Nearing its 20th installment, Feast of Cohen continues to immortalize the music and memory of the iconic Leonard Cohen with an intimate and profound production
For the 19th time, Newfoundland artists of all disciplines and experiences will toast Canada’s greatest songwriter.
It is a holiday tradition around these parts, one as built in and acknowledged by those who adore powerful music as Old Christmas Day.
Feast Of Cohen toasts the songs, life and times of the legend himself Leonard Cohen with three nights of timeless classics, hidden gems and welcome rarities.
Event organizer Vicky Hynes has been there since day one, and the tradition of tributes mean as much to her today as they did when she and a band of friends first put them off nearly two decades ago.
“I was working at The Ship at the time and I remember speaking with my friends who would come through the door and say that Cohen has to be the most prolific writer for all of us. It’s there in our psyche all the time,” Hynes reflects. “We decided to get together as a mutual group of friends and put this on for one night and it sold out.”
The event grew gradually, with some of the more established names in Newfoundland music joining the ranks of the intimate and excellent tribute performance.
“I’d bump into people and they’d say man that was such a good show,” Hynes recalls. “It was so impromptu the way people came out with their instrument. It wasn’t a band situation as such, we had a couple of players with us at the time. It just evolved and became so significant to a lot of people.”
The Hallowed LSPU Hall
Following a widely acclaimed live album release in 2006, Feast Of Cohen would move from their longtime home at the LSPU Hall to bigger venues like the Arts and Culture Centre and Reid Theatre, but some of that magic seemed to stay at the hallowed hall.
“I have to say, something was lost when we took it out of that intimate setting of the Hall,” Hynes says, expressing her joy that the production would indeed return to where it all began.
“It was absolutely divine to be back there. It’s such a small, intimate setting and the kind of music that you’re presenting is like it has to be in a smaller setting. I find that all of these big tribute shows, they’re great, if you’re only there to hear a music performance, but Cohen is more of an experience. It’s something that is entirely personal for a lot of people.”
That intimate and interactive experience is only heightened when considering the sheer skill and histories of all the talents involved. There is of course Hynes, who has helmed the production to great success for nearly 20 years. There’s The Beautiful Losers Band made up of Maria Cherwick, Andrew McCarthy, Derek Pelley, Dave & Geoff Panting; under the music direction of the legendary Sandy Morris.
They’re paired with event regulars Jill Porter, Lori Cooper, Bryan Hennessey, Sean Panting, Jenny Gear and Des Walsh and a host of exciting newcomers to the production in 2019 – Mick Davis, Maggie Meyer, Tiber Reardon, Rachel Cousins, Quote the Raven, Carolina East and Mark Manning.
It’s a proverbial who’s who of Newfoundland artists, toasting the greatest songwriter our country has ever seen, a man whose legend continues to grow two years after his passing at 82 years old.
Badge of Pride
And while memorializing our dearly departed icons is popular practice, the Feast Of Cohen troupe have been concerned with popularizing the music of the man since day one. They wear that as a badge of pride today, spreading his songs and stories with old listeners and new.
“It’s great that, now that he’s gone, everyone is going about memorializing him. Here, we’ve always been into the music when he was up there on Mount Baldy and not really knowing which way his life was going to go after that,” Hynes shares.
“We’ve had our joys over the years. Now that he is passed away, all the more reason to continue on. Bring the music to the people. I think that he would be extremely happy about.”
The 19th installment of Feast of Cohen takes place January 3-5 at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s. Tickets available at the box office, by phone and online at rca.nf.ca