Peggy Seeger at Oran Mor, June, 2015, review by Pauline Keightley
The timeless story of songs and words
I enjoyed seeing 80 year old Peggy Seeger, folk legend, feminist icon, and political activist, perform at Oran Mor. She sparkled and shone and took us into her world of music and was convincing in her views that only music that can use all of our minds.
What a lovely classy, dedicated and informed lady she is. As well as performing her music, she entertained us from a collection of stories she has compiled – some were funny, some profound and some moving. Seeger, who was married to the folk musician and song writer, Ewan MacColl, is an accomplished musician. Steeped in music throughout her life, she is the daughter of American folklorist Charles Seeger and her brother is the folk singer songwriter Pete Seeger.
The gig was very much a family affair with her sister-in-law managing the tour and her two sons, Neill and Calum, joining Peggy on stage. There was no support and she played a full two and a half hour set with a twenty minute interval. I was glad I wasn’t late!
It must take a lot of thought to choose from a lifetime catalogue of traditional folk songs – they began the set with the traditional folk song ‘Hard Times’. They sang of longings and of good times and the words, “The dark rolling sea between you and me, How I long for the days gone by.“
She clearly enjoyed sharing the stage with her sons, who provided lovely blended backing harmonies and guitar. They played a range of traditional folk instruments including, autoharp, banjo, guitar, concertina and piano. Neill and Calum sang ‘Freight Train’. and also a couple of unaccompanied songs and the family trio finished the set with Ewan MacColl’s life-affirming song ‘The Joy of Living’. For their encore Peggy treated us to the real version of MacColl’s most famous song, ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. Like many folk artists she sang with a realism and true heart, never over singing or over doing the emotions – her voice delicate and clear.
Peggy has no pretensions, no airs or graces. She stood for several songs and for others she held her instruments. She glowed with pleasure as she showered us with little pearls of wisdom, performed and told her stories.
One of Peggy’s stories stood out. It was about a tribe from the Amazon where the men tended to be destructive – they cut down trees for canoes, they killed animals for food and they fought wars. By contrast the women were the nurturers of the crops and the children. So they felt the women needed to tell the men when to stop. They would say STOP, we have enough canoes stop cutting down trees. They would say we have enough to eat, STOP killing animals. We don’t need any more wars STOP! When one of the tribe visited the western world she wondered why there were only male voices to be heard and why the women were not saying STOP.
After Ewan died Peggy moved back to America. In 2010 she returned to the UK and has recorded her first ever solo album, which marks a musical rebirth after suffering from a serious illness. ‘Everything Changes’ was released in 2015 – a unique mix of traditional and a contemporary sound.
She enjoyed working with a full session band for the album, which was produced by her son Calum MacColl and features musicians Simon Edwards (Talk Talk, Kirsty MacColl), James Hallawell (The Waterboys, David Gray), Martyn Barker (Shriekback, Goldfrapp) and Kate St John (Dream Academy, Nick Drake). At 80, not only is she wise and like the highest quality aged red wine, she is still challenging herself to be fresh and relevant.
I was pleased with my photos and hope they tell the story of the gig – I always aim to be discreet and not create a disturbance – taking photos either seated or at the side.
Music is the healer and motivator.
Review and Photos Pauline Keightley – pkimage.co.uk/
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