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Peter Yarrow taps into people power of folk music on Astini News

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Peter Yarrow will be at the Hanover Theatre in Worcester for a family show at 1 p.m. Sunday.

WORCESTER -- Peter Yarrow, America's best loved folk singer, will share his favorites with families at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts.

Yarrow, of the iconic trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, will appear with his special guests Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli and Mustard's Retreat in the Concert for Causes to benefit local charities.

In December 1960, Yarrow began singing with Mary Travers and Noel Paul Stookey after graduating in 1959 from Cornell with a degree in psychology.

"The lyrics to 'Puff the Magic Dragon,' a little poem written by Leonard Lipton, appealed to me because they had an Ogden Nash feeling," said Yarrow, who was with his children and grandchildren at his family home in Telluride, & & & & & & & & & Colo., at the time of the interview.

"The whole idea of relationship and the loss of innocence gives it a kind of heartbreak -- what is sweet and caring turns into something far less whimsical, turns to cynicism over time."

Yarrow wants all of us to retain that young part of ourselves that sometimes gets lost. He wants us to hold onto our ideals and stay caring.

"That's what makes it work. The music emphasizes the emotion, even if someone doesn't understand the words," he said. "People know from the music and my delivery what it's all about -- that's what a song does ... meaning and an intent is there with the music."

Yarrow grew up in a Jewish family involved in culture and worship, something of which he is very & & & &


"The arts is one beautiful way to enhance living life more deeply and richly," he said.

As a boy, he pleaded with his mother to get him a violin and let him learn, which led to playing the guitar and going to a training school -- but as an art student.

"I had no aspiration to make a career in music," Yarrow said. It was at that time he was encouraged to explore his music.

"A famous artist suggested if I were to go to college I might major in something which could & & & & & & & & & put together art and math, so I entered as a physics major initially," he said. He soon realized it was not what he was destined to do.

Yarrow became engaged in folk music as a transformational force and, as an undergraduate, taught a course called "English 355 and 356: Folk Ballads and Folk Songs."

"College was steeped in an unfortunate value system and hierarchy. There was the Jewish side and the white side, co-eds were to be traded, blacks were disregarded unless running on the field," he said.

Yarrow made the Saturday morning sing-along a famous ritual at Cornell. Sometimes about 1,000 students of all backgrounds would attend, forced to spill out of his 300-seat lecture hall and into the corridors, and everyone would & & & & & & & & & sing.

"When I sang to these groups, their hearts melted and I felt humanity singing, as if someone had unlocked all this passion," he said.

Eventually Yarrow's songwriting helped to create some of Peter, Paul & Mary's songs, including "Puff the Magic Dragon" which reached No. 2 in 1962 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Others included "Day is Done," "Light One Candle," and "The Great Mandala." In 1996 Yarrow, as a trio member, earned an Emmy nomination for the PBS "Great Performances" special, "LifeLines Live."

As a musician and an activist, Yarrow was passionate about many of the historically pivotal issues in American society, like the Vietnam War and civil rights. He suggests that his music is not just nostalgic. & & & & & & & & &

"Playing these songs, even in today's terms, the music is still vital, alive and necessary," he said, and he believes it's possible for one person to change the world.

He praises the shining facet of his own Judaism, that we are all connected. "That is done to one, is done to all," he quotes, saying he is moved by people's capacity for empathy.

"I hope to be remembered as someone who helped the world with his music, someone who showed up for what he believes in: togetherness in music."

In 2003, a resolution in both houses of Congress recognized the achievements of Yarrow and Operation Respect, based on his efforts to combat school violence and stirred by the song "Don't Laugh at Me," written by Steve Seskin and Allen & & & & & & & & & & Shamblin.

Yarrow makes it plain that his more intimate concerts at smaller venues are special moments.

"They are like a cross between a concert and a march, like a Thanksgiving gathering. Everyone's singing and joining in. Folk music belongs to everybody, and everyone can do it together -- a collectiveness, regard, sensitivity, and respect which can help us all care for one another."

For tickets and information, go to or call 877-571-7469.& & & & & & & & & &

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