A Montreal celebration of Leonard Cohen's life and work

Montreal musician Li’l Andy is bringing together local musicians, authors, poets and even the choir from Leonard Cohen's childhood synagogue to honour one of Montreal's greatest artists.

Musicians, poets, authors set to gather at Rialto Theatre for tribute show on Dec. 15

Li'l Andy gets set to perform Leonard Cohen's song Everybody Knows at a tribute show he organised at the Rialto Theatre on Dec. 15. (CBC)

Li'l Andy has been a fan of Leonard Cohen's for years, but it wasn't his music that first drew him in — it was his poetry.

He fell in love with Cohen's poetry and his novels, when he started to play the guitar at the age of 12.

Now the Montreal musician has a huge repertoire of Leonard Cohen songs he loves to play, one of which is Everybody Knows, a song he's getting set to perform at the Rialto Theatre during a tribute show for Leonard Cohen he helped organize.

"We wanted it to be a celebration of his life and work," says Li'l Andy. "He's a huge figure with a lot of breath."

Singer Leonard Cohen died last month at the age of 82. (Canadian Press)
The show will pay homage to all the different facets of Cohen's work. Bringing together local musicians, authors, poets, even the choir from Cohen's childhood synagogue to honour one of Montreal's greatest artists.

The 800 ticket concert sold out in just 48 hours, a testament to the connection Cohen had to the people of his hometown.

Pop Montreal's Dan Seligman says the tickets for Leonard Cohen's tribute concert at the Rialto Theatre sold out in 48 hours. (CBC)

"It still is resonating quite a lot with people, the immediacy of his death and his legacy," says Dan Seligman, the creative director of Pop Montreal, one of the organizers of the tribute show.  

"He had such an impact on the cultural, artistic, spiritual life here, that everyone felt a connection to him," says Seligman.  

One of the performers is singer-songwriter and storyteller Neema. She has a lot of fond memories working with Leonard Cohen, who co-produced her album Watching You Think in 2010.

Neema lives just blocks away from Cohen's home in Montreal. She says the memorial outside his home continued for weeks after his death.

"There were always people there, leaving something, lighting candles, leaving flowers, leaving a piece of writing," says Neema. "It's been a huge collective mourning."

Neema will be singing Cohen's song Avalanche at the tribute, which he taught her how to play.

Neema worked closely with Leonard Cohen on her album Watching You Think in 2010. She holds a copy of the album, with a self-portrait Cohen drew of her as the album's cover. (CBC)

She joins the stage with The Barr Brothers, Basia Bulat, Thus Owls, Emilie & Ogden and Marie-Pierre Arthur to name a few.

Like the versatility of Cohen's work, there will be poetry readings by Montreal authors, among the music performances. One of the readers is Rawi Hage, whose novels include De Niro's Game and Cockroach.     

Proceeds go to charity

Proceeds from the evening will go towards one of Quebec's largest women's shelters, Le Chaînon. The centre helps hundreds of women in need each year, and it relies almost entirely on donations to stay open.

"It's really moving, it's really touching," says executive director Marcèle Lamarche.

Lamarche says the shelter's thrift store is right by Cohen's home. She says it's quite possible that he had come into the shop, while passing by on his way home. Lamarche will never know for sure.

"His legacy goes way beyond his words and his music," says Lamarche. "He was a person who thought about the world and humanity."

Leonard Cohen's tribute show is called God is Alive, Magic Is Afoot, and it takes place at the Rialto Theatre on Dec. 15 at 8 p.m.