September 23-24, 2006

by Andrew Darbyshire

Our 14th Leonard Cohen birthday celebration night in Toowoomba was a bit more daunting for me to deal with in organisational terms, having been to the international Berlin Event the previous month and not returning home until a week before our event here in Toowoomba! Anyway, we ultimately knew it would pan out alright as there is always so much “good will” associated with this annual gathering and we inevitably have a good time!

John Gallagher

Michelle Alroe

Bronwyn Herbertson

Marie Sheehy (reading from BOL)

Leonard entertains us in background

Rita-May, Ann & Sandy

Daniel, Pauline, Anna & Kyri (+ 'yours truly' in background)

Because we had had such successful nights for our last two events, we decided to continue with a similar formula this year, in terms of holding the event in the conducive surrounds of ‘Toowoomba Clubhouse’, with profits from the night being shared between ‘Toowoomba Clubhouse’ and the ‘Dancing Bear Café Society’. This year we settled for local performers exclusively, partly because no new talent was forthcoming, even though I had advertised for the same on a Brisbane musos’ electronic notice board – oh well, some musos just don’t get it (unlike Cave & Orton & the Wainwrights etc, etc.)! Anyway, we were happy to support our own ‘home grown’ mainstay performer, John Gallagher as he is an engrossing performer and never fails to “deliver” on the night! As well as John, we had two other performers on the Saturday night: Michelle Alroe revisited us after a break of a few years and Bronwyn Herbertson was our new performer who had somehow or other escaped our event up until this point!

As is usually the case, our opening Saturday afternoon video session was only attended by a small number of people, but was still well received by those who made the effort to be there for at least some of this session. It was good for me this year to have Richard Clancy (from Newcastle) assist me with the running of this session, particularly as his LC audio-visual resources are so comprehensive and he happily made them available for this session. We covered a range of concert and documentary material, including the revealing and engrossing movie Bird on a Wire. Those who persevered were duly rewarded and would have undoubtedly felt privileged to be part of a small but contented group of diehard fans!

Our numbers for the Saturday night session were a little down on last year, but this also meant that everyone fitted more comfortably into this splendid and atmospheric old heritage listed building. The Clubhouse staff and members again provided a delightful three course meal and with the combination of subdued electric and candle lighting, the atmosphere for the evening event was, as usual, more than convivial. Using our successful formula from the last couple of years, the night kicked off with the same selection of great music video clips that included the fabulous “First We Take Manhattan”, “Closing Time”, “Take This Waltz” and “In My Secret Life”. Again, this really set the tone for the evening, as folk gradually started to arrive. In due course, everyone was imbibing the spirit of this special occasion and (of course, with due respect to Mr Cohen) “everyone knew where the wine was flowing” and “everyone knew where the night was going”!

Our first live performer for the evening was John Gallagher who enthusiastically opened proceedings with a number of well known Cohen songs for his first performance bracket, as well as rounding off the night with a further bracket of LC numbers. A little later in the piece Michelle Alroe graced us with a couple of beautiful renditions of LC classics: “Suzanne” and “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye”. Our third performer, Bronwyn Herbertson topped things off with her heartfelt renditions of “So Long Marianne”, “Bird On A Wire” and “Hallelujah”. As well as the live music, during the Saturday night session, a couple of us did short readings of Leonard’s verse from both older works and the new Book Of Longing. The lucky door prize on the night was the I’m Your Man Movie Soundtrack CD and Sharon O’Phee was our happy winner of this hallmark album. Another bonus for us this year was to have Clubhouse’s talented Vinnie do our sound and lighting for the night – the result was really impressive and we especially thank him!

The highlight this year, both for me and many I spoke to afterwards, was the playing of the small film clip of Leonard Cohen’s Induction into the Canadian Songwriters’ Hall Of Fame. Those of you, who have seen this, will agree that it is just so moving and includes three wonderful tribute cover performances by Rufus Wainwright, Willie Nelson and K D Lang. The latter’s version of “Hallelujah” is one of the most passionate and touching experiences you could ever wish to see!

For our Sunday lunch, this year we headed out to Cabarlah (20 minutes to the north of the city) where we met at another German café, Café Stubble. This year we had a good roll up of both adults and children. The lunch dragged on beautifully into the mid afternoon, with several readings of poetry and just a few little laid back and subdued guitar numbers by John Gallagher. It was a special joy to have our “newbie” friends from Brisbane, Marie and Luke attend this (as well as the previous day’s program). I also have to thank Marie for reading a Book Of Longing poem on my behalf, as I had all but lost my voice by this time (being the start of an unfortunate virus that targeted my larynx)!

So, in conclusion, our weekend was once again a very worthwhile experience, though there were some aspects that will need to be reviewed for our 15th event next year, as we have to ensure it’s a memorable one! Finally, I must again convey our special thanks to Toowoomba Clubhouse for allowing us to use their facility and to their members and staff (particularly Jane Phelan and Bryce Alcock) for the mammoth effort they undertook to cater for us on the Saturday night and generally assist in every way to ensure the event went ahead as pleasantly and smoothly as it did.

For more info write to Andrew Darbyshire.