Teaching all things Cohen at Seniors College in Charlottetown

Published on September 9, 2017

Music enthusiast Noel Lyon shows some of his Leonard Cohen collection. The Summerside resident is teaching “The Legacy of Leonard Cohen”, a new course at Seniors College in Summerside this fall. Walk-in registration starts today.


CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Noel Lyon is a Leonard Cohen aficionado.

For the past 50 years he has studied the works of the Canadian poet and singer-songwriter and has also collected his music.

“What caught me first was his style of delivery. As soon as I heard his voice and listened to his lyrics, there was something about him (that spoke to me). That something was a strong feeling of spirituality,” says the retired law professor, whose passion for the subject has inspired him to teach the legacy of Leonard Cohen, a new course at Seniors College in Summerside this fall.

It was the late crooner’s voice that grew rougher and more expressive with the years that first piqued his interest.

Starting with Cohen’s early vinyl records, Lyon graduated to listening to cassette tapes and then to CDs, including the “The Essential Leonard Cohen”, which “contains everything I have ever heard.”

During his musical research, Lyon also became fascinated with his life, studying everything he could get his hands on, from Cohen’s poetry books to his novels and his biography, “I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen” by Sylvie Simmons. The latter gave him insight into the artist’s world.

“Cohen’s life was a constant battle of living in a society with (people); many of whom had practices and values that he despised. But he had to live and he had to eat, so he performed. And although he didn’t seem to be very interested in making big money, he did,” says the Summerside resident.

Instead, he preferred a Spartan life. “The little place on (the Greek Island) Hydra that he shared with Marianne and then Suzanne was very plain and stark. In fact, after reading his biography, I think he was quite disappointed when electricity was brought in.”

Lyon has followed the cultural icon ever since the 1960s, when he and his wife, Marie, moved from Vancouver to Montreal.

In that cosmopolitan city, everyone felt a connection to the late singer-songwriter because of the images that he created.

“Many of Cohen’s songs had the flavour of Montreal because he lived there for 20 years or more,” says Lyon, noting that when he got the 1984 album, “Various Positions” it was not the popular “Hallelujah” that “caught his ear”. Instead, it was “If it Would Be Your Will”.  Since hearing it, it’s become his favourite song.

“It’s a duet with Jennifer Warrens. I like how the music was worked in with the lyrics. In that song I think he’s talking to the creator.”

Lyon hopes to share these and other insights with others as well as meet other Cohen enthusiasts in the class.

“Although I’m not an expert on Leonard Cohen, I think I know enough and I can learn more to guide people through an experience that will expose them to (him). I expect there will be a lot of other aficionados.”

-     Over 100 courses will be held in all three counties in Prince Edward Island in 2017.

-     Some new courses this year: Choral singing, Introduction to Facebook, Classic Musicals, Fun with Pencils and Colour and Craft Beer Appreciation and A Newsy Chat and Some Coffee.

-      Online registration: Available now at

-     Walk-in registration dates are: today, UPEI Library, 10 a.m. to noon, and Inspire Learning Centre, 57 Central St., Summerside, 2-3 p.m.; Sept. 13 Library, Wellness Centre, Montague, 10-11 a.m.

-      Further information: the college at  or call co-ordinator Martha Ellis at 902-894-2867.