By ANDREA NEMETZ Entertainment Reporter
Allison Crowe will sing the songs of Leonard Cohen during a performance by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Halifax tonight. (Billie Woods photograph)
It was the movie Shrek that first introduced
Allison Crowe to the Leonard Cohen anthem Hallelujah.
She’s loved it ever since.
The 30-year-old singer-songwriter, who grew up in Nanaimo, B.C., and now lives in Corner Brook, N.L., recorded it for her 2003 EP, Tidings.
Since then it has become a signature for the effervescent performer, garnering more than eight million views on YouTube. She’s just returned from a European tour where she sang it for every show.
Now she’s on a Maritime tour with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet where she’ll sing Hallelujah, as well as Cohen’s Bird on the Wire and Sisters of Mercy, live on stage while RWB dancers perform as part of The Doorway: Scenes from Leonard Cohen.
Choreographed by Jorden Morris, the piece, described as “a series of dance vignettes set to Cohen’s songs and poems, exploring the emotional journey across the threshold to love and longing,” also features pre-recorded versions of The Letters and Since You Asked.
It had its world premiere in May in Winnipeg. Tonight is the second night of the RWB’s mixed-repertoire program presented by Live Art Dance at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium. The evening, which begins at 8 p.m., also includes Peter Quanz’s In Tandem, Brian Macdonald’s Pas D’Action and William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude.
American singer Cris Williamson was originally scheduled to perform Bird on the Wire and the two were to duet on Sisters of Mercy, but Williamson had to withdraw for health reasons, so Crowe will be going it alone while accompanying herself on piano.
“It’s an amazing experience, I sing and watch the dancers — I’m singing to them,” says Crowe by phone from Corner Brook, which she says has a great arts scene with lots of musicians.
“I like the fact that I’m not the focus, the dancers are; I’m accompanying them.”
She says while singing she must be conscious of not throwing the dancers off. “You can’t suddenly start improvising, there must be consistency there.”
She recalls feeling lucky at the opportunity to watch the dancers for hours at a time during six days of preparation for the May premiere.
“It’s amazing, they are athletic, artistic, beautiful to watch.”
And watching the dancers perform to Cohen’s emotion-filled music “is like poetry in motion, the way the songs are built, it naturally lends itself to movement.”
Crowe has recorded other Cohen songs. Joan of Arc was included on her debut CD Secrets in 2004 and on a compilation disc from British music magazine Mojo. Chelsea Hotel No. 2 was on 2010’s Spiral. Tonight Will Be Fine and Bird on the Wire are included in a digital-only compilation called Crowe Covers: Live and Rare.
But Hallelujah is a favourite.
“There’s something so freeing about singing all those verses — it feels so good,” she says.
Crowe particularly loves Rufus Wainwright’s version. The song has been covered by hundreds of singers, from Bob Dylan to Bon Jovi, John Cale and Jeff Buckley, and k.d. lang, who sang it at the opening ceremony for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Crowe, who spent her summer working as musical director for the Gros Morne Theatre Festival production of Newfoundland Vinyl, would love to see Cohen perform live one day.
After the RWB tour concludes in Saint John on Sunday, she heads to B.C., where her parents still live, for a Christmas tour.
Tickets for RWB in Halifax range from $30 to $40 and are available at 494-3820 or www.artscentre.dal.ca
A review of Wednesday’s show will be in Friday’s paper.