December 20, 2014

Inspirational Pete Seeger Tribute at Theatricum Botanicum

 

PHOTO BY ANNEMARIE DONKIN MESSENGER © 2014

Inspirational Pete Seeger Tribute at Theatricum Botanicum

Peter Alsop sang “The Kid’s Peace Song” with help from Lily Andrews, (rear); Pat Humphries and Sandy O of Emma’s Revolution.

As the sounds of Pete Seeger’s songs echoed across the Canyon, the capacity crowd sitting under the oaks sang along, word for word, in support of the classic social and political themes.

Thus, the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum celebrated the life of legendary folksinger Pete Seeger on March 8. The nearly three-hour show, produced by Peter Alsop, fulfilled its promise to provide a fitting tribute to the man who influenced millions with his gentlemanly, congenial style while speaking up for workers, unions, Civil Rights, voting rights and women’s rights.

Peter Alsop said it was important for people to “sing along” to understand social and political issues of the day, which is what Seeger did.

“Pete did a lot of the old songs culled from the Black community,” Alsop said. “He entertained with song and got people to break bread together.”

The day was full of inspiration, memories and music with the Geer Family Singers—Peter Alsop, Ellen Geer, Melora Marshall, Thad Geer, Willow Geer, Mat Polin, Ian Flanders, Earnestine Phillips and Gerald Rivers—and friends Len Chandler, James Lee Stanley, Lori Lieberman, Ross Altman, Lisa Turner, Lisa Nemzo, Eric Schwartz, Sandy Ross and Stephen Michael Schwartz, all of whom sang and celebrated Seeger’s legacy. As the concert started, the group of more than 25 singers and musicians sang a rousing version of “When the Saints Go Marching In” and continued with an epic list of Seeger’s songs including “Goodnight, Irene,” “Wimoweh,” "If I Had a Hammer” and “Pete’s big hit,” said Alsop, “Where Have all the Flowers Gone.”

PHOTO BY ANNEMARIE DONKIN MESSENGER © 2014

Inspirational Pete Seeger Tribute at Theatricum Botanicum

From left, Ellen Geer, Melora Marshall and Earnestine Philips sing a rousing version of "We Shall Overcome," at the tribute to Pete Seeger.

The concert led the audience that ranged in age from toddlers to elders who lived the Civil Rights and Vietnam war eras, in protest songs from the 1930s onward, with notable hits, “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” "Turn! Turn! Turn!" and ending the first half of the show with a rousing version of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

Inspirational Pete Seeger Tribute at Theatricum Botanicum

The second half of the show included a moving version of “We Shall Overcome,” that Seeger adapted from a Georgia Sea Island hymn, “I’ll Be All Right Someday.” Seeger changed the “Will” to “Shall” overcome and taught it to Martin Luther King, Jr. On this day, Earnestine Phillips encouraged everyone to sing “Today” instead of “Some Day.”

Seeger had a string of hit records during the early 1950s as a member of The Weavers, most notably their recording of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene,” which topped the charts for 13 weeks in 1950.

PHOTO BY ANNEMARIE DONKIN MESSENGER © 2014

Inspirational Pete Seeger Tribute at Theatricum Botanicum

Willow Geer (center) and more than 25 singers and musicians performed a fabulous tribute to Pete Seeger on Saturday, March 8 at the Theatricum Botanicum.

Like Will Geer, members of The Weavers were blacklisted during the McCarthy Era.

In the 1960s, Seeger re-emerged on the public scene as a prominent singer of protest music in support of international disarmament, civil rights, counterculture and environmental causes.

PHOTO BY ANNEMARIE DONKIN MESSENGER © 2014

Inspirational Pete Seeger Tribute at Theatricum Botanicum

From left, entrepreneur Ruth Lundi and singer Catherine McClenahan at the tribute to Pete Seeger on March 8.

“He was such a fixture here,” said Topanga singer Catherine McClenahan, who attended the show with her friend Ruth Lundi. “Pete Seeger sang the folk songs of the day. He was also big in Canada [McClenahan’s country of origin] where he was near and dear to people’s hearts. He was willing to put himself out there for what he believed in.”

Seeger, whom many thought would be around forever, passed away on January 27, at the age of 94. The American folk singer and activist was a fixture on nationwide radio in the 1940s, was drafted into the Army in 1942 and married his wife, Toshi Ohta, in 1943, who passed last year.