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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Singer-Songwriter and Activist Returns to Malibu for Concert at Pepperdine

• Shares Message That Folk Music Is Still Written, Performed and Used as Tool to Combat Injustice

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Former Malibu resident, folksinger, song writer and civil rights activist Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, is returning to Malibu for the first time in many years. He will be performing on Sunday, March 3, 7 p.m., at Pepperdine University’s Smothers Theatre.
The Malibu Surfside News had an opportunity to talk with Yarrow this week.
“Life has become complex,” Yarrow told The News.
“I was recently in New Town singing for the first responders,” Yarrow said. “It was very emotional, there were lots of tears, lots of love.” Yarrow said that the pro bono concert honors the Sandy Hook promise, “that the town is remembered as the place that ignited the nation to prioritize, to change,” he said.
Yarrow has spent much of his energy in recent years promoting a program that he founded called Operation Respect, a non-profit education advocacy organization focused on providing “children and youth a respectful, safe and compassionate climate of learning where their academic, social and emotional development can take place free of bullying, ridicule and violence.” The program reaches children worldwide, according to Yarrow.
Operation Respect has also developed a “Don’t Laugh at Me” program for students that use music and video together with conflict resolution curricula developed by educators.
“These days, I’m mainly focused on Operation Respect,” Yarrow said, “It’s in high gear.
“I started Operation Respect 14 years ago. It combines curricula with educators, it addresses surviving conflict, how to provide a caring, loving, environment.”
“Although Mary’s gone, I still perform a bunch, but not without content, purpose.
We didn’t invent this perspective, we inherited it. It’s a great tradition, combining music with advocacy. Folk music is still relevant, still sung. There’s too much to history to share. It’s not yesterday, it’s today.”
Yarrow performs often with his daughter, Bethany Yarrow and her musical partner, cellist Rufus Cappadocia. He also performs with his son Christopher, who plays washtub base, a traditional American jug band percussion instrument made from a washtub and a piece of line. Both children went to Malibu schools in the 1970s.
“It’s a joy to be able to perform with them, see them making music,”  Yarrow said.
“Christopher is amazing on the washtub bass. He hits the pitch, hits the notes.”
“Bethany’s a great anti-fracking activist,” Yarrow said. “But she dropped everything to head to the Rockaways after [superstorm] Sandy.
“It was really neglected,” he said. “The job wasn’t being done. She went out there every day for a month. Helping people is central.”
Recently, Yarrow has also produced a series of music picture books for children. “I’ve published four books of folk music for children,” Yarrow said. “Favorite Folk Songs,” “Sleepytime Songs,” “Day Is Done,” and “Let’s Sing Together,” followed the success of an illustrated “Puff the Magic Dragon” book.
 “I was startled when Puff sold over a million copies,” Yarrow said. “I’m the first folksinger over the age of 70 to have sold a million of anything. This is the music of the people. It’s still being written and performed. It’s in homes, at folk music festivals. It needs a bigger audience.”
This month, Yarrow published an illustrated picture book of the Peter, Paul and Mary song “I’m in Love with a Big Blue Frog.” “It’s about tolerance,” he said.
All of the material in the books is available at no cost for teachers and educators through Operation Respect.
When Yarrow lived in Malibu in the late 1970s, he was an enthusiastic supporter of local causes.
This reporter remembers that he came to meetings at her family home when she was a small child to support the fight, spearheaded by her father, John Guldimann, to save the Point Dume Headlands from development.
Yarrow also was active in the local schools, performing free concerts and sharing his philosophy with the children.
“Do you still have the Santa Ana winds?” Yarrow asked. “We almost lost our house on Broad Beach in the 1978 fire,” he said.
“I remember when rockslides closed Pacific Coast Highway. We would park a car on the other side of the slide and walk across the slide area.”
“Life in Malibu was pretty rugged,” Yarrow said.
Yarrow said he was glad to hear the the Headlands are now part of Point Dume State Park and that the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area was successfully established to protect parts of the Malibu coast and mountains.
“You’re still fighting a good fight,” he said.
More information on operation respect is available at www.operationrespect.org.  Tickets and additional information on Peter Yarrow’s Pepperdine University concert on March 2, can be found at arts.pepperdine.edu

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