4! I loved your commentary on Montreal. This is the first I have had a moment to breathe since getting home; otherwise I would have posted sooner. If I were to choose a song title or lyric that would describe my experience in Montreal, it would be Love Calls You by Your Name.
I love being anywhere in Canada, but this was our first trip to Montreal—hopefully not the last. Even without the Leonard connection, it would rival Victoria or Vancouver in my opinion, but in light of that, it is now hands down my favorite Canadian city.
I apologize in advance if this gets too long and I will try to rein it in, but as you can imagine, that is not so easy. If you will indulge me, I will go day by day.
Friday, Nov 3rd- We arrived late after 3 flights through 3 time zones, and the construction in Montreal along with driving in a strange city threw us for a loop. When we arrived at our short-term rental apartment, our host (who lived nearby) met us at the door. His warm welcome and sincere pleasure when we told him we were there for Leonard Cohen settled me down. By the way, we highly recommend VRBO. You can usually get an entire home (or apartment) for near the same cost as a hotel room (if you make your own meals). We stayed in a 2Br 2BA apartment across the street from McGill. There was a grocery store a few blocks away and in no time, we were pretending to be locals-- locals that didn’t understand a word of French, lol!
Saturday, Nov 4th- The first place I wanted to be, without giving it any thought, was the Shaar Hashomayim Congregation Cemetery on Mont Royal. Not being members of either the temple or the Cohen family, one could argue that we had no right to be there, so forgive me anyone whom that offends. But having never seen Leonard in person, I needed something, anything, that would prove to me he was actually here on this earth. Remember, I have never been to a concert of his or even had the luxury of following his music in the years that I should have.
The sun was shining when we arrived, and we had no trouble finding the Cohen plot. In fact, the whole thing happened so quickly and smoothly that before I knew it, I was standing at the foot of his grave. I hadn’t given any thought ahead of time as to how that would make me feel. If I had, I doubt that I would have expected to be overcome with emotion, but standing there, he suddenly became real to me in a way he never had before. He wasn’t a mythical being after all, but a real person. It was not the last time during our trip that I remembered B4 saying, “…each time you shed a tear, you do it for me too.”
So there I stood, speechless in the sunshine, with my heart beating like a rabbit’s. Behind me, I heard Dave say quietly, “You know Mr. Cohen; she didn’t even know you until this year.” I just shook my head because it was so true. A thousand heartbeats later, he added, “I hope you know, she has spent a pretty penny on you since then.” Of course that made me laugh…that Dave!
I wanted to bring a special stone for his grave and had one picked out, but I was afraid it wouldn’t make it through TSA or customs, so I left it at home. But, I had to leave something! I rummaged through my pockets and frantically sent Dave back to the car, but of course as a rental car, it had nothing to offer. Then I remembered the one thing that I did have in my pockets, the only thing I can never be without… my chapstick. It was a humble offering I know, but every time I reached for it the rest of the day, I was reminded of that moment. I liked to think that Leonard, being Canadian and having kissed more than his share of women, understood the importance of it.
After placing my offering, we wandered through the congregation’s cemetery a bit and then returned to say a last goodbye, but by then there were others there and for me the fuzz was off the peach. Seeing later photos of his graveside, I was saddened to see that at some point my chapstick had been removed. Maybe someone thought it was disrespectful, but if so, I wish they hadn’t judged. I think Leonard would have understood.
Sorry for going on about our visit to the cemetery. I know it will make this sure to be too long post even longer-- but it had the biggest impact on me of the whole trip (Followed closely by a few other moments that I will share). The remainder of our day was spent on Mont Royal. Hopefully it will not be the last time we visit there.
Sunday, Nov 5th- The time zone change and the luxury of no whining pets, clucking chickens or braying donkeys to wake us up allowed us to sleep in! Even though we were only a 10 minute walk away, we practically ran through the McGill campus to meet the tour bus at the Ville Marie.
Our friend 4 describes it as a happy chattering crowd, but to me it felt like mass of strangers while I searched every face for the likeness of 4 and his wife from the picture he had emailed me. At last there he was! As you know from 4’s post regarding the time we spent at dinner that night, he reported we didn’t hate each other. For me, I knew even before that. In fact, it was before we boarded the bus. For anyone who has met 4 and his wife Joann, that would come as no surprise. However, I must say that it was not the first time that I wished B4 and Alan and Jean were there too.
Since 4 has given a perfect account of the tour, I won’t bore you with my account except for our experience at the first stop. As 4 said, the one of the biggest highlight of the tour was our time with the Cantor. At the end of our visit with him, seated in the temple, he asked if anyone had any questions. When he was asked, “Will you sing for us?” the Cantor casually reached for his phone to find his “pitch”. He opened up into song with a voice that was like the heavens themselves had parted. Dave, not knowing the role of Cantor was to do just that, later told me that he about lost it when that happened! For some reason, that pleased me very much. The tour was followed by dinner at Moishes’ which pleased Dave very much, so we were even! Not that I didn’t enjoy it.. the steak was maybe the best I have ever had, and our dinner companions couldn’t have been better. I would have enjoyed a quieter and less crowded spot more I think.
4 and I at Leonard's boyhood home:
Monday, Nov 6th- The day of the concert!! We spent the day exploring Old Montreal. Did I already mention how much we loved this city? It was so much fun. We visited the Notre Dame Basilica. After entering the hushed cavernous church, with its overwhelming scent of burning candles and soaring ceilings and brooding statues, carved pews and heart wrenching paintings, Dave whispered in my ear, “Those Catholics sure knew how to scare the hell out of someone!”
Afterwards, I wanted to get a good view of the river and the Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel so we drove down by the harbor, parked and walked about for maybe 15 minutes. It was a beautiful afternoon, marred only by the $53 parking ticket we received for not understanding the parking rules (in French), but ignorance of the law is no excuse.
The Concert- Again 4 has given a very good account of the concert experience, as have many others on the forum, and as B4 has pointed out, you have likely heard the audio and seen several YouTube videos by now, so I will add only a few personal observations. Before I start though, I want to add that our experience would have not been the same if we had not been sitting with 4 and his wife.
Our favorites, in no particular order… other than maybe my memory of when they appeared, are as follows:
First off, I want to say that every performance by Adam Cohen especially those sharing interaction with Javier Mas were the most touching and memorable parts of this concert for me. I don’t know why. (Maybe Alan does) Maybe it was my visit to the grave. Maybe it was the fact that the owner of the bagel shop told us that Adam was at his father’s Montreal home with other musicians rehearsing for the concert days before, and I can imagine him trying to connect it all, and I am guessing Javier was among those rehearsing with him. Maybe I am touched by his vulnerability after losing his father only a year ago and then having to spend these past months trying to bring together this group of people to honor his father in a way that would satisfy all of his very particular fans. That vulnerability was never more evident to me than at the opening for The Partisan (I think that was the song) when Adam was turned towards Javier as the older man played the opening rifts, and I saw the wink that Javier gave him, as if to say, “You got this.” Did anyone else see that?
Who by Fire- Patrick Watson. It was the ending that got me on this one, “And who shall I say is calling?” not only because it is my favorite line of this song, but because it was the first of the few times in the concert that I was reminded of Alan’s comment that if I felt the performing was speaking just to me, then I would know they had channeled Leonard correctly. It is one of the songs I am looking most forward to seeing again on the DVD (along with all of Adam’s).
I’m Your Man- Sharon Robinson. This was Dave’s favorite. When I asked him why, he said he respected the fact that she was a longtime collaborator of Leonard’s and he liked her take on it.
Famous Blue Raincoat- Damien Rice. Again, it was the ending that got to me, and another moment that the performer was singing just to me. The 2 words in this song that always got me were “Brother… Killer…” The repetition of those lyrics was for my benefit alone.
If It be Your Will- Borns and the Webb Sisters. Maybe it is because after seeing the cover of this song by Anthony on the DVD I’m Your Man, I was predisposed to love any performance of this song that Adam felt was worthy to be at the tribute. Or maybe it was because I was struck by the vulnerability of the performer. Either way, I was touched.
You Want it Darker- Leonard and the Shaar Hashomayim Choir. Enough said.
The Partisan- See above under First off.
Family videos- Although I am mentioning them last, they by no means had the least impact. There were several videos that we all have seen before, but for this concert Adam also shared videos that I believe were family videos not shared like this before. The most memorable was Leonard explaining something to a child. I was struck that the concept being explained seemed beyond the child but at the same time the child seemed to understand, and for some reason it made me think of Jean on the forum here.
So there you have it. After the concert, we walked back to our place in what felt like 30 seconds.
Tuesday, Nov 7th- Our last day in Montreal started out with that “day after your birthday” feeling, where you are flooded by the joy of the day before and the sadness that it is over. We drove out of town to see the area surrounding the city, both out of curiosity and to kill time because we didn't have tickets to the museum for the preview of the Leonard exhibit like it seemed everyone else did. It was fun to see that things got even more French as we left town… not at all like the western side of Canada where I am from.
That afternoon, we walked down to the museum anyway. I guess I just wanted to be around it and thought we could at least see the permanent exhibits, but when we arrived they said the museum was closed entirely except for those with tickets for the special event. We just stood there for a moment and then backed away but I didn’t leave... and suddenly someone came up to us and said they had 2 extra tickets and did we want them? Heck yes we wanted them! I was so surprised and shocked that we walked inside and never got the name of the kind person that allowed us to be there! So that is how we got into the exhibit! We felt like kids who had snuck under the tent at the circus!
The first thing we did was search for 4 and Joann and despite the rabbit warren of dark rooms that twisted about the exhibit to the point where you didn’t know where the beginning or end were, we found them, so we got to spend a few more moments with them. The best parts of the exhibit for us were the montage of videos highlighting Leonard’s career, the poetry organ, and the little room that had microphones hanging from the ceiling where there was the music for Hallelujah playing in the background and if you sang the words for the song into one of the microphones, the floor under your feet would vibrate, more so the deeper you went. But the best part for me was the room set up to be Leonard’s home in Los Angeles. It was a meticulous recreation of a room with his Apple computer, his guitar, his reading glasses, his keyboard, his desk and chair… that you could walk among and touch. Then out the window, was a hologram of him sitting with his back to you on his balcony. I was the only one for a moment because Dave had left the room and it was another of those moments that I knew you were there with me B4. Just as I was looking around and getting teary eyed, I looked at the hologram of Leonard again, and stared in stunned silence as he slowly turned around and smiled at me! I realized later that it was all part of show, but at that moment, I seriously questioned my sanity, heightened by the fact that I was the only one in the room at the time.
Wed, Nov 8th- We woke at 3 am, traveled through another 3 time zones, this time on 4 flights, and arrived back in Idaho at 9:30 pm, got up at 4:30 the next day and went to work.
Sorry this is so long. I have spent as much time as I can to reduce it but I am tired, so as 4 said, just read what interests you and ignore the rest. I wanted to add more pictures, but it seems that you can only add three at a time?