Sunday, September 14, 2008

well, my heart is in the Highlands...

This year, there's a bonnie... in the Scottish Highlands:

Northern Lights Benefit Show to aid John Lennon Memorial Garden Blooms in Durness, Scotland

"Love is the flower... you gotta let it grow" ~ John Lennon

The most north westerly village in Britain is to celebrate its links with John Lennon again.

Top Canadian singer Allison Crowe is to headline a concert in Durness, Sutherland, on October 11 - two days after what would have been the ex-Beatle's 68th birthday.

Allison was one of the stars of last year's John Lennon Northern Lights Festival held in Durness - and promoted by Prince Charles' North Highland Tourism - which went on to win the Best New Festival at the UK Festival Awards 2007.

Next month's Northern Lights Benefit Show will be in aid of the John Lennon Memorial Garden in Durness - the only permanent memorial to Lennon in Scotland. Lennon holidayed every summer between the ages of 9 and 15 in Durness -
on his cousins' croft.

He also returned with Yoko Ono - and their respective children Julian and Kyoko - in 1969 before suffering a car accident which hospitalised them at Golspie.

Durness, in particular, played a huge part in young Lennon's life - the song In My Life is said to be partly inspired by the village - and the singer even tried to buy the area's estate shortly before his death in 1980. Earlier this year Yoko Ono also praised villagers for their respect to Lennon's memory.

For next month's concert Allison will break off from her European tour and fly from Prague where she will be performing two days earlier.

"John Lennon was an amazing, artistic, peaceful, spirit. He made a huge impact on society. Durness made a huge impact on him and on me too and I am glad to return," said Allison, 26.

"I remember being terrified of the roads, but the beauty of the place managed to take over! The oft summer stomping ground for John Lennon is one of the most gorgeous places I have seen in all my travels.

"The black rocks and the turquoise waters... The wonderful people that live there in the Highlands... And the people I got to meet during the John Lennon Northern Lights fest from all over the world.

"There were performers everywhere and there was such a sense of community throughout the fest. I thought the entire time this is definitely a place I could live without much difficulty! The music and the laughter and the amazing new friends. truly, it's an experience that can't be matched. This year I plan on doing my best to create something new while I am in Durness, in homage to the Northern Lights Festival and
to carry on in that spirit!!!

"I am honoured to be able to help raise monies to upkeep the John Lennon Memorial Garden. It's an important part of the community, to be kept alive and growing along with the memory of John Lennon and the times he had in Durness. I hope we're able to recreate a bit of that magic."

There are hopes that the Northern Lights Festival will be staged next year.

"I'm excited we're able in a way to carry the torch for the fest that's not happening this year, because it's such an amazing experience that I hope it keeps happening for years to come, really," said Allison.

"I think the fact that people come together to celebrate the life of someone who was so devoted to peace and love, is, in a sense, achieving exactly what John set out to do. Keeping his spirit alive through the garden and through the festival is that sense of his presence and purpose living on in all of us. We all shine on."

Mary Mackay, chair of Durness Community Council, said she was delighted that Lennon's links with Durness are again to be celebrated.

"I could not think of anybody more fitting to celebrate John's links with Durness than Allison. She was a knockout last year and put hairs on the back of everybody that heard her," she said.

"We are hoping it will be a great day - and it keeps John's flame alive in a place that he loved very much."

Allison has recently toured across Canada and in the northeastern United States as headliner. Two one-hour television specials have been broadcast across Canada, and her version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah is one of the most popular versions of the classic.

"Whether I'm Wrong", an original song of social conscience penned in early 2003, has been featured by the UNESCO-endorsed New Songs for Peace initiative.

Allison will be supported by fellow Canadian vocalist and classical guitarist Billie Woods. Billie's songs are inspired by life in Canada's Pacific northwestern coastal forest, and infused with the warmth and vitality of the sambas, bossa novas and other cultural rhythms of Brazil. Other events are also in the pipeline including a photographic exhibition of the area by Shona McMillan.

Tickets are £10 for adults and £5 for under 16s and are available from Loch Croispol Bookshop 01971511777 (where a small fee for credit card bookings will apply) and Mrs Mary Mackay 01971511255.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Artist and Audience Come Together: C’est si bon, si bon!!

For such an independent soul and musician as Allison Crowe, this is the best time since she’s been born to be creating music, recording and performing for people all over the world. It’s a time for music lovers to rejoice.

The internet has profoundly altered the way artist and audience can now come together. It’s a wonderful thing to behold, and, pretty much every day brings reason to welcome, and be joyed by, a world that is connected online.

An interview with songwriter/poet+ Leonard Cohen, appearing earlier this Summer in Montreal’s La Presse newspaper, goes to the essence of this new reality:

"I was never convinced about my success because my recording company never consider me as a viable singer. I made discs, that were little promoted. I was not told my discs were selling and I was not paying attention to that. I toured, venues were filled and critics were mostly modest, some very positive but I never had the impression that things were exploding, that people were looking forward to see me. What changed everything was the internet. The internet is democratic; it does not depend on journalists or the promotion service of record companies; all that is obsolete today. When I started receiving a lot of feed back from Finland, Iceland, Taiwan, Africa, South America, I suddenly understood that there was a public I never suspected existed. It grew, my work got known and, at a given point in time a Finn, Jarkko Arjatsalo launched the Leonard Cohen Files and became the secretary general of the party. It includes more than 800 web pages, fascinating archives. I understood it was a work of love, I started contributing and we became good friends".

The above text en Anglais is translated courtesy of Velovermont, a member of the discussion forums @ The Leonard Cohen Files - the great compendium of all things Cohen. Here be the original quote en français:

“Je n'ai jamais été convaincu de mon succès parce quema compagnie de disques ne m'a jamais vu comme un chanteur viable. Je faisais des disques et on n'en faisait pas la promotion. On ne me disait pas que mes disques se vendaient et je ne surveillais pas ça. Je partais en tournée, il y avait des salles combles, et je lisais les critiques, la plupart plutôt modestes, certaines très positives, mais je n'ai jamais eu l'impression que ça explosait, que les gens avaient hâte de me voir. Ce qui a vraiment tout changé, c'est l'Internet. L'Internet est démocratique et il ne dépend pas des journalistes ou du service de promotion de la compagnie de disques, tout cela est obsolète aujourd'hui. Quand j'ai commencé à recevoir beaucoup de feed-back de Finlande, d'Islande, de Taiwan, d'Afrique, d'Amérique du Sud, j'ai compris tout à coup qu'il y avait un public dont je ne soupçonnais pas l'existence. Ça s'est mis à grossir, mon travail s'est fait connaître et, à un moment donné, (le Finlandais) Jarkko Arjatsalo a lancé les Leonard Cohen Files, et il est devenu le secrétaire général du parti. Ce sont plus de 800 pages web, des archives fascinantes. C'est un travail d'amour, je l'ai compris, j'ai commencé à y contribuer et nous sommes devenus de bons amis.”

Cohen, today enjoying his widest appreciation, has seen his songs, such as Hallelujah, become popular standards, heard in a global chorus of voices, around the new age campfire that’s kindled via such sites as YouTube and a community of bloggers, webcasters, podcasters and all ’round music fans online.

Posts this year on this, Allison Crowe’s site, have introduced authors, visual artists, other musicians, each discovering one another through/on the web.

Emblematic is Jessica Kuijer, artist manager to French singer-songwriter Sandra Poulain, and a promoter for Canadian Allison, Ireland’s Gemma Hayes and more - creators, performers, no longer bound by rules of industry or by geography in getting their music “out there” and reaching the world.

Earlier this year, Kuijer teamed up with Moroccan-based impresario and IT specialist Olivier Rohart for the first presentation of Allison Crowe’s spectacular spectacular at L’Archipel in Paris - a bill that also included Parisienne artist Sugar Plum Visions (Emily Green) - also a friend found thanks to the internet.

On her website, Where the Lions Weep, Jessica Kuijer chronicles the adventure across France, from her home in Toulouse to the concert in Paris. In French et en Anglais she reveals the “work of love”.

Of Allison’s musical performance, she notes: “I really liked ‘When I’m Gone’, (Phil Ochs’) lyrics were much more stronger with her voice. I don’t know why but I thought about my grandmother’s recent death during this song…cannot describe what I felt, but I wasn’t sad. We have just to live our lives while we can!

She spoke about Ani DiFranco. Allison is just following her steps as an independent singer in the wild musical industry as they both produced themselves their records since the beginning.

She sang my song ‘Whether I’m Wrong’ and told about me… I was more than happy.

She almost missed the steps to leave the scene, so I gave her my hand. (…)
’It was just fantastic!, that’s what I said to Angus when I had to pick up my luggage in the ‘loges’. It was a really beautiful event, there’s magic in her voice.
While she was singing “Disease”, she made the drums with her feet… I was like diving into the song. (I know this is not possible!)
Then she was always joking and was enthusiastic all the time. It was so cute when she wanted to speak French.
I can’t wait for September to see her again!!”

En français: “j’ai beaucoup aimé ainsi que la reprise (Phil Ochs’) ‘When I’m Gone’ dont les paroles avaient encore plus de sens de par son interprétation. Je ne sais pas pourquoi mais j’ai pensé à ma grand mère récemment décédé durant cette chanson et ça m’a beaucoup émue. En gros il faut profiter de la vie tant qu’on le peut. Elle a cité Ani DiFranco qui je pense est un peu son modèle surtout concernant l’auto-production musicale.
En rappel, elle ne manqua pas de me citer pour ‘Whether I’m Wrong’, c’était très émouvant et je ne la remercierai jamais assez. Elle faillit manquer les marches en descendant de la scène, je lui ai tendit ma main pour l’aider.(…)
“It was just fantastic!” c’est ce que j’ai dit à Angus quand je suis allé récupérer mon bagage dans les loges. C’était magnifique, d’une justesse vocale et d’un contrôle précis. Pendant qu’elle jouait sur “Disease”, elle marquait le rythme du pied, ce qui nous entrainait dans son univers que plus encore.
Ce qui enrichissait le tout fut cette bonne dose d’humour dont elle fait preuve constamment et de joie de vivre du début à la fin en s’exprimant en français comme elle pouvait.
Vivement Septembre pour un concert du même acabit…”

This diary entry concludes: “Ce fut une superbe expérience humaine, j’espère aller au Canada un jour.” = “It was a human experience that I won’t forget, I hope to come to Canada real soon.”

Jessica Kuijer and Allison Crowe outside a famous Paris bookshop... can you guess which?

Allison's next concert in The City of Light, La Ville-lumière, performing again on the Fazioli piano at L'Archipel, is Saturday, September 27 - Jessica's birthday!

Right now, there is a contest, un concours, at Where the Lions Weep - giving people a chance to win Allison’s Paris concert tickets and “Little Light” CDs - by identifying the legendary bookstore visited by Allison and Jessy and seen in this image above. (The answer is found in Jessica's The Days I've Met Allison Crowe diary.)

Curious about the site’s name? It’s inspired by the Stanley Kubrick/Steven Spielberg film AI: Artificial Intelligence. Says Jessica, “and so it is: where the lions weep, the place of discoveries and where dreams can be born.”

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