The Woodstock Playhouse and Peter Yarrow both turn 80 years old this year.
To celebrate such serendipity, Yarrow will return to the town that meant a great deal to him in his formative years to perform a celebratory concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 10 at the Playhouse, 103 Mill Hill Road, Woodstock.
“As a teenager I was in Woodstock and a usher at the Playhouse. My first public concert was at the Playhouse with Jerry Raven, and we were terrific, what can I say,” said Yarrow, who went on to become an artist of great import with the folk group, Peter, Paul and Mary, and writing songs we all know, including “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” “Day is Done,” “Light One Candle,” and “The Great Mandala.”
Yarrow’s mother and aunt both had places in town and at age 7 he was taking art lessons from Louise Brokenshaw. “Woodstock became a part of my life in a major way. I went to the High School of Music and Art as an art student I loved Woodstock at the time.”
The town also played a role in his later career. “In 1963 prior to the March on Washington, where we (Peter, Paul and Mary) sang Blowing in the Wind, and it reached its summit on the charts at no. 2, previous to that in that summer, I invited Bob Dylan and Suze, his girlfriend, to come up and stay with me. My mother was there, and they went and stayed at Twin Gables. Suze and I went to Art Students league, and Bob would be writing songs like Only a Pawn In Their Game, and Bob Dylan’s Dream…It was an extraordinary time…an idyllic time. Woodstock evolved to a certain degree. It was becoming a destination for people to try and find Bobby. It became a paranoid place, that was unfortunate. But a lot of that has subsided. When it was contained when I was young, there was none of that stuff about being a star, and looking for celebrities. It was fortunate place to begin to build a better world.”
Yarrow talks about performing alone, without the trio. “Being a solo artist now is defined in many ways. Most of my performances have to do with things I’m advocating for…” he says. His daughter, Bethany will be in Woodstock with him for the show. “She’s heavy duty into the fracking movement, she gets arrested with regularity, she’s into restorative justice. She was with me in Parkland where we wrote songs with the parkland students.” He says he’ll be joined by Kevin Salem, (who is also the Prsident of the Onteora school board) as well as Mark Peritz on percussion.
“A lot of the time I’m singing with others, with my daugther, my son. Last night I was in Baltimore doing a show for a retiring cantor. I do a lot of concerts solo. Now it’s all about following in the footsteps of Pete Seeger, trying to use music as an advocacy tool, trying to bring people together, celebrate what needs to be celebrated. We’ll be doing that at the concert, not only PPM songs, but songs relevant to our own times. And I will be speaking about the times I was here, remembering Mary, and (PPM bassist, the late) Dick Kniss…there’s a lot of history there.”
“I’m still working as hard as I ever have. It’s a great gift to have this work to do.”
Peter Yarrow’s concert begins at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 10th. You can opt to join Peter Yarrow and friends for a culinary dinner celebration sponsored by Cucina of Woodstock’s Chef Gianni Scappin and Lois Freedman after the show.
Concert tickets range from $40 to $60, and Dinner/Concert Tickets are $125. Tickets are available at www.woodstockplayhouse.org or by calling the Woodstock Playhouse box office at 845-679-6900.