The Power of a Singer, a Festival and a Song


Today seems like a good day to relate one of my favourite stories I have heard from the Festival I book, Vancouver Island MusicFest.

It’s been a hard week to say the least. The election in the U.S. knocked the breath out of so many of us. But I think we have all heard enough about that for now.

Many have come out of the week feeling very isolated and hopeless. We need to be reminded to keep moving forward and not give up.

And yesterday, we got news that one of the Icons of the Canadian Music scene, Leonard Cohen is gone.

My story relates to the year (2012) we had kd Lang at our Festival.

A fun time lapsed video of unloading the truck with kd’s gear at the Festival

It was a pretty amazing year for us. We also had Emmylou Harris, Buffy Sainte Marie and Laurie Anderson all on that same year. The female energy was extraordinary to say the least. Not just on stage, but off. It was one of the most peaceful, intelligent weekends we have ever shared at Vancouver Island MusicFest. I learned that year how important it is to have as many female artists at our Festival as I can but that lineup is pretty hard to match! Still, it really does change the energy of the event and in an industry that really is male dominated, it is something to strive for every year.


Sharing a laugh with one of my musical heroes, Laurie Anderson at our Festival. 

I once received some very smart advice in one sentence, “People want to see themselves onstage.” Everyone in the audience should be represented on stage. It’s a good thing to remember. Of course, I won’t program anyone I know to be hateful, racist or mean. I know we don’t have too many people like that in our audience and if we do, those parts of them need not be recognized.

But back to my simple story…

To start with, kd and her crew were a joy to have as our guests. She showed up very early in the day and was simply hanging out with her crew on the site and numerous people came up to me to tell me how excited they were to see her at the Festival without even realizing she was sitting 10 feet away from them! Sweet Festival moments.

I had a woman friend who was at the Festival and sadly, had to leave while kd Lang was performing as she had to drive down-island and be at work in the morning. It was getting dark and my friend was heading up into a parking lot across the street from our Festival site and walking up to her car, which was a fair way off behind a big school building. All the while she could hear kd’s amazing performance while she was walking. She came around a corner and stumbled upon a group of kids who were skateboarding, smoking and hanging out around the school and she was immediately nervous as it was dark and she was by herself. She was going to have to walk right through their path in order to get to her car and there was no one else around.

Right at that moment, kd broke into Leonard Cohens Hallelujah (one of the most powerful performances I have ever witnessed at MusicFest) and to my friends amazement, the motley crew of young adults she was afraid of all put their things down and immediately sat down to listen to the performance. It was like a healing bridge they all shared for a moment. She was able to pass through their turf with all fear gone as they were all sitting with tears in their eyes brought on by the beauty of the performance they were hearing, coming from our MainStage.

She may have never needed to be afraid, but they dropped the image of tough guys for a minute and they all had a human moment where age, gender and situation didn’t matter at all. They were all pulled into the power of music. That’s why we do it. That’s why we perform. That’s why we produce shows. That’s why people volunteer.

That’s why we are so moved at the loss of an Artist who we don’t personally know but may have affected us deeply throughout our lives. Thank you Leonard Cohen for the music and for making us all more human. Thank you kd Lang for your beautiful generous performances and for staying real all these years.

We will be ok as long as we keep going and remember where we came from and who brought us, good and bad.

Watch a lovely compilation video of stuff from that magical year 



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