Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah Takes New Form With Russian Ballet


One of the most popular songs of Leonard Cohen -- Canadian poet, philosopher, musician, singer, songwriter, and novelist -- is his Hallelujah

The song was released in 1984 and had limited initial success, but found greater popularity in 1991, and since has been performed by almost 200 artists in various languages,

We featured the song a number of times in Jewish Humor Central, as performed in Israeli song contests, by Cohen in a Tel Aviv concert in 2009, and by Yeshiva University's Maccabeats (with different lyrics).

Earlier this year, the song was the basis of a performance by a ballet troupe in the city of Podolsk, Russia. It's this performance that we're posting today.

The song has always been as enigmatic as Cohen himself, and he never gave a detailed explanation of its meaning.  In 1988 interviewer John McKenna wrote about the song after a session with Cohen.in Ireland.

Here is what he wrote about Cohen's background followed by a sort of explanation by the songwriter himself.
McKenna: Leonard Cohen was born into a Jewish family in Montreal in 1934. Yet his influences come also from the Catholic and Protestant communities of that city. And perhaps its that cosmopolitan background that gives him an intriguing angle, particularly on biblical history. In the song Hallelujah, he draws on a wonderfully and subversively passionate passage in the second book of Samuel. It happened towards evening when David had risen from his couch and was strolling on the palace roof that he saw from the roof a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful. David made enquiries about this woman and was told 'why that is Bethsheba, Allion's daughter, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.' Then David sent messengers and had her brought. She came to him and he slept with her. Now she had just purified herself from her courses. She then went home again. The woman conceived and sent word to David - 'I am with child'.

In the song there's the baffled king, David, and there's the baffled singer, Leonard Cohen, in search of the lost chord that certainly pleased the lord and might possibly please the woman. And there's the original story too, reduced now to the domestic and physical situation that it was and always is. Bethsheba may have broken the throne, but she also tied David to a kitchen chair. Delilah did something similar. There's more to be learned from the bible than God's dealing with the human race. There's also the dealings of women with men. There's the hard fact that nothing can be reconciled - at least not here.
Cohen: Finally there's no conflict between things, finally everything is reconciled but not where we live. This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess and that's what I mean by Hallelujah. That regardless of what the impossibility of the situation is, there is a moment when you open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say 'Hallelujah! Blessed is the name.' And you can't reconcile it in any other way except in that position of total surrender, total affirmation.
We enjoyed the ballet performance and hope that you will, too.

(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS:  THE VIDEO IS NOT VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY.  YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)