Allison Crowe Drives to New Lands: “Heavy Graces” Tour on Deck

She comes from a land of ice and snow. Some years more-so than others. And, like such phenomena, Allison Crowe’s preternatural talent, and her peerless body of music, is marked by a pure, crystalline, uniqueness.

“How can someone so small and young have such a big voice and write such heavy duty songs?,” legendary West-coast Canada musician and publisher Barry Newman found himself wondering upon discovering a teen-aged Crowe on a Vancouver Island stage in the year 2000. For a cover feature in Cosmic Debris, (the magazine he founded), Newman observed: “The inflections in her piano stylings were so mature too… there was a blues edge in there.”

“The first thing you notice about Allison Crowe is her voice. Rich and dark, it seems to come from a place most singers can only dream of accessing. Then there are the songs. Filled with raw passion and accompanied by eloquent piano playing,” notes Clodagh O’Connell, (The Courier, Rolling Stone+), in a maiden review of Crowe’s voyage to new lands.

Cultural critic for The Times Colonist newspaper in Victoria, BC, Adrian Chamberlain, also caught the artist in her early concert rounds: “(Listening to) Crowe is akin to sipping the richest of brandies.” The writer, himself a funk soul musician, explained: “Crowe’s singing is tremendously powerful; almost operatic. When she digs into a sustained note, as she so often does, the voice is huge, rounded, with a dark timbre.”

The amazing sound crossed the main. Before long UK music maven Dave Henderson, (MOJO, Q and Kerrang!+), was tipping MOJO mag’s audience to this siren from o’er the sea: “Once famously described as possessing a style akin to ‘Elton John meets Edith Piaf’, the Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe is renowned for her ability to blend control and melodrama.”

Moving deeper into this century, the musician’s voice is ever more complex – striking on its own and, most frequently, accompanied by 88 hammers of the gods in the hands of a virtuoso. “You really have to see Allison Crowe live. The way she splits those notes, it’s like light through a prism – all the colours of a song,” says Canadian radio and television veteran Rick Dennis.

Eight years back, Crowe migrated from her island birth-place of Nanaimo, BC, on the Pacific Ocean, to Corner Brook, nestled on another lovely isle, Newfoundland – near the Viking Trail on Atlantic shores. Acoustic guitar, fiddle and tin-whistle now figure alongside voice and piano in her musical palette – creating rock, folk, jazz, roots, country, Celtic and more thrills. Her newest recording, (released globally April 28), is an addictive variant of a centuries-old song of the seacoast, “Tarry Trousers”.

“Weirdly typical” is how BC dean of Canuck rock writers, Tom Harrison, describes a new album from Allison Crowe – and that legend is key to any map of her course. She presents bi-coastal “Tidings” concerts each Christmas season in her homeland. These past two years Crowe’s focused on: recording (four acclaimed albums – “Tidings Concert”, “Newfoundland Vinyl”, “Heavy Graces”, and “Songbook”); dance (performing songs of Leonard Cohen on-stage with Canada’s brilliant Royal Winnipeg Ballet); theatre (musically directing Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador’s rollicking hit show, “Newfoundland Vinyl”); and film projects – one recording riveting in the trailer for a major indie motion picture (“The Pardon”), and cameoing, pretty much as herself, in “Man of Steel”- a #1 box-office Superman movie among the decade’s biggest Hollywood blockbusters.

Steering well clear of the corporate record industry’s shallows, Crowe’s integrity is as steadfast as her sound is remarkable – a double-helix of traits akin to the DNA of previous generations’ mavericks. “I’m a big Johnny Cash fan. And I’m a big Allison Crowe fan. So the combination to me seemed like an awesome opportunity if we could make it happen,” explains “Man of Steel” Director Zack Snyder. “Allison and I had talked about trying to get some of her music in one of my movies whenever we could – and I thought, well, if I just put her in the film then there’s no way that it won’t work. So, that’s where you get Allison from.”

Allison Crowe's "Heavy Graces" Tour reaches Europe this May

Allison Crowe’s “Heavy Graces” Tour reaches Europe this May

For her next act, Allison Crowe returns to the international concert stage this May – with eight concerts upcoming in Europe: Bernau (03.05); Frankfurt (07.05); Freiburg (11.05); Neunkirchen (13.05); Inning (15.05); Florence (17.05); Münster (20.05); and Potsdam (22.05). The opening concert on this “Heavy Graces” tour quickly sold out – Ausverkaft! Full event calendar @ http://allisoncrowe.com/tour.html

For most of these dates, Crowe’s joined by special guest artist, and super-simpatico tour partner, Billie Woods http://www.facebook.com/billiewoodsmusic Woods’ distinctive vocal and nylon-string guitar style is rooted in Canada’s Pacific Northwest and infused with the warmth and vitality of cultural rhythms of Brazil. From home-base on Salt Spring Island, BC, in “Canada’s banana belt”, she’s blended a life of passions – principally music and photography.

Crowe’s Road/Stage manager, Axel Dollheiser, hails from Bavaria and Salt Spring. popTrip Entertainment, (currently moving headquarters from Berlin, Germany to Toronto, Canada), is booking agent.

Toronto-based author and visual artist Lorette C. Luzajic concludes: “Not everyone can bring down the divine, not everyone can be vast and mythological or bring the gifts of the gods into a winter’s night. But Allison Crowe channels the spirit each and every time.”

Some words about Allison Crowe from around the world @ http://www.allisoncrowe.com/pressquotes.html

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Tonight Will Be Fine

Combining heart, soul and vision – in words, music and images – Allan Showalter, the much-loved Leonard Cohen+ blogger, presents this video:

http://www.dailymotion.com/videoxcf8ij

Allison Crowe performs Leonard Cohen’s song, “Tonight Will Be Fine“, accompanied by images from the fabulous and free-spirited photog Billie Woods, a painting by Vienna’s boki.b and pics of posters by dedicated German concert promoter “Andreas” – and North American rock poster legend Bob Masse.

And, there be a related DrHGuy blog post as well @ http://drhguy.com/2013/04/03/ten-women-singing-leonard-cohen-songs

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RWB Steps Out – “The Doorway” to Tour Canada’s Maritimes

In this part of the Northern Hemisphere, there’s no wish for those lazy, hazy days of Summer to pass… still, in a sign of great things to come, Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet posts the next dates for “The Doorway – the resonantly rewarding ballet choreographed by Jorden Morris and set to the words and music of Leonard Cohen. (These Maritime Canada tour dates are presented in several of those same venues which launched Cohen’s triumphant return to the concert arena in 2008.)

For these Autumnal dates, Allison Crowe reprises her role performing “Hallelujah“. Cris Williamson, whose live recording of “Sisters of Mercy” capped the premiere runs, joins the RWB company to perform the song live on-stage.

Full details tba

Maritime Tour:

Halifax, NS – November 7-8, 2012 – In Tandem, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, The Doorway, and Pas D’Action – Rebecca Cohn Theatre

Fredericton, NB – November 9, 2012 – In Tandem, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, The Doorway, and Pas D’Action – The Playhouse

Charlottetown, PE – November 10, 2012 – In Tandem, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, The Doorway, and Pas D’Action – Confederation Centre of the Arts

Saint John, NB – November 12, 2012 – In Tandem, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, The Doorway, and Pas D’Action – Imperial Theatre

http://www.rwb.org/tours

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Naked Honesty: Crimson Coast’s Holly Bright Revealing and Revelling

This year, 2012, has seen much excitement and beauty emerge from choreographer Jorden Morris’ creation of Leonard Cohen-inspired ballet for Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet (the first company anywhere to present Cohen’s works as dance/theatre – with 1970s Brian Macdonald choreographed “The Shining People of Leonard Cohen”). Following the success of his “Dance Me to the End of Love” – pas de deux, a sensational highlight of the 2011 Genie Awards telecast – featuring dancers Sophia Lee and Jaime Vargas – Morris’ contemporary dance, “The Doorway – Scenes from Leonard Cohen“, enjoyed its world premiere this Spring. Pierre Meunier, reviewer for La Liberté, says of this newest RWB Cohen ballet: “Chacune des cinq scènes est un petit bijou.” (English translation: “Each of the five scenes is a small jewel.”)

Among those most delighted with news of these works by Morris and company is Holly Bright, Artistic and General Director of Crimson Coast Dance Society, based in Allison Crowe’s birthplace of Nanaimo, BC, Canada. “How wonderful that this collaboration has arisen! RWB are amazing and well-loved across the country as is Allison! I hope I get the opportunity to see it!,” Bright exclaimed upon Allison Crowe teaming up with the RWB to perform “Hallelujah” in “The Doorway”.

YouTube Preview Image

Since settling in Nanaimo in 1992, Holly Bright, choreographer and dancer, has dynamically pursued her mission to advance modern dance and dance literacy in the Harbour City and communities throughout the region. She and Allison’s creative paths crossed when the musician, (now nesting in Corner Brook, NL), was living year-round on BC’s rock – with one particularly brilliant spark emanating from a multi-disciplinary show at Nanaimo’s Port Theatre – presented by the non-profit mental health organization “Open Minds Open Windows”.

“I heard Allison sing Hallelujah at Open Minds Open Windows event we both performed in,” Holly Bright recounts. “I knew I had to dance to her version of this song and my deepest desire was to do it live. It was the perfect ending to a mixed concert around themes of life and death in a cancer society fundraising dance concert produced by Crimson Coast Dance Society.”

In my experience most interpretations of this song give it a down-and-out quality. Don’t get me wrong, these are exquisite and captivating renditions, absolutely hitting one important point of view for this song. What compelled me about Allison’s version was how I related viscerally to the hope contained within her phrasing. It is a shout that comes from deep within her. It seems to me a cry born out of the experience of being broken, of the effect of pride, of loss, of the experience of deep love, spiritual and relational and of life’s call, promise, to heal and grow.”

She composed her interpretation like an anthem, with swelling voice, in such a way as to express the pure passion of the experience of learning about love the hard way. Every sentence in that song slays me, anyway, with an impact for which there are no words. Every line breaks my heart, then proceeds to heal it. Then the ending pauses and builds are like love-making, making everything alright somehow.”

The text is sheer poetry, we all know that, and Leonard Cohen is brilliant. “Love is not a victory march, it is a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.” My God, I cannot even say those words without my heart sinking while growing at the same time. And isn’t that what we long for out of the experience of brokenness… the possibility of hope… of learning and growing… of feeling the weight of what went wrong and the healing promise that life brings.”

The challenge of creating movement for that dance that was not predictable yet that would weave metaphor into a song that was already dripping with it was delicious. Allison’s YES to my request for the privilege of performing to her singing Hallelujah was a highlight of my career. And the experience itself, on stage, her voice rising to shake the rafters where the angels hang, had me feeling naked “before the lord of song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah“.

Holly”

Holly Bright in ‘Costing Not Less Than Everything’, photo by Willow Friday (nee Chandler)

Coda: The dancer’s elemental expression pulses outward in the public pool. That reflection of this performance, one dance piece in Bright’s “This Body of Knowledge” program, is recorded by a trio of reviews published in March and April 2004:

“Holly Bright’s piece introduced the fifth artist of the evening. Allison Crowe sang a soaring rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. She caressed and scraped the lyrics turning Cohen’s song into an anthem. Bright matched this knockout performance with a solo that was sinuous, lush and beautifully phrased. The extension of her expressive arms embraced space and the emotional content of the song majestically.” ~ Russell Kilde (choreographer, theatre director, critic)

“Nanaimo’s own Holly Bright and Allison Crowe provided a stunning finale to the evening. Crowe sang Leonard Cohen¹s “Hallelujah” with a depth and power that made the song soar. Bright¹s duet with the music was filled with strength, vulnerability and intense beauty. Alternating between moments of expansion and quiet intensity, the music and the movement were woven together expertly. The result was a clear revelation of the pathos and the brilliance of human experience.” ~ Keri Wehlander (author, lyricist+)

“In the final number, Allison Crowe at the piano joined Crimson Coast’s Holly Bright for a radiant, rousing, celebratory rendition of Leonard Cohen’s lovely “Hallelujah,” with Holly’s graceful, expansive movements providing the visual corollary for Allison’s full, vibrant voice, completing the circle, merging body and spirit, body and mind.” ~ Shirley Goldberg (Film Studies instructor, writer, cinephile/critic)

In the dance, life – to quote Leonard Cohen anew – “God is alive, magic is afoot”.

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Double Dip of Leonard Cohen Ballet News

Marvellous and mysterious blogger DrHGuy, miner of many Leonard Cohen-faceted diamonds, today presents a post de deux on Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the recent engagement of musician Allison Crowe – performing Cohen’s “Hallelujah” with the RWB:

http://1heckofaguy.com/2012/06/16/allison-crowe-gets-the-pointe +

http://drhguy.posterous.com/ballet-with-allison-crowe

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RWB’s Leonard Cohen Ballet Success Rolls North in New Program

“Leonard Cohen’s music comes to life at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet“, CBC News reports earlier this month. After profoundly moving audiences during its world premiere run at Manitoba’s Centennial Concert Hall, this weekend “The Doorway – Scenes from Leonard Cohen” rolls into Northern Manitoba for performances in: The Pas, May 25; Flin Flon, May 26; and Thompson, MB, May 27. In these communities, the Jorden Morris-choreographed “Doorway” is on a program with Peter Quanz’s “In Tandem” and Brian Macdonald’s “Pas D’Action“.

In 1959, it was Brian Macdonald’s “Les Whoops-De-Doo” that the RWB premiered in Flin Flon. And, it’s another Macdonald creation, 1970’s “The Shining People of Leonard Cohen“, which premiered in Paris, France, that marked the first time a professional theatre or dance company produced the works of Canada’s iconic songsmith on stage.

Of the “Shining People” production, cultural commentator Max Wyman notes: “That was absolutely in tune with the zeitgeist. But it was intriguing stuff as well. People loved it.” (More from Wyman, and many more people on the inspiring story of the “constant phoenix” that is the RWB can be enjoyed in the award-winning documentary “40 Years of One Night Stands: The Story of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet“.)

Of the newest ballet to the words and music of Cohen, Alison Mayes of The Winnipeg Free Press recounts: “Last year, Winnipeg’s Jorden Morris was asked to choreograph a pas de deux to Leonard Cohen’s soulful ‘Dance Me to the End of Love‘ for the nationally televised Genie Awards. It was so well received that the Royal Winnipeg Ballet commissioned Morris to create a longer work to songs by the legendary Cohen. The 44-year-old dancemaker, who teaches at the RWB School and created the company’s hits Peter Pan and Moulin Rouge” now is opening “The Doorway“.

In it, Corps de Ballet member Sophia Lee, (paired with Jaime Vargas for the Genies sensation), dances “Hallelujah” – to the voice and piano of Allison Crowe. On opening, Crowe spoke with CBC Manitoba Scene Producer Andrea Ratuski: “I feel so humbled and so grateful to be a part of this. This is such an amazing company to be able to work with and I’m just so excited. It’s so beautiful to be able to watch Sophia dance — and all the other dancers, too — all the songs. They translate so beautifully. You can kind of see the lyrics within the dance. It’s gorgeous.”

RWB’s Sophia Lee dances to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” w. Allison Crowe onstage (CBC News – screen-cap)

Feelings shared by the audience. “Spine-tingling” That’s how Holly Harris, dance reviewer for the Winnipeg Free Press, describes the ballet performance of “Hallelujah“. Dan Aysan, owner of Winnipeg’s renowned Selim’s Antiques, and RWB season ticket-holder for much of 26 years posts: “Well… the Royal Winnipeg Ballet surprised me last night. Everything I had ever wanted them to do was done! They focused on the dance and not overwhelming production… and it captivated. The lighting and sound production were fantastic… but rarely did they overshadow the dancers themselves. ‘Luminous‘ was astonishing and EXACTLY the type of work I hope the RWB considers doing more of. ‘The Doorway’ was a wild mix of dance, live music and spoken word that surprised me with it’s depth and simplicity (how often do you get dancers’ movements, Leonard Cohen’s words & music with a smattering of Peter Gzowski’s voice mashed up on stage ?!?)”

CHVN Radio’s Adrienne Daniels attended the opening, and comments: “the triumph of this performance was Mr. Cohen himself. He wasn’t there, but the RWB used audio from interviews he did regarding the songs being danced to and it gave such an incredible insight into the performance that it took it to that magical level. Where spirit and art connect and you FEEL the music. You feel it in your soul, its tangible with your hands and you can literally taste it.

“I was witness to one of the most moving spectacles of human expression that I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. My soul took flight for over 2 hours as I watched the poetic nature of the human form in motion; dancing, swaying, fighting, loving, understanding and confusing all at once.”

Details of “The Doorway“, “In Tandem” and “Pas D’Action” performances this weekend, (to recorded music), can be found on the RWB’s site @ http://www.rwb.org/

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Hallelujah ballet

“Spine-tingling.”

That’s how Holly Harris, dance reviewer for the Winnipeg Free Press, describes this performance of “Hallelujah“.

Corps de Ballet member Sophia Lee, fresh from a lead role as “First” in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s production of Mark Godden’s “Svengali“, here dances Leonard Cohen’s modern song classic. Allison Crowe sings and plays piano on-stage with Lee in the world premiere of “The Doorway“, choreographed by Jorden Morris. RWB Soloist Jo-Ann Gudilin (nee Sundermeier), “Mother” in “Svengali“, dons the blue dress to perform “Hallelujah” with Crowe on alternate dates.

(CBC News – screen-caps)

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Get with the program

Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet published a lovely “Playbill” size program for its “Pure Ballet” production. Here’s the page therein containing the bio of Allison Crowe, and, the person who made the music that made the dance, “The Doorway” – Leonard Cohen!

click on the image to read full-size

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Chocolodka at the Dance

Today is the final performance of the debut run of “The Doorway – Scenes from Leonard Cohen” and the season finale for Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Following this Mother’s Day performance of “Pure Ballet” we salute music, dance, motherhood, you and me, a dog named Boo, and all else, with this special elixir – Chocolodka. Na zdrowie! Sláinte!

Visit “1 Heck of a Guy” for:

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CHOCOLODKA

And, for the instructional inspirational:

How To Make The Original Chocolodka – The Video

NB pictured in this post is Chocolodka: Travellers Edition – the creation of which, in an hotel room, requires some variance from the traditional methodology – though the ingredients remain true to the original recipe, and, according to all involved, optimal standards for Chocolodka have been maintained. Furthermore, no one was harmed in the making of this product. In fact, quite the contrary :)

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Giving credit – where credit is due

Here’s a page from the program for “Pure Ballet” – noting the credits for “The Doorway – Scenes from Leonard Cohen“. Since Allison Crowe is performing onstage – well, she’s not in position to take photos! So, we’ll look for other artifacts, such as this one, to bring us all to the dance…

Credits – click on image

I’m just back from trekking half-way ‘cross Canada and back, to be present for the public debut of “The Doorway – Scenes from Leonard Cohen“. This new dance piece is exciting and inspiring, and part of a brilliant mixed program, “Pure Ballet” presented by Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

After unpacking, and sitting back down at my home computer, I came upon a sour review of the art and entertainment in a newspaper item. As it did not reflect the experience shared by thousands of people this week in Winnipeg, it, and some friendly encouragement by a fellow LeonardCohenFiles.com forum member, I’ve put my hand to at least trying to offer a glimpse into what it’s like… amazing, wonderful, magic… read on, if it be your will :)

Exciting Ballet News

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