Legendary songwriters and performers Peter Yarrow and Paul Noel Stookey will appear at Chautauqua Institution Friday to sign their new book and play a live show to celebrate 50 years of music making.
Peter, Paul and Mary have performed at Chautauqua Institution numerous times throughout their career and loved every moment of it, according to Yarrow.
"I have a long history with Chautauqua from when I was 8 years old," Yarrow told The Post-Journal. "I was up there studying violin with Hortense Mischakoff, wife of Mischa Mischakoff, first violinist of the orchestra, so I have a historical passion for it."
Yarrow also spent evenings attending concerts at the Amphitheater in his youth. In recent years, he and the group would stay at the Athenaeum Hotel when they visited the Institution.
"It's such a phenomenally historic, beautiful and wonderful place," said Yarrow. "It's a remarkable respite from some of the values that have gotten so distorted in our country and around the world; where people who come to Chautauqua do value beauty and history. And, it is a site not only for creativity in an independent way, but dialogue, discussion, thinking and the kind of intellectual vitality that is so welcome. The spirit of the people there is so positive and connected.
"We are now in a situation where the existence of Chautauqua - and islands of sanity, that have as their tradition or point of view, that relates to giving, caring and the admiration for intellect, creativity and heart - is so important," said Yarrow. "That naturally corresponds with the legacy of Peter, Paul and Mary. And, that's why when we were up there we had extraordinarily warm and wonderful evenings, and I expect this will be the same."
Although Mary Travers passed away two years ago, Peter and Paul have continued to tour and write music as a duo. According to Yarrow, Travers' spirit is still strong in culture, as well as in the legacy Peter, Paul and Mary and of folk music.
"She certainly gave young women the permission to be straightforward, rather than devious or manipulative, and to speak their hearts to power and to pen," said Yarrow. "She was of course a great advocate of social and political movements for greater justice and fairness. And, I consider myself to be carrying on that legacy, and proudly."
In addition to his performances with Stookey, Yarrow also performs with his daughter's group, Bethany & Rufus. They recently performed in conjunction with a group committed to defending a liveable future through empowering nonviolent action, called Peaceful Uprising (peacefuluprising.org).
"Music has a lot of impact now," said Yarrow. "And, of course I was singing songs that I will be singing in concert at Chautauqua, "Blowin' in the Wind," "If I Had a Hammer," and "This Land Is Your Land." With some of the less common verses: 'Nobody living can ever stop me as I go walking down freedom's highway. Nobody living can make me turn back. This land was meant for you and me.' This performance is not nostalgia; it is history. It has great importance because it was so much a part of the civil rights movement, anti-war movement, women's movement ... et cetera. It's not just an historical reflection; it's what's going on today, and music is playing a part.
"Demonstrations that are trying to stop the fracking, collusion between money and interests and elected officials, all of these are still front and center issues of our time," he continued. "In fact, the wages of not addressing them are potentially disastrous for our future, our children and the environment; so I can't look upon this performance, or any performances that I do alone, or with Noel Paul Stookey as being relics of the past, but they are parts of a very contemporary ongoing effort to create a sustainable world, and to bring greater equity and fairness into our society, country and beyond."
All of that and more make Chautauqua Institution the perfect venue for a Peter and Paul show, and a signing of their new book, "It's Raining, It's Pouring," according to Yarrow.
"The people there have this remarkable experience that can refresh them and remind them what life is really about," he said.
"It's Raining, It's Pouring" runs in the same vein as "Puff, The Magic Dragon" and "The Night Before Christmas," both bestsellers. It offers readers an experience that includes lyrical-style reading, colorful illustrations by Christine Davenier, a Paris-born artist who has illustrated numerous best sellers; and also comes bundled with a CD with three tracks, the title track being the original 1961 version of "It's Raining, It's Pouring" by Peter, Paul and Mary. According to Yarrow, the song was the most requested at live concerts for the first decade of the trio's career.
"They just loved that song," said Yarrow. "It's a really wonderful story inherent in it, because the song itself describes this sweet world of children as it's expressed in their nursery rhyme songs, and that has great charm. But, it's described in the context of a game of hide-and-seek, and you can feel the delight in the singing of it. When we sang it, we did so with the idea that we were in the presence of children, and you can feel that in the rendition.
"The artist is so incredibly brilliant," he continued. "She created such warmth, charm and vitality in a Chagall-esque quality."
According to Yarrow, the most wonderful and powerful aspect of the book is that it gives parents and grandparents the opportunity to introduce their children to the works of Peter, Paul and Mary, in a fashion that is reminiscent of the experience they had in their youth. The CD included with the book also features two other tracks, Yarrow's "Make-Believe Town" and Stookey's "Glory of Love."
Those who do end up making it to the live performance will be presented with a mix of classics and new material from both Yarrow and Stookey.
"Noel has been writing up a storm," said Yarrow. "He's got a new album coming out that I think is the best writing he has done in many decades. It's really phenomenal, and he will be doing some of those songs. I'm very much looking forward to this performance."
Yarrow and Stookey will appear at Chautauqua Institution on Friday, first for a signing of their book at 1 p.m. at the Chautauqua Bookstore, and second for their live performance at 8:15 p.m. For more information visit peterpaulandmary.com. To purchase tickets visit ciweb.org.