September 20-21, 2003

by Andrew Darbyshire

Anne, Bryce & Jenny

Carolyn, Shelley & Jan (sisters)

Michael & Narelle

Greg (with Henning's CD)

Jane & Erin

John Gallagher

Sandy, Annie & Jean

Our 11th Leonard Cohen birthday celebration night was another significant milestone, in that we had been meeting to celebrate LC’s artistry for 10 years now – as was stated in my 2002 report, what had started out as an experiment has become a bit of a local institution! Anyway, when the weekend arrived, it was with that hallmark feeling of auspicious occasion. Perhaps its just the nature of these events, where there is a sense of anticipation and excitement because we know that, irrespective of who’s present, it will be a great night of joyful celebration and camaraderie.

On this occasion we had no particular “starring” act, as the group that had been teed up earlier in the piece, were unable to perform (as it turned out). The overall numbers at this night event were also down slightly on previous years, but those present made up for it with their bonhomie and exuberance. What is special about each successive year is that there are usually new celebrants and/or visitors from afar, so this (apart from anything else) makes the event worthwhile. This year we were very happy to have Greg Hogan from Sydney come up to our event – he not only thoroughly enjoyed the occasion, but also added to it with his enthusiastic participation and wild sense of humour.

A special feature of this year was the availability of Henning Franz’s wonderful new CD (Songs from “Energy of Slaves”). We not only played this for everyone present, but we also had it as one of our lucky door prizes. It was really pleasing to see our new visitor Greg win this, and what’s more, it proved to be a constant source of pleasure for him on his long car trip (868 kilometres) back to Sydney! The other prizes on the night were “The Essential Leonard Cohen” and “Ten New Songs”, both of which were gladly received by their respective winners. Another wryly-enjoyable part of the evening was our viewing of Justin Brown’s short film from last year’s event. It captures the feel of the occasion superbly and was a nice way to reflect on what this event is all about.

The night opened with the selection of LC’s recent music video clips playing on the big screen – something that seems to strike a chord with each and everyone. The live performers followed a little later – though quite a motley lot, each had something special and unique to offer. John Gallagher did his usual splendid repertoire of songs, with the addition of one or two new ones from “Ten New Songs”. He also performed a couple of songs with Peter Baker, who excelled on the keyboard and saxophone.

In terms of poetry readers, we had an enthusiastic response this year, with poetry readings from Shelley, Scott, Carolyn (a family grouping), Richard Clancy, Greg Hogan and myself. What was perhaps a stand-out performance, was Pauline Collin’s breath-taking reading of a raunchy excerpt from “Beautiful Losers”! Pauline and friends also comprised a high-spirited ‘dance contingent’, which added a new dimension to the night. The finale of the night was a session of recorded music from the “Cohen Live” album, as Michelle (who runs C7) requested we play “Suzanne” – we did this and then kept on with more tracks, even while the floors were being swept at the conclusion of the night!

The Sunday lunch session was again held at “The Barn” (Flagstone Creek) and proved to be a relaxing time in this rustic rural café, where the children could also entertain themselves in the tree-house, sandpit or just looking around the farm environs and enjoying the animals. We had a pleasant drawn-out meal (with wine etc) and John Gallagher, on his acoustic guitar, entertained us with a number of Cohen songs, adding to the mellow and laid-back feeling of the occasion. There was also a lovely personal contribution by Helen Holmes, who read us her delightful poem to Leonard (written some years ago).

Overall, the weekend was the usual rewarding experience we have become accustomed to. We would have appreciated a few more folk on the Saturday night, but it was a very busy weekend in Toowoomba anyway and there were also quite a few folk from out of town who for whatever reason couldn’t make it this year.

Andrew Darbyshire

Andrew & John Gallagher at 'The Barn'

For more info write to Andrew Darbyshire.
Photos © 2003 Gerard Saide & Greg Hogan. Used by permission.