by Kristi Kates
Singer Mary Travers, one-third of the influential 60s folk group
Peter, Paul, and Mary, passed away last September, after a life
well-lived and five decades of collaboration with her bandmates Peter
Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey.
Today, Yarrow and Stookey are carrying on the legacy of music that the
trio crafted over the years - including such well-known hits as
Blowin in the Wind, If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song), and
Leavin on a Jet Plane - with Peter and Paul: A Tribute to Mary and
50 Years of Friendship, a live show that will showcase the best of
what these talents have to offer.
That show will arrive at Interlochen on Wednesday, July 21, a return
of sorts for Yarrow, who is actually an Interlochen alumnus.
I had a fantastic time at Interlochen, Yarrow says, I was there for
two years - I loved it. I was involved in many aspects - the Festival
Chorus, in which I remember singing along with four brass bands and a
half-acre of cellos; I also sang in The Yeoman of the Guard. I was in
the theater - I played Emil in Tomorrow, the World. I remember doing
pottery and painting, the blue uniforms, the walk to the bunks.
And I remember falling in love there, the first time I fell in love,
he smiles, I even remember the song that was playing at the time.
Yarrow says that within all of those memories, the thing he remembers
most was finding himself among fellow kids who were in heaven about
life because they were surrounded with so many opportunities to share
through the creative arts.
Im a proud alum, he says, Im very grateful to the legacy that I
shared at Interlochen. It was extraordinary there, and continues to be
MUSIC OF CHANGE
Yarrow, of course, would go on to create a legacy of his own with
Peter, Paul, and Mary; Noel Paul Stookey and Mary Travers did not
attend Interlochen (although Stookey is an alumnus of MSU), but met
Peter in New York Citys Greenwich Village around 1959-1960. All three
soon auditioned for manager Albert Grossman, who was putting together
a folk group, and their trio was created.
It probably seems remarkable to many that, in this day and age of
fast food pop culture, theres still a demand for their quietly
affecting brand of folk-pop music, which began with the release of
their first eponymous album in 1962, during an era of what Yarrow
himself terms enormously powerful change. But Yarrow thinks that
people want more than whats available today.
(Back then), it was the dawn of the civil rights movement, and the
music that was associated with it was an important part of that, he
explains, later, the anti-war, womens, apartheid, and environmental
movements - all of those that were spawned by the civil rights
movement - gave Americans a sense that ordinary people could change
the world when they stood together. The music that we sang resonated
with that feeling.
Much of todays music, Yarrow feels, doesnt carry anywhere near the
heft of the music scene that Peter, Paul, and Mary were part of,
mostly because its far more shallow than such a creative expression
I think a lot of the reason for (the poor state of todays music) has
to do with the monopolizing of music by large entities that are
concerned with the bottom line, Yarrow says, I think that is what
serves up the fast food. Todays music does not serve the heart of
most people. We have a problematic society right now, one thats so
greedy and focused on power, money, and fame - and not fame like, say,
youve won the Pulitzer Prize.
Todays fame is more like Britney Spears, or, actually, more like
Paris Hilton, he continues, because its not even feeding something
thats interesting in terms of style - its just a Roman circus of
watching somone act out, humiliating themselves or someone else. And
thats a lot of what is served along with the music and through the
HEART AND ROLES
Serving the heart, Yarrow says, was one of Peter Paul and Marys
goals for their music, and what he also feels is one of the most solid
reasons for their longevity.
One aspect of what Peter, Paul, and Mary shared is that we truly felt
we were serving a particular purpose from an us perspective, rather
than a me perspective, he explains, we thought of our music, and
still do, as being something that addresses needs, feelings, concerns,
perspectives, heart, soul, and history of the world in general.
While Peter, Paul, and Mary were solidly focused on this approach,
they also slowly evolved into their own unique roles within the group,
which Yarrow says has been discussed among themselves many times.
As the years progressed, we became more and more understanding of
each other, and we realized that loving each other didnt mean that we
had to prescribe the way the other ones would act, he says, we gave
each other space.
And he says that now, with Mary Travers gone, they see with greater
clarity what she, specifically, was to them.
Mary was the centerpiece in our performance, he explains, of a
certain kind of breakthrough in what people could be. Women were going
through a huge transition at that time that men didnt have to go
through. She was a model of what a remarkable woman could do and still
be beautiful. In terms of the groups identity, she was iconic in
nature, with an extraordinary voice.
Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey also found their unique places within
the strong, unified trio.
I was always the organizer and the political driving force, Yarrow
says, which was sometimes - understandably - resented, because I was
tough and passionate about that in my own way. Onstage, my heart was
breaking for, and celebrating, those things I cared about most.
Stookey, Yarrow says, was the groups peacemaker, the yin to
Yarrow and Travers yang.
Noel was not volatile in the sense that Mary and I were, Yarrow
says, so he was a counterpoint to us. He was kind of the voice of
humility and heart of the group - neither Mary nor I were the
personification of humility - so his (characteristics) invited the
audience to feel comfortable.
Their musical collaborative chemistry remains today, even in the wake
of Travers passing. In addition to the touring, Yarrow and Stookey
continue to work together on new music, and have carefully crafted
their live show to both pay tribute to their departed friend, and to
the music they spent 50 years creating together. Its set to be both a
greatest-hits celebration, and an ear towards tomorrow and the future.
What you will hear at the show is a concert that carries on the music
of Peter, Paul, and Mary, Yarrow says, you will hear Puff, you
will hear Leaving on a Jet Plane - with the audience singing Marys
part - you will hear Blowin in the Wind. You will hear a lot of our
songs, but you will also hear some other songs that Noel and I are
developing that are very much like the songs that Peter, Paul, and
Mary sang, but as their own entity.
It wont be the same with Marys absence, Yarrow concludes, but
there will be a spirit about it that will celebrate all that Peter,
Paul, and Mary celebrated, and you will walk away knowing that that
spirit and heart continues - as well it should.
Peter and Paul: A Tribute to Mary and 50 Years of Friendship, will
take place at Interlochens Kresge Auditorium on
Wednesday, July 21 at 8:00 p.m. For more info, visit
www.interlochen.org and www.peterpaulandmary.com. Tickets are sold