November 27, 2016

Leonard Cohen ~ Hallelujah! The anthem for our time

I don't remember when I first heard this song but it has been in my repertoire of all-time greats ever since I can remember. Maybe it's because it's Sunday and I have gotten into a spiritual (NOT religious) mode or I'm deep into sadness about the events of the week, but it occurred to me it wasn't until Kate McKinnon, portraying Hillary Clinton on SNL, sang the song that I realized it is the anthem for our time. This observation has been upheld by many online reviews of her performance including the religious oriented Christian Science Mnitor (links below)!

Once I realized this, I began researching the many covers of of the song; I was not amazed at the range of versions of the piece. Some are listed below (with links to them on YouTube at the end). 

Almost each one is brilliant in it's own way but there are three that stand out to me as especially dazzling. The previously mentioned SNL is one as well as a video that was not even professionally produced. 

At the top of my list is an amateur video of the wedding in Ireland of Chris and Leah O’Kane in which the priest officiating, Father Ray Kelly, sings the song, with altered lyrics. He looks the very antithesis of a rock singer but his voice and the intense emotion is stunning to see and hear! And his phenomenal voice takes it to an amazing height of astonishing beauty! Who'd a thought a priest could rock out like this? The event was carried by many media sources on the net including the BBC News (links below).   

Father Ray Kelly

The second is an entrant, Jeff Gutt, on The X Factor, a talent show. When he first comes on he is the classic image of a DORK! But then he goes into action and when he starts to sing his voice erupts into one of the most fantastic hard rock vocals I've ever heard. He has since gone on to do several albums. 

But above those is the one that set me off on this venture, the SNL broadcast of the song. It was one of the most brilliant performances ever produced on television; it was simple. Kate McKinnon played the piano and although there was absolutely no mention of Cohen I'm sure everyone who heard it instantly knew it was his; there was no mention of his death nor the painful event that occurred that same week but Everybody Knows. It was a beautiful, understated performance by her but it packed a solid punch to the gut!

Next on my list of great interpretations of the song is Pentatonix. What an amazing group of musicians they are. An American a cappella group from Arlington, Texas, consisting of five vocalists: Avi Kaplan, Scott Hoying, Kirstin Maldonado, Kevin Olusola, and Mitch Grassi. Their interpretation is utterly subline.   

John Cale, one of the founding members of the American experimental rock band the Velvet Underground takes a turn on solo piano and he does a magnificent job!

Jeff Buckley does it with solo guitar and some improvisation. KD Lang had a go at it at the opening ceremony for the 2010 Olympic Games with great results, of course.   

 Jeff Buckley                                                                             

 KD Lang                                    

Alexandra Burke and Susan Boyle (the unlikely woman with the phenomenal voice) have full orchestra arrangements that are luscious. Andre Rieu follows up with his violin backed by a full rock orchestra.  

                   Alexandra Burke    

Andre Rieu                                 

The song is represented internationally as well. Thomas Uhlig does it in German and Daniel Kahn sings in Yiddish, both on guitar. Holiday Celebrity sings it in French with a full orchestra and there is a sweet, easy rock French cover but no credit for the singer is given. It was sung in Russian as well on the kids version of the talent show, The Voice. And of course there is a Spanish version performed by Il Divo.   

Net links:
Hallelujah! lyrics     
Leonard Cohen ~ I'm Your Man          
Huffington Post on Kate McKinnon As Hillary Clinton      
Christian Science Monitor      
Huffington Post on Father Ray Kelly           
BBC News on Father Ray Kelly      
YouTube links:   
Father Ray Kelly (Singing priest)        
Jeff Gutt
John Cale             
Jeff Buckley       
K. D. Lang        
Alexandra Burke        
Susan Boyle           
Thomas Uhlig        Daniel Kahn   
Holiday Celebrity
French cover     
The Voice Kids      Il Divo        

Thanks to all these artists for their affirmation.

Styrous® ~ Sunday, November 27, 2016

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