“Dance Me To The End Of Love”

When writing, either a blog post or poetry, I often use some form of free association and follow the thread till I reach the story in the labyrinth of my mind. There are always prompts and clues along the way. In my last post I started with Carolyn McDade‘s Come, Sing a Song with Me, which led me to expand on the choral work I am involved with at this time. The song going through my head at that moment was Un canadien errant and I posted a video of Ian and Sylvia Tyson’s rendering of the famous exile song. My colleague Soso of Un pied ici, un pied là-bas, having listened to the Tyson’s version then followed the thread on YouTube, and came upon Leonard Cohen’s interpretation of the same song. Cohen is one of her favorite artists of all time so I was delighted to share with her that at  The Edmonton Metro Chorus we will be performing Cohen’s famous Hallelujah in our November concert.

Soso had attended Cohen’s concert at the Olympia in Paris during his world tour of 2012-2013 and has only fond memories of what she sees as a once in a lifetime experience. Following up on this rave review, I got hold of Leonard Cohen Live in Dublin recorded on September 12, 2013, and promptly watched the 3.5 hours video, 30 songs live, absolutely moving. The audience was captivated, on the edge of their seats, totaly engaged in this man’s sublime performance, delivered with grace and without pretence. This somehow felt like a farewell concert, and it probably was if one considers that the artist was 79 at the time of this recording. Much could be said about many of the songs offered that night, however, I have settled on one, and only one, and the reason will clearly appear in a moment.

Dance Me To The End Of Love was the first song of the evening and immediately struck a chord. The song was first performed in 1984 on the album entitled Various Positions. In 1995, Stewart, Tabori & Chang published Leonard Cohen’s poem with reproductions of Henri Matisse paintings, the third book in a series entitled Art and Poetry. I have long been interested in the relationship between literature and the visual arts and had made it one of my academic specialties. I also always had a penchant for the work of Henri Matisse and was attracted to the boldness and sensuality of his nudes, I found his work to be an inspiration to me. I had not known of this particular publication until Brenda, my wife and best friend, offered it to me in 1996, with the following inscription: After 10 years you still “Dance Me to the End of Love”. We have since danced our way to the Okanagan then, with à pied-à-terre in Switzerland we danced all over Europe for 4 years, after which we danced our way to Malawi for one year before returning to Canada. Come next March, we will be dancing into our 30th anniversary. And beyond…

I would like to leave you with a poem of my own, largely inspired by Leonard Cohen so, thank you Mr. Cohen for lending me some of your words, and most importantly, your spirit. Thanks also to Mr. Ric Masten for the one line from his hymn Let it be a dance, it just kept creeping in. So be it.

You danced me to your side
with burning desires
You danced me to places
near and far

You danced me to your heart
over land and water too

And when I danced near
the edge of time
You danced me “tenderly”
back into your arms

You danced me “through the good times
and the bad times, too”
You danced me “on and on”
You danced me “very long”

Yes, do “dance me to the end of love”

Dance me

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“Come Sing a Song with Me”

This engaging song by Carolyn McDade came to mind this morning and I couldn’t resist the invitation. Come sing a song with me, come sing a song with me, that I might know your mind. And the chorus goes on: And I’ll bring you hope when hope is hard to find, and I’ll bring a song of love and a rose in the winter time. But why today, on a rainy day, why this morning? I just woke up with my head full of music following last night’s first rehearsal of The Edmonton Metropolitan Chorus for the 2015-2016 season. And what a season it will be, with The Wizardry of Worthington coming this November, Mozart’s Requiem in February at the Winspear Centre, and at Carnegie Hall in March, and finally in May, a concert entitled Our Home and Native Land.

No, we will not be singing Carolyn’s song, but singing last night gave me hope, and singing in itself was  “a song of love”. Since my retirement, just about 20 years ago now, singing, like flower arranging, has become an important part of my life. After moving to Kelowna, I immediately joined the Okanagan University College Choir under the direction of Leroy Wiens. The choir has a long history and and was renamed Kelowna Community Chorus. Since returning to Edmonton a couple of years ago I have joined both Harmonia and  the Edmonton Metro Chorus. All was well until a number of consecutive lengthy colds left me voiceless and a full year without singing. I was sad, of course, and hopeless until I started working with David Wilson who taught me how to breathe again. If you want to sing, you need to breathe, what a surprise! Anyway, the long and the short of it is that it is working and I can sing again. The first test was this summer at the Singspiration week long camp and concert, then rejoining Harmonia last Tuesday, and again last night when David Garber led us through a first reading of The Wizardry of Worthington. Rejoice, rejoice.

The first song that came to mind this morning was Un canadien errant d’Antoine Gérin Lajoie, who wrote the poem in 1842, at age 18, setting it to a folklore tune of his days. I was singing the song last night and this morning again and just loved it, but I won’t abuse your kindness, instead I offer you Ian and Sylvia Tyson‘s rendering.