Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.
The light found its way into the darkest days of winter and took the form of the grace and talent who charmed the Cleland Community Theatre stage on Dec. 17 and 18.
I have no place critquing the spectacular performance in honour of the Poet Laureate of Pessimism, the late Leonard Cohen, so allow me to gush for a few hundred words.
It was heartening having met most of the performers in the course of my work and an honour to call a couple of them friends. The warmth between musicians and audience felt as if we were all invited into a very fortunate living room.
The back-and-forth banter between songs was comforting, at times hilarious and inviting, especially considering this is likely the first time the group had all performed together in this capacity.
Anthem: A Leonard Cohen Tribute would not be out of place on any stage in Canada. Considering the breadth of Cohen’s work, it was an impressive, all-encompassing dive into the career of the Canadian legend.
Anchored by the intoxicating voice of Shane Koyczan, each artist on stage brought something unique to the table, creating a sum of all parts which gelled together to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Whether it was Daryl Oneill seemingly channelling Cohen’s voice, the angelic choir of Alexandra Goodall, Mia Harris, Maiya Robbie and Teresa Wiltse elevating vocals to heavenly heights or the subtle and sultry instrumentation of Stefan Bienz, Jared Jackel, Warryn Berry and Tavis Weir, the group was able to travel through the diverse scope of Cohen’s work with what felt like effortless ease.
Switching between laughter, awe and near tears, from song to poem to song, the emotive depth of Cohen’s work was honoured justly and then some.
I would be remiss to not mention the impecable sound which warmed the theatre, so a special thank you to the local man on the soundboard, Dave Mai, for a job very well done.
The headline up there really says it all. Home grown, world-class. It was a performance which had me reflect upon my perspective on life, which Cohen’s work has been known to do, but further I vowed to go forward ensuring I was doing the best job I can to make sure this community is aware of the supreme wealth of talent living just down the street.
A heartwarming rendition of Hallelujah had the audience invited to sing along, it would be hard not to. Highlighted by an incredible high note by Mia Harris, the most iconic song of the evening drew a loving standing ovation. I’m not much of a Christmas season kind of person, but my heart grew at least three sizes that day.
While Anthem was a show of quality which could have easily played Radio City Music Hall, it came with none of the pretention.
Koyczan had me laughing out loud multiple times bringing levity with friendly and cheeky quips (Maiya Robbie may never be able to say the word “boink” again).
Adding another layer of depth was the proceeds going towards two very well-deserving Penticton arts institutions, the Dream Café and the Penticton Art Gallery. If you missed the show or are aching for more, fret not, because if there is one thing I have learned in my three years in Penticton it is that there is no shortage of amazing talent on display at any given time. It was a night that made me proud to call Penticton my adopted home.
Dale Boyd is the arts and entertainment editor at the Penticton Western News