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Monday, April 2, 2012

An Afternoon (and Evening) with Peggy Seeger

Mike, Peggy & Pete Seeger, 2007
A week or so, at the monthly sea chantey gathering at the Rowayton Arts Center, one of the folks there noticed the signatures on my banjo head.  I've got several:  John McCutcheon, Tony Trishka, Tom Chapin, Bob Webb, Mike Seeger and Pete Seeger.  

"You know, Peggy Seeger is going to be in Saratoga Springs next Thursday," the person looking at my banjo volunteered.

I was glad for the news, as I've been a fan of Peggy's for years but I was also somewhat troubled, as Thursdays are the one day of the week where my schedule is completely carved in stone because of the CPE program at the hospital.  Upon arriving home, I checked out Peggy Seeger's website to see if she had any other concerts in the general area and found that she had one coming up at Rider University on March 30, coupled with a lecture, A Feminist View of Anglo-American Traditional Songs.  I also saw that this would likely be the last ever concert anywhere near where I lived, since she was planning on only touring in Europe after returning to her home in England after this tour.  I made up my mind that I WOULD go to the concert.

Checking in with my wife and son to get their approval for my taking a road trip to New Jersey, I called my mother, telling her that I had found something that "I was sure she'd really want to do when she came up to visit," holding my breath and hoping that she'd decide that she wanted to take a two and a half hour drive to New Jersey the day after taking a train up from Virginia.  Fortunately, she agreed and I packed up my banjo and some Sharpie markers for the trip.

On Thursday evening, I picked my mom up from the train station.  On Friday morning, we left for Rider, stopping for some shopping and lunch along the way.  We were doing fine until we hit traffic on Rt. 1 on the way into Lawrenceville, causing us to arrive half-way through Peggy's lecture, but she welcomed us into the small theater where she was holding forth on the role of women in Anglo-American folk music, which she punctuated with a variety of songs, accompanying herself on guitar or keyboard, as appropriate.  (If you didn't click on the link earlier, here's another chance to see a summary of her lecture.)  

After the lecture, I asked Peggy if she would sign my banjo, which she happily did, including her unique "female music note" symbol with her signature. (See pictures below.)  After signing the banjo, she played it for a while, then surprised me by inviting me to stick around after the evening concert so I could play her banjo.

That evening, my mother and I had front-row seats in the Gill Chapel, where the concert was taking place and we sang along on many of the songs, laughed at her stories, and were generally impressed with this amazing woman who, in her late seventies, has more energy in her than most people half her age.  After the concert, I had the chance to play her pre-1900 A.C. Fairbanks banjo, with an 11" pot.  Suffice it to say that if any of my blog readers should wish to present me with a similar A.C. Fairbanks banjo, I wouldn't turn it down.

So that was my day spent with Peggy Seeger.  She's a phenomenal musician, with a deep knowledge of her craft and a love for her audience.  I enjoyed her keen sense of humor and her generosity of spirit.  I wish her well as she concludes her U.S. tour and returns to Britain.  And I hope that she'll decide to come back to this side of the pond someday.

Peggy Seeger Playing My Banjo
Me Playing Peggy Seeger's Banjo
with Peggy's 1929 Martin Guitar in Foreground

Peggy, Mike & Pete Seeger's Signatures on My Banjo