Clearwater presents virtual version of Great Hudson River Revival concert June 20

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

As reported back in April, the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater is having s tough time of it. The cancellation of environmental education field trips due to school closures dried up one of the not-for-profit’s primary income streams. And there was too much uncertainty about social-distancing requirements for Clearwater staff to plan a live version of its biggest annual fundraising event, the Great Hudson River Revival.

Donors responded generously to the organization’s cry for help, and the sloop itself began sailing again in mid-May. “Despite the distance, we’ve been excited to be able to bring people to the river through virtual sails and interactive online programs, and the response so far has been terrific,” says Erik Fyfe, Clearwater’s education director.

The Revival will indeed happen this year, only in an online version. The participating artists will get to sit back and enjoy the performances of their peers once they’ve recorded their segment from home,  “Happiness, for me, is performing at the Clearwater Revival and, for the first time, being able to actually watch all the other great artists play,” says Tom Chapin, a longtime headliner and one of the organizers of this year’s virtual concert.

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Other musicians who have stepped up to the plate for 2020 include Judy Collins, David Amram, John McCutcheon, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey, John McEuen, Tom Paxton, Emma’s Revolution, Guy Davis, Tommy Sands, Reggie Harris, the Mammals, the Chapin Sisters, Margo Thunderbird, Lyn Hardy, Arm-of-the-Sea Theater, Abbie Gardner, Andrew Revkin, R. J Storm, Magpie, the Rix, the Vanaver Caravan, Betty and the Baby Boomers, Kyle Tigges and Mel and Vinnie. More names are expected to be announced in the coming days.

The Great Hudson River Revival’s roots go back to 1966, when the late Pete Seeger began organizing his musical Sloop Picnics in waterfront parks up and down the Valley, encouraging attendees to toss some money into his banjo case to bankroll the construction of an authentic replica of a historic Hudson River sloop. In 1969 the ship got built, and by now several generations of the region’s youth have learned about the Hudson from field trips aboard the Clearwater. The river is a lot cleaner now.

By the mid-1970s the event had blossomed into a large-scale annual eco-flavored music festival, traditionally held on Fathers’ Day weekend at Croton Point Park (minus a few years at Westchester Community College). It’s become a Hudson Valley tradition so deeply entrenched in our sense of place by now that having it disappear seems unthinkable.

The show will go on in 2020, courtesy of the Internet. The Virtual Revival this Saturday, June 20 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. can be enjoyed on Clearwater’s YouTube and Facebook pages for free, but viewers are strongly encouraged to donate if they are able, at www.clearwater.org.