The Hippo


May 29, 2020








The former trio, Peter, Paul and Mary. Keven Mazur photo.

Meet Noel Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow

Where: Concord Community Music School, 23 Wall St., Concord (presented by Gibson’s Bookstore,, 224-0562)
When: Friday, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m.
Admission: Tickets are $10 and can go toward the purchase of a copy of Peter Paul and Mary: Fifty Years in Music and Life or any other purchase at Gibson’s Bookstore (SOLD OUT - Call to be added to wait list or to get a book signed.)
Contact: 224-0562,

Peter and Paul visit Concord
Celebrating 50 years of Peter, Paul and Mary

By Kelly Sennott

Though Mary Travers died in 2009, Noel Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow can still hear her when they play certain songs, particularly “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” originally written by John Denver. 

They sang it during her four-hour memorial service at Riverside Church in New York City, and they’ll sing it again at their Dec. 12 event at the Concord Community Music School.
The sold-out event is being held to promote the trio’s commemorative book, Peter Paul and Mary: Fifty Years in Music and Life. (A waiting list is available, and anyone who can’t get tickets can arrange to have a book signed.)
“At the book signing, we’ll do ‘Jet Plane,’ which seems like an odd thing to do, primarily because it was Mary’s lead song, the best she was known for in the group,” Stookey said during a phone interview last week. “But then a curious thing happens. Mary’s voice becomes the audience’s voice. You can almost feel her presence at these book signings, and it’s generated by the audience singing her part on ‘Jet Plane.’”
It’s been 50 years since Peter, Paul and Mary first sang together. Their first song happened in a grungy, fifth-floor East Village walk-up, and it was “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” As Stookey and Yarrow explain in the book, there was magic in the air.
“Each time we switched leads, our voices came to life with new and wonderful textures and coloration,” an excerpt from the book reads. “It was undeniable: the magic enveloped us.”
Their new “coffee table” book contains bright, dramatic, uplifting and politically charged photos, from their very early days in the studio to their march in Washington with Martin Luther King, Jr.
The pages that aren’t plastered with pictures contain text like that above — told in first person, one voice that’s meant to represent the entire group. They never did anything unless the entire group agreed, so with Travers gone, it was hard.
“Peter and I decided that the way in which the text would be the most meaningful would be to use our own voices and combine it as a trio voice,” Stookey said. “We have lots of writing from [Travers], op-ed pieces from her columns in the paper, and then the commentary Peter and I could recall from living and working with her.”
Readers will hear the trio’s voice alongside singing and protest photos from the 1960s to present day, and references to their most popular songs: “If I Had a Hammer,” “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Puff the Magic Dragon” (which, contrary to popular belief, is not about drugs).  
Peter, Paul and Mary also flit through the pages in cartoons and letters. More recent content includes a letter sent by President Barack Obama wishing good health to Travers, who was sick at the time. Beside it are words of how his presidency was the fulfillment of a dream of theirs.
But the images that caught Stookey by surprise were not the nationally famous shots, but the photos in the recording studio or onstage. They’re the ones that captured the way the three looked at and interacted with one another — the way they held hands before sprinting to the stage or how they’d laugh and interrupt one another mid-performance.
“There’s a picture of us cracking up onstage, and it’s probably somebody interrupting somebody,” Stookey said. “There’s a degree of spontaneity and unpredictability that makes every relationship work really well. There’s an inherent trust.” 
The book accompanies two other big events for Peter, Paul and Mary: a new album called Discovery and a PBS special that’s just been released. 
They perform together now to commemorate and celebrate the last 50 years, and to show the power folk music still has in reaching varied audiences and speaking to issues that affect everyone. 
“I always felt folk music is accessible and the kind of music that, metaphorically, is shared with a group of people in the same circumstance. It’s different from dance music in so far as it connects us on a level of concern, care and compassion rather than just physical activity,” Stookey said. “At the end of the book, you’ll see there’s an anecdote about Mary’s favorite parting words, which were ‘To be continued.’ The book is not just a description of where we were, but what was the process that got us there.”
Stookey and Yarrow are still musically active with their own personal projects — Yarrow is wrapped up in an anti-bullying organization called Operation Respect, while Stookey’s deep in a musical program about faith called One Light, Many Candles. 
As seen in the December 11, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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