Forty years after his first solo album dropped, legendary Canadian artist Bruce Cockburn will take a look back at his storied career - live, with a little help from some friends.
The singer-songwriter is a headline attraction for Toronto's fourth annual Luminato Festival in June, when he will join an array of other musicians to pay tribute to, well, himself. For the first time, The Canadian Songbook, a popular Luminato mainstay that gathers artists to celebrate a renowned Canadian musician with inventive covers of his or her work, will include the person being celebrated.
The first time I heard people do my stuff, it was a bit like the first time I heard my own voice played back to me from a tape recorder. You sort of go, 'Whoa, that's a totally weird perspective.'
It's Cockburn's latest return to the familiar Massey Hall stage, which (he thinks) he first played when he opened for British folk-rock band Pentangle in late 1972.
"It's a beautiful hall. They built them good in those days, you know? Especially for acoustic music," he said Tuesday at an announcement of the festival's musical lineup, held atop the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto.
To date, Hawksley Workman, Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies, jazz guitarist Michael Occhipinti and Montrealer Michel Rivard are confirmed, with more to come, though Cockburn isn't revealing who might be added because he doesn't "want to jinx it."
"That's one of the interesting parts of it, collaborating with people on their versions of my songs," he said.
Cockburn admits that he "sometimes" finds others appropriating his work a tad unnerving, but he has got used to it and mostly takes it as an expression of appreciation for what he has done. "The first time I heard people do my stuff, it was a bit like the first time I heard my own voice played back to me from a tape recorder. You sort of go, 'Whoa, that's a totally weird perspective,' " he said.
During the festival, Cockburn may well cross paths with Rufus Wainwright, with whom he played at a 90th-birthday tribute to Pete Seeger last year. Wainwright will be in town for the North American premiere of his debut opera Prima Donna, but festival artistic director Chris Lorway also revealed yesterday that Wainwright will give a one-night solo concert at the Elgin Theatre, kicking off the North American tour for his new album, All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu.
But first, the festival opens with a pair of performances of The Infernal Comedy: Confessions of a Serial Killer, starring Oscar-nominated American actor John Malkovich, on June 11 and 12. The show, written and directed by Michael Sturminger and described as "part theatre, part opera, part concert," tells the strange tale of Austrian serial killer and recidivist Jack Unterweger, accompanied by the Vienna Academy Orchestra, which will also perform an afternoon program of Schubert, Haydn and Mozart on June 12.
As part of a thematic look at East-West dualities, Luminato has commissioned a new work, Dark Star Requiem, with Tapestry New Opera Works. It's an oratorio on the history of HIV-AIDS in both North America and Africa by composer Andrew Staniland and poet Jill Battson, and features the Gryphon Trio and the Elmer Iseler Singers as well as soloists and percussionists.
For a free, outdoor experience, try 10 hours of Global Music: Rock the Casbah & An African Prom staged in Toronto's Queen's Park on June 12. The day-long festival features Algerian-born punk-rocker Rachid Taha as well as Bela Fleck and Bassekou Kouyate. The following Saturday, the same space will host another musical marathon, this time dubbed Global Divas and Global Blues and headlined by Salif Keita, tagged by some as the "golden voice of Africa."
The festival closes with TSO Goes Late Night: Beethoven Symphony 9, a concert with an 11 p.m. start time and a late-late after party.
Luminato runs June 11-20 in Toronto, offering more than 150 performances and events at about 40 venues.