personal and small and you can listen to it in a dark room.”
Anthem: A Leonard Cohen Tribute plays the Cleland Theatre two nights with tickets still available for the Dec. 18 performance.
Proceeds from the show are going towards the Penticton Art Gallery and the Dream Café.
Tickets are $30 available at The Book Shop on Main Street and the Penticton Art Gallery.