One famous and one nearly forgotten American Bard

It was a cold evening, but as usual, the welcome was warm. So after showing our tickets and obtaining programs, my friends and I quickly found seats. I was especially looking forward to this performance, as the recital would be of works by my favorite poetess.

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An evening with Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill

The small theatre was totally sold out: all places taken. Then a group showed up. No reservation is no ticket is no seat – but they’d either barged or been allowed in. The group sat down anyway, managing to block access to the stage and hampering the performance later on.

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Leonard Cohen

Of course, as stated before, Leonard Cohen should have been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. He wrote beautiful, impressive poetry and songs for decades. If he had been awarded the prize, bet he wouldn’t have behaved as badly as the present silly Laureat at that.

Missed choice. Missed chance. Missed everything else.

As reactions pour in and obituaries are published, I came across the Guardian’s list of 10 best songs by Leonard Cohen. Such lists are personal, of course. You will have your preferences, I have mine. The complete output of Cohen was staggering.

l-cohen-01My first introduction to him, his songs and music, his writing, was of course “Suzanne”. Either sung by him in English, or in translations by other artists, it remains a haunting song forcing you to listen to its poetry or a haunting poem forcing you to listen to the music.

Other favourites include “Marianne”, “Hallelujah” and especially “Dance me to the end of love” with its link to Nazi horrors.  But also more recent poems which are darker and include ones dealing with getting older. Yes, he could have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and would have been a far more acceptable choice than its jury made earlier this year.

As someone twittered: “as if the week could not get any worse.”

Guardian Leonard Cohen
YouTube Leonard Cohen performing “Dance me”

Branoul Literary Salon: Enoch Arden

The last literary salon of 2015 did not attract the usual crowd. Three people were moaning about it and commenting on the differences between the cultural scenes of several major cities. I listened to their moans and criticism, while idly sitting in the theatre’s corridor waiting for the doors to open.

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Exhibition: Dutch dunes and poetry

Even if the weather is too hot, warm, cold, wet, stormy – you can still admire the landscape visiting a few Dutch museums. In controlled climate, they offer you a few interesting summer exhibitions. For a start, there is the joint exhibition, organised by the Gemeente Museum in The Hague and the Dordts Museum in Dordrecht.

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Salon Branoul: I am waiting

Before I went, I presumed both the music and poetry might be totally not my thing. I worried if this would also be true for the friends I’d invited along. Of course, as usual, this Salon Branoul literary event was another pleasant revelation.

And let’s face it: if you’re not open to challenges and adventures, you might forever be waiting for revelations and other wonderful things to happen in your life. It is unlikely though, you might turn into the “I” of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “I am Waiting”. It was one of the Beat Generation poems, recited during this event.

Members of the New European Ensemble had selected music which belonged to the same era. Emlyn Stam and Wim Vos played compositions by Tigran Mansurian and Michael Colgrass (Variations for Viola and Drums). Tigran Mansurian’s Tagh 3 slightly reminded me of Indonesian Gamelan music. So though Michael Colgrass’ variations surprised me, Tigran Mansurian excerpt pleased better.

After the performance, my friends and I wondered what kind of musical score had been used. For one doesn’t have to be musical or a musician, to understand that playing this kind of music is taxing and demanding. It certainly illustrated the professionalism, high standards, talents, skills and experience that NEUE members always bring to their musical performances.

As for the Beat poems: studying the poets and their poetry is totally different from attending a recital. They had not left any impression upon me, while studying English and American literature. But then: there had been nobody like Kyle Timon Dukes, reading out this poetry during lectures.

Or rather: perform and live this poetry. It was impressive to watch him not just recite but interpret the emotions captured in each poem: wrath, disgust, anger, pain, love and many more. It must have taken him a while, to get rid of all the energy generated during his acting and reciting. A  day later, friends still talked about his fabulous, mesmerizing performance.

Of course, Allen Ginsberg was represented by an excerpt of “Howl”, as well as by “In Back of the Real”, “Sunflower Sutra” and “Song”. Jack Kerouac’s “American Haikus” made the audience snigger, laugh, or remain silently moved. As mentioned above, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “I am Waiting” was recited, as well as Kenneth Rexroth’s “Gic to Har”.

Of these poems, it was especially the reciting and performing of “I am Waiting” which impressed and touched me most. Though “Howl” and “Song” and all the other poems made a far deeper impact than they ever did, being read from the printed page.

It’s really a shame, that these poets and the contemporary music seem not to attract more admirers. This evening definitely did not attract the crowds which previous ones had. Yet the poetry is not that difficult. Its images, ideas and emotions, can be seen as a link between and criticism of an earlier romantic poetry and our present-day reality and awareness of pollution and materialism.

As usual, at the end of the performance, there was a very warm applause – followed by much laughter. For the audience was kindly reminded that they had entered for free, but were not expected to leave without donating money for the performance. Which caused one of my friends to remark, she didn’t mind being taken hostage, as long as the recital of poetry continued. Like me and others, she’s hooked on these “Pay what you Want” events and one of many, brave enough to get out of their comfort zone.

The people behind Theatre Branoul and the New European Ensemble are already planning the Salon Branoul Season 2015-2016, though this season’s last evening has yet to take place. Free tickets are still available for this last 2014-2015 last performance, which takes place Tuesday 16th of June. However: this will be a recital in German.

Salon Branoul starts its 2015-2016 season in September 2015. You won’t have to wait that long for good music: as usual, the NEUE will give free garden concerts during the summer months.

Kyle Timon Dukes is a member of rock band NiCad: YouTube NiCad
Poety Foundation: text “I am Waiting”
YouTube: Allen Ginsberg reading Howl part 1  
YouTube: Jack Kerouac reads American Haikus

“You’d sing too, if you found yourself in a place like this …”

About ten friends decided to join me and attend another literary salon at the small Branoul theatre. Though not all these recitals are in English, Leonard Cohen’s poetry was of course not read in translation.

At first, I hadn’t been that enthusiastic. I’m no great fan of modern or contemporary poetry. I only knew a few of Leonard Cohan’s world-famous songs, like “Suzanne”.

On the other hand, I’ve grown fond of these literary events and especially of the NEUE. So our bunch met under the porch with me still kind of moping and not sure, this event would go down well with the group. A few arrived early, a few late – so we managed to spread out over three different rows in this intimate theatre.

Of course, I’d worried for naught. In fact, a few of us were so bowled over, they couldn’t thank Branoul staff enough. I have to admit that this evening was quite an impressive mix of excellent poems and music.

The selected music kind of mirrored phases in Leonard Cohen’s life. What worked extremely well, or at least according to us, was the excellent guitar performance by mr Kellerman in combination with the violin players ms Ovcharova and mr Stam of the NEUE. I especially loved the Danza Ritual del Fuego. Others preferred the Mozart Adagio from KV423. A few voted Toru Takemitsu’s “The International” the most unusual and impressive musical piece of this evening.

As for the selected Leonard Cohen poems, recited by Graham Flett … At times, the complete audience was sniggering, or laughing. Then there were moving and very touching moments. It was difficult to decide which poem was the best piece and best rendered.

A friend I met at the theatre, who got to know these recitals through an earlier visit I had organised, had taken along colleagues. After the event, our groups mixed and mingled. She mentioned she’d noticed a book of poems by Leonard Cohen lying somewhere on a table.

But as the corridor is small and people were having a drink, while discussing the evening’s performance, I decided any book could wait. This recital had completely won me over and I was interested in reading more poems by Leonard Cohen, but I could check the web later for anthologies.

Of the recited poems, a few can be found on the UK Telegraph website. The complete list of this evening:
Thousands
Titles
The Party was over then too
The Flow
Equinox
If you knew
SOS
Who do you really remember
Better
First of all
Disturbed this morning
How could I have doubted
On the path
A life of errands
Report to R.S.B.
His Master’s Voice
Clockwork
You’d sing too
Duskos Taverna 1967
The moon
Looking through my dreams

The NEUE had selected Maurice Ravel’s Sonatine and Kaddish, Toru Takemitsu’s The International and Equinox, Manuel da Falla’s Danza Ritual del Fuego and Cancion, Joseph Achron’s Improvisation opus 65, Mozart’s Adagio from KV 423 to accompany this recital.

Youtube Ravel’s Kaddish
Official Leonard Cohen site
Leonard Cohen Poems – anthology, Leonard Cohen, Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets is available through Amazon.

The next English Salon Branoul will focus on Allen Ginsberg. For the Salon Branoul planned performances, info, tickets: NEUE website.