I wish I could think of a clever title for this post, but I just keep coming back to the fact that the Operation Respect Benefit Concert at Symphony Space last week was one of those moments in time that you have to pinch yourself to believe is real.
The concert was conducted by Robert DeCormier, a true maestro and Peter Paul and Mary’s longtime musical director who created the orchestral arrangements the trio sang at Carnegie Hall performances. To watch someone of that extraordinary talent is an honor and a privilege, to know that he is 94 years old and conducted a nearly two-hour concert is mind blowing!
In this case, though, pictures help tell the story, because among the musicians Bob conducted last week were high school students as young as 14 years old from LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, The Juilliard School, and Mannes School of Music.
So now we have a 94-year-old conductor, primarily teenage musicians, and we add thirty members of the New York Choral Society singing choral arrangements to the Songs of Peter Paul and Mary which are truly spiritual and are just filling the theatre with the most joyful noise.
What more could we need? How about two folk music and social justice icons? Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey reminding us all of the love that made Peter Paul and Mary one of the most successful performing groups of all time, but more importantly, three people united in synergy and spirit to make the world a better place. These two brothers in peace called the audience to live up to our best selves, to sing out in our words and deeds our deepest held beliefs and to stand for justice in all that we do.
And now I’m thinking to myself, this is good enough. This is already an amazing musical performance. This is a beautiful evening of unity and shared joy. And then they end the show with This Land is Your Land by Woodie Guthrie. And from my seat I can see Peter’s granddaughter dancing and singing just off stage (Peter posted a really great video from backstage that captures his daughter, Bethany, and granddaughter, Valentina singing and dancing. Please check it out on our Facebook page.). And Congressman John Garamendi jumps up from his seat and exhorts the crowd to stand and sing louder and with ever more passion and commitment together.
And the tears fall. Because this is all for the benefit of children. Children here in the U.S.; children in Israel and Palestine; children in Hong Kong and Ukraine and everywhere around the world where Operation Respect works and partners and shares our resources so that children may live and learn free from bullying and violence, surrounded by compassion, respect, and love. The ticket sales, a silent auction of the really cool “Puff” guitar, a special benefactor dinner prior to the concert, all were gracious and generous efforts to support our work and ensure that we can continue to provide Don’t Laugh at Me free of cost to all who want to live love, teach peace, and fight unfairness wherever it exists.
A pinch me moment indeed.
If you missed the concert, but would like to donate to Operation Respect, please visit our website at www.operationrespect.org/donate and know that we are so grateful for your support.
(Concert photos courtesy of Sarah Coale)