Legendary folk singer Peter Yarrow to perform in Kirkland
By SARAH DEVLEMING
Kirkland Reporter UW News Lab
January 30, 2013 · Updated 5:13 PM
The 1960s’ musical trio Peter, Paul and Mary have become a peace icon in pop culture.
But folk music legend Peter Yarrow, who still plays outside of the band, carries on that symbol as a peace advocate.
And this upcoming Sunday, Feb. 3, Yarrow will bring his passion for folk music to Kirkland as he performs at 7 p.m. at the Kirkland Performance Center.
Yarrow’s fame was launched back in the ‘60s as part of the musical trio Peter, Paul and Mary. The group won five Grammys and produced 13 top-40 hits (one of which, “Puff the Magic Dragon,” reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1963). Despite all of this, he remains grounded.
“The concerts I generally do (are fewer than) 500 seats, small (and) intimate,” said Yarrow, who was reached by phone on Jan. 26 as he was traveling. “That’s exciting because there is so much contact with the audience, it’s very enjoyable.”
Yarrow performed last weekend in Monroe, Mich. Calley Duffey, associate executive director of the River Raisin Centre for the Arts, was in awe of Yarrow’s performance.
“It was fantastic to have a legend in our midst,” Duffey said. “You don’t realize how influential he is. … He talked a little about how he is going to Newtown, Conn., to do a concert there and that is very moving.”
The small town of Newtown was rocked in December when a gunman shot and killed 20 students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary.
In Yarrow’s performances, he presents his hit songs, but also talks about the history of this genre.
“Folk music is not music that is … written for the money,” Yarrow said. “Originally … folk songs were written by people who wanted to tell their story and tell what was in their hearts.”
Peter, Paul and Mary recorded their first record with Warner Bros in 1962. During the ‘60s, the trio was among the most prominent folk music groups in the United States, well-known for their pacifistic nature and advocacy of peace. Yarrow looks back on the early years with fond memories.
“In the beginning we toured pretty constantly,” Yarrow said. “We were in love with what we were doing; we were very young.”
He believes that folk music connects people in their efforts to make a more peaceful world. Yarrow is passionate about making the world a better place — he is the founder of the nonprofit organization Operation Respect.
According to its website, the primary part of Operation Respect’s mission is to “to assure each child and youth a respectful, safe and compassionate climate of learning where their academic, social and emotional development can take place free of bullying, ridicule and violence.”
Mark Weiss, program director of Operation Respect, has known Yarrow for more than 20 years and worked with him for around a decade. Weiss finds Yarrow’s unique approach to education quite successful.
“We’re all over the world, with the feeling that we have raised consciousness about changing school climate and culture, which is really what we are all about,” Weiss said. “The music does it … it educates the heart.”
Yarrow is still very active in his nonprofit.
“(Operation Respect) is very, very important to me,” Yarrow said. “That’s the main work that I do on a day-to-day basis.”
For Sunday’s show, Yarrow will be performing with his son, Christopher, who sings and plays a washtub bass. He occasionally performs with his daughter and her partner, a cellist, as well. His daughter and son perform similar, folk-style music.
“This music is very powerful to the conscience of a nation,” Yarrow said. “It expresses hopes and dreams.”
It’s not only Yarrow’s words that express these sentiments.
“He is the real deal,” Duffey said. “He eats, breathes, sleeps hope and peace and change. It’s fantastic.”
For ticket information go to www.kpcenter.org. For information about Operation Respect visit www.operationrespect.org.
Sarah Devleming is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.