Pete Seeger took to the stage of the Paramount Theatre in Peekskill Sunday. Seeger, Lorre Wyatt, Guy Davis, and friends played a benefit concert for WAMC. WAMC's Alan Chartock dedicated the concert to Seeger's wife Toshi, who died in July.
At the end of the concert, songwriter and singer Lorre Wyatt talked about his impressions.
”One of the great things about having a concert like this is, it’s wonderful to have a get-together, I almost think of it as a pot-luck picnic, we really bring things to each other and the support of the listening family and the support of the station that really binds us together," he said. "It reminds us that we are in this together.”
The audience was peppered with people spanning generations, from the ages of 9 to 90, give or take a few years. And they were all singing. Bethel, Connecticut resident Dorothy Luongo made a few trips to the lobby with her 17-month old daughter Harriet.
“So timeless and just a bunch of people coming together, loving Pete, loving music, and loving the message…" she said. "Just appreciate life and appreciate each other and appreciate the power of coming together.”
Luongo works at Poughkeepsie Day School, with which Seeger has a connection. Seeger and company opened the concert for WAMC members at the Paramount with “We Shall Overcome,” a song with special meaning for Luongo.
“We do a peacemakers event once a year where everybody gets together and sings that, so it’s very special to go back to the roots of it a little bit." she said.
In fact, according to a press clipping from The Poughkeepsie Journal, in 1949, Seeger performed for the fourth, fifth and sixth grades at Poughkeepsie Day School in a concert open to the public to benefit Peoples Songs Inc., an organization he co-founded in 1945 with the belief that folk music could be an effective force for social change. The Peekskill Riots occurred later in the year. They were spawned by an announced concert featuring Paul Robeson, an African-American singer known for his civil rights activism. Pete Seeger was there. WAMC’s president and CEO Alan Chartock says Sunday’s “Music Can Bring Us Together” concert began with another title.
“We wanted to name this concert, I did, "Return to Peekskill", but he didn’t want that. He wanted it to be love and togetherness, and that’s how we should get along," he said. "So of course, there’s an old line in a Weavers record, from years ago, where Lee Hays says “When Pete proposes you don’t get no noses” so that’s what happened.”
And what happened was a cross-generational return to harmony. Again, Lorre Wyatt.
”I loved having the different ages. It was just about what the station was about and what Pete’s music was always about and I always marveled when I was a kid," he said. "There’d be old folks and young folks, there was a few occasions.”
Here’s Garrison elementary school student Madeline Zuckerman on songs she likes.
“I liked “We Shall Overcome”, “This Little Light of Mine”, and my school for my chorus class," she said. "We are actually doing Pete Seeger songs.”
Lorre Wyatt performed a song with the refrain “Thank you for braving the storm,” a song first performed at the WAMC benefit concert, and with a verse written during the concert.
“Well it was completely unexpected, well of course I teared up, and I felt once in a lifetime you get something like that and that was a tremendous gift from Lorre and undeserved for me.”
He, Lorre Wyatt, Guy Davis, friends, both on stage and in the audience – they were all back again.