Remembering Leonard Cohen

Nov 14, 2017

Last week marked a year since the death of singer / songwriter Leonard Cohen. This Veteran’s Day in Harrisonburg, a tribute to Cohen sold out Pale Fire Brewing Company. Proceeds benefitted a Harrisonburg-based nonprofit called War Paints, which showcases and sells creative and artistic products by veterans and first responders.

The tribute featured Trent Wagler of the Steel Wheels with Derek Kratzer, and a number of local musicians. It was called “Who by Fire: Gratitude for Leonard Cohen Given in Song.” WMRA’s Christopher Clymer Kurtz attended, and filed this audio tapestry.

Special thanks to BeARcade Music for providing recording from the sound board.

Trent Wagler of the Steel Wheels began the evening with Leonard Cohen’s “Minute Prologue.”

[TRENT WAGLER sings Cohen’s “Minute Prologue” (excerpt)]

DIANE MOORE: I love Leonard Cohen. I woke up yesterday thinking of his music. He just touches my heart in a way few composers do.

[CHRIS HOWDYSHELL, XTIAN PERRITT, and BRUCE JOHNSON sing Cohen’s “So Long, Marianne”  (excerpt)]

BRUCE JOHNSON: It was that first album that just grabbed everybody’s attention and Suzanne, and the three songs we did were all from that very first album. You just played it over and over again, and you just wondered who this guy was. He had short hair and he wore a tie. He didn’t look like the pop star that you were used to.

PNINA ARMOUR: He represents so much about just a kind of sensitivity to human nature, of who we are, of just a kind of people who are connected to kind of understanding of what it means to feel pain and love and have an intellect about that and an appreciation for poetry and music.

[MEGAN TILLER and MELANIE SCHLABACH sing Cohen’s “Stories of the Street” (excerpt)]

JUSTIN JONES: This is like the feel-good show of the fall, right here.

[JUSTIN JONES and DEREK KRATZER perform Cohen’s “If It Be Your Will” (excerpt)]

THE HOOK AND BULLET sing Cohen’s “Did I Ever Love You” (excerpt)]

AUDREY BARNES of Hook and Bullet: To me Leonard Cohen means songwriting and lyrics that are so poetic and interpretive. They have kind of an innate melancholy to them but I think that that is something that we experience.

[JEREMIAH JENKINS and JUSTIN JONES sing Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel #2” (excerpt)]

JEREMIAH JENKINS: I found a lot of solace in his lyrics and his poetry and some of the darkness and brokenness that’s there but also the light.

[MICHAEL BOWMAN sings Cohen’s “The Gypsy’s Wife” (excerpt)]

TRENT WAGLER: Leonard Cohen is a Shakespeare, or maybe the Shakespeare of modern songwriting, at least for me. Of course everybody’s heard of Shakespeare, everybody talks about Shakespeare, but actually getting deep into the words and deep into the art that is every single syllable, it feels like Cohen put that kind of effort into songs and poetry that just allows you to continue to just dive deeper and deeper into songs that you think you knew and you think you understood. It just lays me flat to be able to kind of peel back the layers of such a short, little pocket of time and rhythm. He’s a real inspiration.

[TRENT WAGLER and other musicians sing Cohen’s “Passing Through” (excerpt)]