‘The Gift of a Golden Voice: The Leonard Cohen Tribute Concert’
It was just over a year ago that Leonard Cohen died, leaving us with a library of astounding music and poetry that can be best described by the title to one of his most beloved works: “Tower of Song.”
An initial Lexington-based Cohen tribute concert was staged just after Thanksgiving 2016 at The Burl. That planted the idea for a second concert this weekend of Cohen music that enlists two churches: one that has organized the event and another that will stage it.
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The concert is part of the First Presbyterian Church’s Music for Mission series. But when the planned date coincided with Metropolitan Opera regional auditions already scheduled there, musical director Marlon Hurst contacted Shawn Gannon, who heads the Soulful Space programs presented at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd on Main Street.
That is where more than a dozen artists and ensembles from various musical backgrounds will gather Saturday for “The Gift of a Golden Voice: The Leonard Cohen Tribute Concert.”
One of the ways this performance will differ from last year’s Burl show is that the participating artists weren’t booked. Instead, they auditioned to take part.
“We put up a Facebook event notice,” Hurst said. “Everybody had to submit an audition, so we asked them to submit recordings of three songs, and we made our selections from there. What we were really striving for was a variety of styles and approaches, so we have some artists that are more country oriented, we have some who are jazz, some who are more straightforward rock ’n’ roll, some that are folk. Everybody who auditioned was really worthy of getting in, but we tried to cut down on duplication. For instance, we didn’t take all the single guys on guitars who submitted songs, which was our largest pool.”
In terms of repertoire, Saturday will cover works from the full span of Cohen’s career, including Colin Fleming’s version of “Suzanne,” (the first song on Cohen’s 1967 debut album, “Songs of Leonard Cohen”) and Doc Feldman’s take on “You Want it Darker” (the title tune to Cohen’s final recording, released two weeks before his death).
Along with Fleming and Feldman, the artists and acts participating in “The Gift of a Golden Voice” will include Steve Armstrong and Sherry Sebastian, One Lane Bridge, Paper Moon Jazz Trio, Quantum Mechanics, Marilyn Robie and Friends, Melissa Snow-Groves and Friends, Derek Spencer, Diane Timmons and Art Mize, Stacy Yelton, and two trios: Joanna James, Anna Hess and Richard Young; and Lauren Hill, Lorne Dechtenberg and Diane Arnson Svarlien.
“This sounds clichéd to say, but I think these songs just have such integrity and stand up to a variety of interpretation,” Hunt said. “That’s one of the reasons these songs are covered so much. People can really dig into them. I think the songs are strengthened by that variety.”
“The Gift of a Golden Voice” is free but will require tickets, and they’ve all been distributed. Those with tickets will be admitted beginning at 7:15 p.m. Saturday. Any seating still open at 7:45 p.m. will become available to anyone without tickets.
“I can’t call it a sellout because we’re not selling any tickets,” Hurst said. “But it’s going to be a full house.”
Donations will be collected to benefit GleanKY, which collects excess produce from farms, orchards, gardens and groceries, and redistributes it to those in need. For more information on its work, go to Gleanky.org.