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Pete Seeger Honored at Old Town School With Weekend Singalongs

By Patty Wetli | January 31, 2014 8:34am
 "Pete Seeger was a gigantic inspiration to all of us and a lifelong friend of Old Town School of Folk Music," said Bau Graves, the school's executive director.
"Pete Seeger was a gigantic inspiration to all of us and a lifelong friend of Old Town School of Folk Music," said Bau Graves, the school's executive director.
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Old Town School of Folk Music

LINCOLN SQUARE — It's fair to say that without Pete Seeger there'd be no Old Town School of Folk Music.

Seeger, who died Monday at age 94, sparked the folk revival that "Old Town was born out of," said Bau Graves, the school's executive director.

In honor of Seeger, Old Town School will hold a pair of singalongs this weekend to celebrate the late folk legend's legacy, from 12:30-2 p.m. Saturday and 1:30-3 p.m. Sunday in Maurer Hall, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave.

The events are free and open to all — bring an instrument or just bring your voice.

"I imagine it will mostly be done in the Pete Seeger tradition of yelling out the lyrics" before they're to be sung, Graves said.

The singalongs are just the first in a series of events Old Town has planned in tribute to Seeger, whose influence on the school, and American culture in general, is immeasurable, Graves noted.

"Pete, just by virtue of a long and incredibly busy life, put a lot of music into the American canon. That's part of our shared heritage," he said.

"The week I was born in 1952, the No. 1 song on the Hit Parade was 'On Top of Old Smokey.' The reason we all know that song is it was a huge hit for Pete."

An activist as well as a musician, Seeger held the copyright to "We Shall Overcome," which he adapted from old spirituals.

"Can we imagine the Civil Rights movement without that song?" Graves said.

A recipient of the National Medal of Arts and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — inducted in the "early influences" category — Seeger is in many ways an irreplaceable figure in America's cultural pantheon, Graves said.

"He was unique and very, very special. But what he was doing is everybody's birthright. Certainly Old Town School was founded on those principles," he said. "There's a whole army of people who have been inspired by Pete. You just have to be willing to open up your mouth and sing a song."

Old Town's additional Seeger tributes:

• On March 22, Peggy Seeger (Pete's sister) will perform at Old Town School. Ron Cohen will be signing copies of his just-published book, "The Pete Seeger Reader."

• During April and May, an exhibition of Seeger's photos, correspondence and ephemera will be on display in the upstairs gallery at 4544 N. Lincoln Ave. It will subsequently be moved to a designated Seeger Room in Old Town's east building, 4545 N. Lincoln Ave., on semi-permanent display.

• A "Strum-a-Thon" fundraiser will be part of the school's First Friday activities May 2, along with an anticipated screening of the documentary, "Pete Seeger: The Power of Song."

• On May 3 — Seeger's birthday — Michael Miles will present his one-man show, "From Senegal to Seeger." Miles is an acclaimed banjo player and instructor at Old Town School.

• A kids' show featuring Seeger's songs is planned for May 4.