http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/f ... 578c5cafbe
24 Jul 2008
First, we take Manhattan, then we take . . . Edmonton? Well, something like that. Since 2002, University of Alberta professor Kim Solez and a dedicated group of Leonard Cohen aficionados have presented the small, if decidedly intense Leonard Cohen Nights festival here each September.
That event has grown in stature to the point of attracting attention far beyond local fans, garnering serious national coverage and creating a buzz within global Cohenite circles, linked as never before by the Internet.
This year, that experience,imaginationand sheer sweat equity has seen the biennial Leonard Cohen International Festival come to Edmonton, a much larger gathering than previously staged in New York, Berlin, the Greek island of Hydra, India and Montreal.
To be sure, each of those locales would seem to have stronger ties to "Our Man," as Cohenites refer to the 73-year-old poet/novelist/singer/songwriter. For that matter, the Montrealer has spent much of his time in and around Los Angeles for many years.
Edmonton's claim to the Cohen canon - which involves six weeks spent here 42 years ago and the writing (and inspiration) of the classic Sisters of Mercy - is skimpy indeed.
But then, led by the passion and generosity of Solez, one of world's foremost renal pathologists, the Edmonton connection and successful festival bid may well be the most heartfelt yet.
The festival, which began in earnest today, includes dance events, city tours, themed meals, Cohen films, a visual arts exhibition, live audio-visual performances, academic lectures and, of course, concerts, including a Winspear gala Saturday evening.
There will undoubtedly be those who wonder what all the fuss is about, to the point of questioning the cult-like fascination for the old warrior.
But as obsessions go, surely venerating the life and times of Leonard Cohen must be among the more benign.
Without question one of most celebrated Canadians in history, his name will be remembered - and his verses repeated, his songs sung - long after most of our other heroes (and villains) are forgotten.
And when it comes to living icons, there is something cheering about one who pronounces himself "a minor poet" and who once said of his native land, "you have to love a country that would give someone like me a Singer of the Year award."
On the spiritual side, those looking for glib answers must shop elsewhere, since Cohen provides no easy solutions.
Such wise self-effacement seems like a good fit with this city, not a place prone to unseemly crowing.
If there is any (cosmic?) justice, Cohen will add Edmonton to the growing list of stops on his current world tour, the first in years. Hallelujah, indeed! And welcome Cohenites.
The Edmonton Event - before and after
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