Pete Seeger's Grandson Kicks Off Citywide Seeger Fest in Hudson River Park

By Danielle Tcholakian on July 17, 2014 8:35am 

 Pete Seeger, pictured here in 2009 in Hunts Point Riverside Park, died on Jan. 28, 2014. He was 94.
Pete Seeger, pictured here in 2009 in Hunts Point Riverside Park, died on Jan. 28, 2014. He was 94.
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Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

HUDSON RIVER PARK — Almost exactly seven months after the legendary musician's passing this year, Pete Seeger's grandson has put together an epic five-day music festival tribute to his grandfather.

"Seeger Fest" launches Thursday night in Hudson River Park, and will continue through July 21 at sites all over the city that were important to Seeger.

"My grandfather is really the reason why the Hudson River is clean, basically, so I felt like we needed to have an event that was right there, on the Hudson River," said Seeger's grandson, Kitana Cahill-Jackson.

Seeger, loved for his pioneering role in the Greenwich Village folk music scene and his social activism, including his efforts to clean up the Hudson River, died on Jan. 28. He was 94.

Seeger Fest is the first tribute to Seeger produced by one of his family members.

"I grew up with my grandparents, in their home," Cahill-Jackson said. "We were really close, like best friends.

"When my grandfather died, I wanted to do some kind of unique event honoring him, and honoring my grandparents together and what they did together," he explained.

The five-day festival will kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, with an opening concert at Pier 46 near Charles Street led by The Chapin Sisters, followed by a free screening of the Emmy-winning biographical documentary "Peter Seeger: The Power of Song."

Cahill-Jackson and his wife love going to the movie nights in Hudson River Park, so screening the film was the first idea that came to them. From there, the plan grew to show the movie but also organize "a next-generation concert" of folk musicians under the age of 35.

The Chapin Sisters are the nieces of the late Harry Chapin, a folk singer and social activist who was a close friend of Seeger's.

They will be joined by a host of special guests, including the Connecticut State Troubadour, Kristen Graves, who shared the stage with Seeger last fall at a WBAI benefit at The Cutting Room, his second-to-last live performance in New York City.

The rest of the festival will be scattered all over the city, and even upstate, where Seeger and his wife, Toshi Seeger, lived. There will be concerts, film screenings, a memorial service, Seeger-style singalongs, and a photo exhibit.

But Cahill-Jackson said the "laid-back" opening night is particularly special.

"If my grandfather was alive, this is the only night of Seeger Fest he would go to," Cahill-Jackson said, laughing. "This is his kind of event. You're outside, you're by the Hudson River, you're sitting in the grass, and you have a movie that shows American history."

The concert and screening, and all of the other Seeger Fest events, are free.

"It started out as a memorial and it would be pretty weird to have to pay to go to a loved one's memorial," Cahill-Jackson said. "I didn't want anyone to not be able to go because of cost."

Some Seeger Fest highlights:

July 19, noon to 5 p.m.: The South Bronx Seeger Fest at Hunt’s Point Riverside Park, Lafayette Avenue and Edgewater Road in The Bronx

A variety of musicians will be performing at this daytime festival, including Rapper's Delight (formerly known as the Sugar Hill Gang).

It is hosted by local nonprofit called Rocking the Boat, which teaches Bronx teens how to build boats. Seeger regularly hosted the teens at his home in Beacon, N.Y., where he would cut down trees with them to use, before helping them pitch tents and build a campfire in his backyard, Cahill-Jackson recalled.

Attendees of the South Bronx Seeger Fest will be able to row some of the teen-made boats in the Bronx River.

July 19, 8 p.m.: Photo exhibit and film screening at El Taller Latino Americano on the Upper West Side, 2710 Broadway

Cahill-Jackson used to spend hours in his grandparents' attic poring over old photos of his grandfather with everyone from Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly to Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, and even presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

He has blown up those photos and will display them on the third floor of El Taller Latino Americano, along with part of a film his grandparents made together, which includes footage of prisoners singing work songs in the 1950s.

► July 20, 4 p.m.: Memorial concert with friends of Pete and Toshi Seeger outside Lincoln Center

Part of the Lincoln Center "Out of Doors" series, this tribute concert will feature speakers Harry Belafonte and Michael Moore, as well as performances from some of the musicians who knew and loved Seeger and his wife, including Judy Collins, Dar Williams and Pete Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary.

July 21, 6 p.m.: "New Songs of Justice: An Evening Honoring Pete Seeger" at Central Park's Summerstage

Cahill-Jackson worked with Harry Belafonte's daughter, Gina Belafonte, to put together an evening of performances by an eclectic array of musicians who have all used music to fight injustice.

Performers include Rebel Diaz, Michael Glabicki of Rusted Root, Amanda Palmer and the punk group Anti-Flag.

For more Seeger Fest events in the city and across the Hudson Valley, visit the Seeger Fest website.

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