Happy birthday, Leonard
The longtime “Feast of Cohen” organizer was thrown for a loop earlier this year, when she was told by the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre that the annual show wouldn’t go ahead at the venue during Christmas week, as planned, since the centre would be closed for the holidays.
Hynes chose not to take one of the centre’s proposed alternate dates, saying it would take the meaning out of the event: she had established “Feast of Cohen” in 2000 as a way to stave off the after-Yuletide letdown.
Instead, she bumped the show up to this Sunday, Sept. 21 — Cohen’s 80th birthday.
“It’s been a big gamble, I can’t lie to you there,” Hynes says about the date change.
She feels, however, it’s worth it, for a special guest lineup she calls her most magnificent to date.
Steve Maloney, Aley Waterman, Kat McLevey, Glenn Simmons and Dana Parsons are all on the bill for the birthday edition of “Feast of Cohen,” along with regulars Jill Porter, Lori Cooper, Des Walsh and the Beautiful Losers band (Sandy Morris, Boomer Stamp, Kelly Russell, Derek Pelley, Dave Panting and Geoff Panting), as well as Hynes herself.
Joel Thomas Hynes had originally been announced as part of the lineup, but was forced to back out because of an unforeseen conflict in schedule.
“I’ve always got my ear to the ground. I’m always reading The Telegram or The Overcast or anything I see on Facebook, and I listen to a lot of CBC programs that feature local acts,” Hynes says of how she comes up with new talent to invite to the show every year.
It’s rare that she has to twist any performer’s arm to take part, but it has happened, she says, laughing.
“Glenn Simmons, the silent, big talent behind the Wonderful Grand Band and the big songwriter and frontman for The Fables, said, ‘I’m not that familiar with all his stuff,’” Hynes explains. “I said, ‘Most people aren’t, Glenn, but I can see you doing ‘Closing Time.’’ He said, ‘As a matter of fact, I like that song, yeah.’ I said, what about ‘Bird on the Wire?’ and he said, ‘I know Joe Cocker’s version.’”
Hynes generally lets the performers choose their own Cohen songs to perform (and will never give away the set list in advance, saying it will ruin the show), and is ecstatic when the younger performers choose some of his older stuff.
“Unless (the young musicians) were exposed to it at home, if their parents were fans of Leonard’s work, they haven’t really engaged with it,” Hynes says. “They go for the old, old, old songs, and that’s so exciting.”
Sunday’s show will feature music from Cohen’s debut album, 1967’s “Songs of Leonard Cohen,” right up to “Popular Problems,” which was released last week.
Hynes isn’t sure if a Cohen birthday tribute will become an annual thing or not, but hopes to eventually be able to move “Feast of Cohen” back into the LSPU Hall, where it was originally produced until renovations began on the building in 2008.
“It was the heart of the show,” she says. There was something extremely special about playing to that room, and I think it was special for all of us. The audience was so close, they almost felt they were a part of it. You could almost hear them singing along in the microphone sometimes, and they’d be lying on the floor, they were so comfortable. It was like being in a big living room.”
Hynes is also planning a second live “Feast of Cohen” CD, a followup to the one she released in 2007 in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Cohen’s debut record, and has been recording the show for the past number of years for that reason.
Tickets for Sunday’s show are $50 and are available at the Arts and Culture Centre box office, by calling 729-3900 and online at www.artsandculturecentre.com.
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