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 Seegers 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 womens 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 SingersPeter Alsop, Ellen Geer, Melora Marshall, Thad Geer, Willow Geer, Mat Polin, Ian Flanders, Earnestine Phillips and Gerald Riversand 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 Seegers 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 Seegers songs including Goodnight, Irene, Wimoweh, "If I Had a Hammer and Petes big hit, said Alsop, Where Have all the Flowers Gone.
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 Guthries This Land is Your Land.
The second half of the show included a moving version of We Shall Overcome, that Seeger adapted from a Georgia Sea Island hymn, Ill 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 Bellys Goodnight, Irene, which topped the charts for 13 weeks in 1950.
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 [McClenahans country of origin] where he was near and dear to peoples 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.