Leonard Cohen Tribute
September 26, 2002 Victoria, BC, Canada

Report by Natalie Fuhr
Photos by Megan Evans

Terry Gilbert Morris and Natalie Fuhr

First We Take Victoria: The Leonard Cohen Tribute Event, in Victoria, BC, surpassed even our own expectations. At 2 o’clock in the afternoon, on the date of the event, ticket venders informed us that they had no tickets left; the event had already sold-out. The Comedy Cellar was the perfect choice for a celebration devoted to our favourite poet and songwriter. Candlelit ambiance, combined with the lush colour of the strawberry velvet décor, and several glasses of red wine on our table, made it feel like Leonard was there in spirit, even if he wasn’t in body.

Terry Gilbert Morris

Rick van Krugel
and Linda Rogers

Laurie Postans

Nancy Green

Stephen Scobie

Gary Cohen

Kathleen Barnes

Graham Kelly

The night began with Terry Gilbert Morris and I, Natalie Fuhr, performing “First We Take Manhattan.” Terry’s voice haunted the room as he sang Cohen’s prophetic lyrics, which were written more than a decade before September 11, 2001. I accompanied Terry with my guitar, and sang the part, “I’d really like to live beside you baby. I love your body, and your spirit, and your clothes . . .” I realized that while I was singing the song, that, yes, I wouldn’t mind being Leonard Cohen’s next-door neighbour.

Next on stage was well-known Canadian poet, Linda Rogers who performed four poems, “As the Mist Leaves No Scar,” “A Kite is a Victim,” “One Night I Burned,” and “Gift.” She was accompanied by her partner, Rick van Krugel, on mandolin. After Linda read these poems, Rick told everyone that he knew Bob Dylan was a Cohen fan, so he wanted to dedicate a Dylan song, “Wicked Messenger,” to Leonard. Rick left the audience in a frenzy, and left them wanting more. His cover of the song was magnificent.

Following Rick van Krugel were Nell and Laurie Postans of Sassenach Rebellion. They introduced the song they were performing: Nell told the story of Leonard being taken in for the night by two young ladies, who were strangers. Nell and Laurie sang “Sisters of Mercy,” and they did a lovely rendition of it.

After Nell and Laurie Postans played, Nancy Green, a local folk musician, and songwriter, performed “One of Us Cannot Be Wrong,” and “Suzanne.” Audience members could be heard singing the lyrics with Nancy to the much-loved “Suzanne.” It was clear that Nancy Green’s emotive performance had captivated the audience.

Dr. Stephen Scobie, Cohen scholar, Governor-General Award-winning poet, and Professor of English at the University of Victoria took the stage, and presented the audience with “Ten Reasons To Toast Leonard Cohen on his Birthday.” He was extremely well-received with the comical aspects of his list.

Finishing off the first set, Sarah Feldman, a Philosophy and Writing student at the University of Victoria sang "Famous Blue Raincoat” with beauty and intensity. She left everyone breathless. Intermission soon followed.

The break gave the audience a chance to mingle, and compare notes on the performances. As we looked around, it was evident that everyone was enjoying themselves.

Set Two began with a performance by local folk musician Gary Cohen who was accompanied by Mary Lowther on clarinet, and David Lowther on guitar. They did a memorable rendition of “Dance Me to the End of Love.”

We called Kathleen Barnes, a writer, and documentarian, on stage next. Kathleen told a story about how she was able to meet Leonard Cohen in 1993 after a concert that took place in Victoria. She waited patiently for Leonard, even after security told her to go home -- they said Leonard had already left the building. Kathleen was confident that he had not vacated the premises, and refused to leave. Her charming account of this event revealed that Leonard left with her heart, and her pen; she got to meet him, and he autographed a copy of The Future for her.

After Kathleen’s anecdote, Nell and Laurie Postans took hold of the audience again with their stirring performance of “Democracy.” Then, I read Leonard Cohen’s previously unpublished poem, “This isn’t China.” Leonard gave the Victoria Writers’ Society permission to print his poem in our magazine, Write Away.<

Following this poem were four others performed by local poet Monica Nelson. She read “To a Fellow Student,” “Your Death,” “Letter,” and “Days of Kindness.” Monica’s expressive reading voice lent well to her outstanding delivery of the pieces.

Next, Dr. Stephen Scobie talked about his book of poems entitled, “Some Kind of Record.” The title comes from a lyric in the song “Famous Blue Raincoat” – “I hope you’re keeping some kind of record . . .” Dr. Scobie explained that he took one line of a Leonard Cohen poem / song, and created his own piece. The audience enjoyed his performance immensely.

After that, Robert Johnson, a poet well-known throughout Victoria, read three unpublished Cohen poems from the Hydra Event Program (June 2002). Listening to Robert’s soothing voice, the audience was drawn into “The Poetry Place,” “Dusko’s Taverna,” and “My Mother Asleep.”

Finishing off the set, Laurie and Nell Postans performed, “Hey That’s No Way to Say Goodbye.” Terry and I told the audience that we weren’t saying goodbye just yet, because there was a C.D. giveaway (Cohen’s Best of) courtesy of Chapters Book Store, and an open stage being held after the second intermission. Laurie and Nell sang wonderfully, and then a ticket stub was drawn. A lucky lady from the audience took the C.D. home.

There was a short break, and the open stage took place. A gentleman asked me if he could borrow my guitar, and I said to him that he could. Andrew Kielbowicz, a local graphic artist, performed “Suzanne,” and “Sisters of Mercy,” in Polish. This charismatic man with a soft, but pervasive voice, reminded some of a younger Cohen. A lady named Deborah McGetnick recited a poem she wrote about Leonard Cohen by memory, and impressed everyone.

Terry and I had a great time hosting the event, and we regretted that it was time to say goodbye. As the hosts of the evening, we kept the tribute lively with Cohen quotes, and tidbits. Terry’s humour left everyone with a smile on their face as they were leaving. The performers were instrumental in making the night a celebration that no one will ever forget; they performed for free, which showed their enormous generosity. If it wasn’t for them, we would not have had the funds to produce a high-quality magazine that promotes writers, and writing. Due to the huge success of the event, everybody knows that there will be an encore performance for Leonard’s 69th birthday next September.

Monica Nelson

Rob Johnson