Published May 11, 2012As Leonard Cohen once famously sang, "First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin." You can now add Toronto to the list of cities Cohen has taken by storm. The songwriting icon may be known internationally as Montreal's supreme bard, but he is now being shown serious love in Canada's biggest city.
A wide-ranging series of special events celebrating the artistry of Leonard Cohen is currently taking place in Toronto. They honour his achievements as a poet, artist and novelist, as well as a singer-songwriter, and are all helping fuel anticipation for the climax of the Cohen lovefest, the Glenn Gould Prize Gala Concert in Honour of Leonard Cohen, where the Canadian star will receive the $50,000 Glenn Gould Prize for lifetime achievement.
This special concert takes place at Toronto's historic Massey Hall on Monday (May 14). It's a seriously star-studded event, hosted by noted actor Colm Feore and featuring musical performances by Cowboy Junkies, Adam Cohen, Serena Ryder, Cohen protege Anjani Thomas, Basia Bulat, and three of America's best folk/country singer-songwriters: John Prine, James McMurtry and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.
Reading from Cohen's poetry that night will be Michael Ondaatje, Alan Rickman and Gordon Pinsent (with Greg Keelor and Travis Good), while former governor-general Adrienne Clarkson will offer a spoken tribute. Cohen will be in attendance, and will be presented with the prestigious Glenn Gould Prize at the event, becoming the prize's ninth laureate. Notable past laureates include Pierre Boulez (2002), Oscar Peterson (1993) and Yo-Yo Ma (1999).
The international award is presented biennially to a living luminary who has made a unique lifetime contribution that has enriched the human condition through the arts and manifests the values of innovation, inspiration and transformation. A tribute to Glenn Gould's artistry and his multifaceted contributions to culture, the $50,000 prize aims to promote the vital connection between artistic excellence and the transformation of lives.
Upon learning of the honour, Cohen stated, "I want to thank the Glenn Gould Foundation for their kindness. It is a great honour, sweetened by my love of the work of Glenn Gould, and our collective appreciation of his invigorating and enduring presence in the world of Music and Imagination."
Another presentation to take place at the gala concert will be made by Cohen himself. He has chosen innovative music education program Sistema Toronto to receive the City of Toronto Glenn Gould Protege Prize of $15,000. Launched in 2011 in collaboration with the Toronto District School Board, Sistema Toronto offers free intensive musical education to children in the Parkdale neighbourhood, with plans to expand across the GTA.
As for other Cohen-related events in Toronto, his talents as a visual artist will be showcased in Artworks -- a visual art exhibition running from May 7 to May 19 at Toronto's Allen Lambert Galleria in Brookfield Place (181 Bay St.) -- featuring 40 expressive Cohen lithographs.
Cohen's continuing influence on young singer-songwriters is also reflected in "Make This Waltz," a youth workshop and concert taking place today (May 11). Sixteen aspiring young songwriters from music programs at Dixon Hall and SKETCH will participate in a special collaborative songwriting workshop with professional mentoring from acclaimed songwriters Carole Pope (Rough Trade), Ayah, Deborah Alexander and Blair Packham.
Cohen admirers are taking it to the Toronto streets today and tomorrow. The "Street Tribute" features more than 25 artists performing his songs and poems in various locations in Toronto's downtown core, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day.
Finally, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival has a special Cohen-themed screening event of three films celebrating the songwriter. The Three Lennys screens at the Bloor Cinema at 2:30 p.m. on May 12, incorporating 2005 documentary I'm Your Man, 1983's short musical film I Am A Hotel (written by Cohen and Mark Shekter), and the 1965 National Film Board documentary Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen.
For more information on the Glenn Gould Foundation, prize and jurors, head here.
As recently reported, Cohen recently rolled out a North American tour. You can see all those dates here. He released his latest album, Old Ideas, earlier this year.