How does one of the world's great musical voices, and most independent artists on the planet, land amidst a face-off between man and Superman in an Hollywood blockbuster?
“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.”
The film-maker, along with his stellar cast and crew, deliver insights into the production of this epic science fiction adventure, in “Journey of Discovery”, a just-released special feature of MoS in Blu-ray edition.
“(Zack) keeps trying to get me into movies and it's amazing,” responds Crowe in the feature. “I first kinda met Zack over the internet about songs online... I think about four or five years ago the first one would have been the 'Watchmen' and he was looking to do 'Hallelujah'. And then the second one we were looking at another song for 'Sucker Punch' and so now we have Johnny Cash's 'Ring of Fire' and the altercation ensues...”
Allison Crowe with Zack Snyder on "Man of Steel" set - photo courtesy Clay Enos / Warner Bros.
The movie itself reveals how all the pieces fit – and it's an exhilarating ride and humbling experience for the Canadian singer-songwriter. And it's all inspiring.
“In an entertainment world that increasingly genuflects at the altar of instant fame, Crowe seems an anomaly, building her career slowly and carefully,” commented Times Colonist newspaper scribe Adrian Chamberlain some years back. Fine-tuned at the keyboard in arts reportage, (and an r'n'b combo), the writer noted how the “Nanaimo songbird seems uninterested in celebrity and its trappings”.
The universe is ever-expanding for the now Corner Brook, Newfoundland-based, Vancouver Island-born, Crowe, still her goals and values are constant. "Soulful. Alive. Joyous. Grievous. Real, true, music is what I want to make," she's said. More than a dozen years along the road less-traveled, she succeeds like no one else.
From attending the red-carpet premiere and festivities of “Man of Steel” this Summer, she traveled from New York City to Cow Head, NL to musically direct the hit stage show “Newfoundland Vinyl”, a production of Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador at the Gros Morne Theatre Festival. Her LP/album of the same name, joins her latest, “Heavy Graces” among 2013's best new releases. Crowe's third album out this year, “Songbook”, is an oeuvre-spanning 22-song compilation.
People everywhere can enjoy the music – and folks in Allison Crowe's hometowns can join in “Tidings”, a celebration of music for the season and all-time, happening:
Nov. 30 – Arts and Culture Centre, Corner Brook, NL
Dec. 7 – Fairfield United Church, Victoria, BC – to aid Artemis Place and HepCBC
Dec. 12 – Real Food, Old City Quarter, Nanaimo, BC – Community Sing-along to aid Haven Society
Dec. 14 – St. Andrew's United Church, Nanaimo, BC – with guests: Chelsea Peckett; Daniel Knapp; Melissa Kahan; Taylor Johnstone; Raymond Salgado; & Joshua Holloway - to aid Woodlands Secondary Band and Basketball
Concert and community sing-along details coming soon.
"What a voice, what a voice, what a voice!" remarks veteran music reviewer Muruch posting on the 'No Depression' blog. The West Virginia-based folk aficionado highlights a feature ever-present in the music of Allison Crowe – whether it's rock, gospel, jazz, grunge, classical, blues, soul or other genres she's making.
For her newest album, the 11th release on Rubenesque Records, the bi-coastal Canuck lends her voice and musicianship to great songs that come from, and out of, the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador. “Newfoundland Vinyl” covers songs popularized by vinyl-era Canadian legends such as Joan Morrissey, Harry Hibbs, Dick Nolan, Eddie Coffey and Eddie Eastman. Add in tunes associated with The Dorymen, Stan Rogers plus modern troubadors Gary O'Driscoll and Ron Hynes for a moving and joyous showcase.
“It has the timeless beauty of a classic folk album,” writes Muruch. “The album is full of dazzling melody and such an unique charm.” Alluding to the rare path taken by the artist to achieve success, the review continues: “I'm starting to think Allison Crowe's DIY folk style is Canada's answer to Ani DiFranco.”
Allison Crowe attends the red carpet World Premiere of "Man of Steel", Lincoln Center, New York City, USA Summer 2013 - photo courtesy Clay Enos / Warner Bros.
She's enjoying fun this Summer in movies, too, as “ManofSteel” opens around the globe. Crowe has a cameo in the new Superman epic directed by Zack Snyder – performing Johnny Cash's “Ring of Fire” in a scene that unfolds as Clark Kent /Superman – embodied wonderfully by Henry Cavill – searches for his place in this world.
Musician Allison Crowe and Director Zack Snyder on the set of filming "Man of Steel" - the new Superman epic
MoS has earned more than $600 million at the box office so far. Allison Crowe flew home from the movie's New York City premiere to begin rehearsals with the cast of “NewfoundlandVinyl: The Flipside” – the follow-up to last year's rollicking hit – part of the Gros Morne Theatre Festival happening in Cow Head, NL. Jeff Pitcher, Artistic Director of Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador is Writer and Crowe Musical Director again this Summer.
The production runs July 12 through August 30 at the GMTF. Allison Crowe says cast rehearsals are “AMAZING” – and indicate the show, which gave her newest album its name and raison d'etre, is going to be a super experience.
“Newfoundland Vinyl”, the limited-edition, 180-gram-quality, vinyl LP is available on Crowe's home islands -- on Atlantic shores at Gary Bennett Music in Corner Brook, and via Craig Payne's daROCK Stories & Songs, and venerable Fred's Records in St. John's, NL. On Canada's Pacific coast, the LP is stocked at Fascinating Rhythm, in Nanaimo, Lyle's Place, in Victoria, and Salt Spring Sound, SSI, BC. In the city of Vancouver, Canada - it's @: Highlife Records; Neptoon Records; Red Cat Records; and Zulu Records.
The album can also be mail-ordered for delivery anywhere, and, digitally, it's available here on Allison's Music Site and on CD Baby,iTunes, Amazon and other fine sites that make music available online.
Northern Lights over Gros Morne - photo by Allison Crowe
Allison Crowe has completed recording her newest album - to debut June 25, 2013. This new release, the 11th from Crowe's Rubenesque Records, is the first to be available as a vinyl LP.
Crowe reveals her inspiration - working with Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador, which celebrates the 18th Annual Gros Morne Theatre Festival when its season runs this year from May - September.
"I am so grateful to have been asked two years in a row to put together songs and musically direct for a show called 'Newfoundland Vinyl'. I get to work with extremely talented and fun people each Summer in a gorgeous setting - Cow Head, NL," says Allison from her home in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. "From the vast and encyclopaedic sea of beautiful music to come from, and out of, Newfoundland and Labrador, here is a collection of some of the songs from this year's show."
Music and comedy come together in this theatre production, written and directed by TNL's Artistic Director Jeff Pitcher. TNL announces: "On the heels of last year's runaway hit we present the all new 'Newfoundland Vinyl - The Flip Side!' ...the cast returns with more hits than a bagful of hammers!"
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 (which first brought Cohen's works to stage 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”.
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 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”.
Musician Allison Crowe is thrilled to perform with Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet for the World Premiere of “The Doorway” – a contemporary ballet from choreographer Jorden Morris opening the words and music of legendary poet, singer-songwriter, and survivor Leonard Cohen.
“Graceful, moving, achingly honest, the series of dance vignettes are set to Cohen's songs and poems, exploring the emotional journey across the threshold to love and longing,” says the RWB of this new piece from Morris, creator of the tremendously successful and celebrated “Peter Pan” (2006 premiere) and “Moulin Rouge – The Ballet” (2009 premiere) for the company. For the live national broadcast of the 2011 Genie Awards, Morris created a sensuous pas de deux – embracing Cohen's song “Dance Me to the End of Love” – performed by Corps de Ballet member Sophia Lee and former RWB Principal Dancer, and current Ballet Master, Jaime Vargas with music from Montréal rock band Karkwa.
“Working with the RWB is going to be such an awesome experience – even to just watch these amazing people dance is gift enough,” Allison Crowe says. “I am humbled to be able to be a part of such a beautiful project, in tribute to such a wonderfully talented and brilliant man, Leonard Cohen.”
Growing up in Westmount, on the Island of Montreal, Cohen entered the fringes of a life in music as a Buckskin Boy. Though “born with the gift of a golden voice”, and building a sterling reputation as a writer – author, poet and songsmith – in the '60s , '70s and on, he's endured stranger times to test his mettle. This century has witnessed a renaissance in appreciation of his work and Leonard Cohen reach his most cherished state as an artist. Emblematic of this status, in May 2012, as the RWB presents this new creation based on his art, Leonard Cohen will be feted for a lifetime of achievement in music and poetry – receiving the Glenn Gould Prize at Toronto's Massey Hall.One of the world's top concert draws, Cohen's newest album, “Old Ideas”, charted #1 in countries 'round the globe.
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, based in the culturally-vibrant city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, is Canada's oldest, and North America's longest continually operating, ballet company. Founded in 1939, it's the first ballet company in the world to be granted the Royal title – bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. And, it's the first organization anywhere to present a theatrical or dance production of Leonard Cohen's work. During the RWB tenure of Artistic Director Arnold Spohr (1958 – 1988), in Summer 1970, Brian Macdonald choreographed “The Shining People of Leonard Cohen” which debuted in Paris. Later, that July, it's staged at Canada's National Arts Centre in Ottawa – with eclectic band Lighthouse, and a pair of bats from the belfry, opening the show.
Today, André Lewis, named RWB Artistic Director in 1996, (he began his association as a dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet School in 1975), oversees the launch of this newest creation, “The Doorway – Scenes from Leonard Cohen”. Jeff Herd, native Winnipegger, after a decade as company manager for Cirque du Soleil's “O” at the Bellagio, in Las Vegas, and some years overseas, is back home helping further the RWB's legacy in motion as Executive Director. Bob Stewart serves as Production Director. Tad Biernacki, is RWB Music Director and Conductor and, in this circumstance, kindly, match-maker. With costume design by Anne Armit and lighting design from Hugh Conacher, Jorden Morris' piece is partnered with RWB alumnus Peter Quanz's “Luminous”, and audience favourite Mauricio Wainrot's “Carmina Burana” for an evening, (and one Sunday matinee), of classical and contemporary ballet that runs May 9 – 13, 2012 at Winnipeg's Centennial Concert Hall. It's a mixed program united as “Pure Ballet”.
A pure talent and communicator in song, Allison Crowe, is invited to perform her piano and vocal version of “Hallelujah”, a modern classic. First recorded by Crowe in 2003 for her CD “Tidings”, this Leonard Cohen song has been covered more than 200 times – in a wide range of styles. Iconoclastically, free of mainstream ties and marketing, Crowe's version has steadily emerged among the most-enjoyed worldwide. A YouTube video of Allison Crowe performing “Hallelujah” live-in-the-studio has an audience of more than eight million people. Acclaimed Hollywood director Zack Snyder tags it “beautiful”, “sexy” and “romantic”. The bi-coastal singer-songwriter, born in Nanaimo, BC, and now home in Corner Brook, NL, is honoured to deliver her passion for the song live to the RWB's lovers of “visible music”.
Crowe enters fine musical company with those whose performances will also illuminate “The Doorway”. Whether criss-crossing the country to visit hundreds of schools and inspire children, or expressing their humanitarian nature performing in Kenya and Dubai, dynamic Winnipeg duo “Keith and Reneé” (http://www.keithandrenee.com/) shine. The veteran pair make music of many genres, folk and country among them, that reach people via radio, tv, film and commercials. They penned “Good Year”, theme of Manitoba's Homecoming 2010 and, fresh off a dream tour with entertainer Jann Arden, “KnR” bring to the Centennial's live stage their heartland take on “Bird on a Wire”.
Alongside these performers, and recorded words and music of Leonard Cohen, the program includes an incandescent “Sisters of Mercy” as captured live on “Circle of Friends”, a 1991 album by South Dakota-born, US prairie-raised musician, activist and pioneer Cris Williamson (http://criswilliamson.com/). This was the 15th anniversary concert recording of Willamson's “The Changer and the Changed”, an epochal album which went gold, (sales over 500,000), and is to indie and women's music what Michael Jackson's “Thriller” was to general pop in its day.
Allison Crowe follows up this exciting RWB engagement with a rare off-stage role – serving as Music Director for “Newfoundland Vinyl” – a rollicking spin through popular music's coming of age on “the rock” – presented in this Summer's Gros Morne Theatre Festival by Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador. A “Tidings Live” album and video documentary is in the works with film-maker Peter Buckle. These North American activities precede Allison Crowe's next European tour – featuring a concert return to Germany, Italy, England, Scotland+