Peter Yarrow performs at The Palace

Friday, March 1, 2013

By George Pelletier


Iconic ’60s folkster Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, will play an evening of chestnuts and fan faves at Manchester’s Palace Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 8.

Known for his socially conscious causes and hits such as “If I Had a Hammer,” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Yarrow first released an album with Paul Stookey and Mary Travers in 1962. Travers died in 2009.

They played the Greenwich Village coffee houses and created one of the most popular musical acts of the folk era, scoring numerous Grammys and multi-platinum album sales. He attributes their success to a mutual purpose.

“We were really dedicated to using our music, not to simply entertain but much more importantly, to serve as a vehicle for creating community and being a voice of consciousness and conscience,” Yarrow said.

At this stage in his career, Yarrow is happier to be playing than worrying about leaving a legacy, although he’s added the title of author to his extensive resume.

“How do I want to spend the rest of my life?” he said. “I’ll turn 75 in May and I see it this way – there are two things that make up this phase of life- wisdom and perspective.”

He said his tactic to life is like skiing down a mountain.

“If you look in front of you, you see every bump,” Yarrow said. “But, if you look farther down the hill and in front of yourself at the same time, you can carve a path that makes sense. Wisdom, to handle the immediate situation and perspective to look at all the goodness you have, the good fortune. We need wisdom and perspective. And sincere gratitude.”

One of Peter, Paul and Mary’s most beloved anthems remains, “Puff the Magic Dragon,” due in part to its importance today, he said, particularly with school bullying.

“If you reflect on it and the reality of the teasing and bullying that is going on with so many kids, resulting in exclusion and suicides, I think the issue is still enormously relevant to our lives and the direction we take as a country,” he said.

Although the song was written and performed in a time when the Selma and Montgomery, Ala., civil rights were fresh in record buyers’ minds, the song’s message transcends decades and still resonates today.

“It’s about whether we allow our kids to grow up mean-spirited and greedy rather than nurture their growth in a positive way,” Yarrow said. “Now the song might apply to gays or Muslims… every generation faces these efforts to be tolerant.”

To illustrate his passion and point, Yarrow founded Operation Respect, a nonprofit organization established to stop bullying in schools.

“Operation Respect has been my main and all-consuming work for the past 10 years,” he said. “My perception is that the kind of bullying and humiliation that goes on in children’s schools leads to high rates of depression that was virtually unknown when I was young.”

As for his other passion – music – Yarrow, digging deep into his catalogue, said, “I will sing ‘Puff.’ I will sing ‘Blowin’ in the Wind,’ I will sing ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ to remember Mary and bring her into our presence. That’s all important.”

He speaks of the first time he and Stookey played after Travers’ death.

“It was enormously powerful,” HE said. “There was a certain degree of apprehension because we didn’t know if people would see the concert as an exercise in acknowledging that Mary’s absence was more important than her presence.”

Ultimately after a few songs, Yarrow said, “It was very clear that everybody was happy to know the music continues and we continue to be the carrier of this message and that Mary is inherently with us in our efforts.”

Tickets are $44.50 with a pre-show meet and greet, $34.50 and $24.50 and may be purchased through the Palace Theatre box office at 668-5588.

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