Music Review: From yesterday, Peter Yarrow confronts today
By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | April 08,2013
Saturday’s reunion of Peter Yarrow and Robert De Cormier at Rutland’s Paramount Theatre, was more a “Happening” than a concert — and a particularly poignant and joyful one.
It was the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Chorus’s annual concert and De Cormier, its founding director, invited his old friend and colleague to join them in “Songs of Freedom.” Yarrow became friends with De Cormier when the renowned choral conductor was music director of Yarrow’s legendary folk trio, Peter, Paul and Mary.
Yarrow is one of those rare entertainers who can make an audience feel that everything is personal. He delivered what could be some very pointed political statements about racism, global warming, war and greed. But from Yarrow, it came across with gentle caring and the joy of sharing humanity.
Saturday’s most poignant moment was a tossup between two songs with Yarrow and the VSO Chorus. Tender joy overcame the hall as Yarrow and the chorus shared “Puff the Magic Dragon” with half a dozen youngsters, including an infant in her father’s arms. He invited them all to come up on stage and he also pointed out that, contrary to rumors, the song is really about dragons and childhood fantasy.
Much tougher, but no less tender, was “Don’t Laugh at Me.” Yarrow’s folk song that sees bullying from the victim’s point of view and takes it to its unfortunate end — all delivered with gentle kindness.
Now in his 70s, Yarrow has a warm and expressive tenor voice that certainly put’s colleague Bob Dylan’s to shame. The music, which Yarrow ably accompanied on guitar, is in traditional folk style, warm and engaging. Yarrow invited the most-willing audience to join in for Peter, Paul and Mary hits like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “If I Had a Hammer.”
De Cormier and the fine VSO Chorus also performed some much more complex arrangements of traditional songs, from De Cormier’s of “Yankee Doodle” to Aaron Copland’s take on two folk songs, “Zion’s Walls” and the tender “The Promise of Living,” conducted by Dawn Willis, the VSO Chorus’s assistant conductor.
Burlington baritone Erik Brookes was the soloist, joining De Cormier and the VSO Chorus, in a number of songs celebrating the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. In another of the concert’s most poignant moments, Brookes, with simplicity, clarity and warmth, led them all in De Cormier’s powerful arrangement of the Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.”
As Yarrow pointed out from the stage, it was as if Peter, Paul and Mary had been channeled to enjoy their new friends.
Vermont Symphony Orchestra
The Vermont Symphony Orchestra will close its 2012-2013 season, at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 4, at Burlington’s Flynn Center, with Music Director Jaime Laredo conducting Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with Natasha Paremski. For tickets or information, call 800-VSO-9293, ext. 10, or go online to www.vso.org.