Meetup at Green Note, London, October 20, 2007

by Diane and Padma

The event started many months ago, when we spoke about arranging an informal get-together in London, and the Barbican concert day seemed to be the perfect time. We (Harry and Padma) had been to the Green Note for a meal and to listen to some music one evening and we were both bowled over by the venue, so it was an easy choice. In the 1980s, many similar venues existed, but they have over the years been replaced with cocktail bars or restaurants catering for a different type of clientele. The GN is similar to other remaining famous folk bars in town, like Bunjies and The Troubadors.

Jarkko emailed a couple of times before the event emphasising the importance of everyone coming to the GN on time: now we know why! We were supposed to have been there by 11.30 to meet Paula, and for Pete to try out Harry's guitar. As it turned out we rolled in just before 12 (typical Indian timing - if they say 11 o'clock - arrive at the earliest at 2!). We were (pleasantly) taken back by how many Cohenites were already there, including those who had travelled long distances to join us.

It was great to see everyone again! Jarkko whispered, "I've invited Leonard. He has a busy day but he will try to come". At this stage we didn't think it was going to happen. There was a very relaxed atmosphere in the GN, with everyone greeting each other, catching up with old friends and being introduced to new ones.
Pete kicked off the performances, preferring not to have everyone stop their conversations and listen, but just to play 'in the background'. He worked his way through a number of LC songs, and when he finished, it was to a mighty applause. We were all listening far more carefully than it might have seemed...

Later, after a few more people had arrived and a lot more talking and eating had come to pass, Henning took his turn at the mic, to sing some of the poems from "Book of Longing" he had set to music. Again, the audience was very appreciative of the young German star.
At about 3 o'clock Leonard arrived, on his own in a taxi, and was greeted by a disbelieving and very happy Heather, who happened to be outside at the time. The guest arrived, and one by one we became aware of his presence. After about ten minutes, Michael, who was on the mic at the time, introduced Leonard as our special guest. For a while there was a reverential hush in the room. We were utterly delighted to have him there.

Whilst everyone was still in shock, I (Diane) read out Deirdre's winning poem from the recent Forum poetry competition. It was entitled "That's Right, it's Come to This", and was in response to a 'wanted poster' of a Leonard lookalike who was wanted for armed robbery. Michael then said it was lucky he wasn't doing his Bird On The Wire tribute. Leonard told him to go ahead, so Michael read the first verse, which Leonard clearly found amusing!

Leonard then briefly addressed everyone, saying he was happy to be with us, and that he could only stay a short while as he had to get back to the Barbican for that night's talk, and concert. He then chatted amongst us for another half-an-hour, and did signings and photos.
Lizzie Madder read out her poem, "Undressing Leonard". She had not been expecting Leonard to be there when she did her recital, but Henning held her hand steady, and she did us proud.

Michael and Lizzie
The (very thoughtful) sound engineer played Ten New Songs; it was truly surreal having Leonard singing in the background whilst he was physically present. One of the bar staff phoned the manageress of the GN with the news. She managed to race over to have her photo taken with Leonard. He was already in the taxi when she arrived but graciously got out for the final photo call.

As our time at the Green Note came to an end, Harry and Paul, The Brothers of Mercy, took the stage, and wound things up beautifully. None of the performers or readings (or indeed Leonard!) had been planned in advance, but the proceedings all fell together very well.
We all thank Jarkko for giving us that precious time with our man. Leonard coming to the event was a testament of the friendship and respect that Leonard and Jarkko hold for each other.

To top things off, Wijbe captured many of the moments of the day on video, including his beautiful wife, Willy, giving Leonard an enthusiastic hug when she greeted him.

Afterwards we made our way to the pre-concert talk where, Leonard was to recite most of A Thousand Kisses Deep, an unexpected and beautiful surprise. Leonard and Philip received a standing ovation at the beginning and end of the Talk. The warmth and appreciation of the Barbican audience was almost tangible. Then came the Glass concert itself, which received a mixed reaction, but was a memorable culmination to an incredible day.

Well, actually, it wasn't quite the culmination; we all made our way to the bar after the concert was over. But that's another story.

Watch Wijbe's video from the Green Note (7 min)
See more than 60 photos from the Green Note!
Leonard Cohen Photo Portrait by Diane

More about Book of Longing ,
collaboration of Leonard Cohen and Philip Glass

Photos © 2007 Diane Williams