The timeless story of songs and words
I enjoyed a gig last week at the Oran Mor Glasgow with the delicate clear voice of folk legend Peggy Seeger (wife of renowned folk songwriter Ewan MacColl) She sparkled and shone at the age of 80 and took us into her world of music. She said that it is only music that uses all of our minds.
What a lovely classy, dedicated and informed lady! She offered us some of her collection of stories she held in a large notebook – some were funny, some profound and some moving. Seeger is an accomplished musician and the daughter of folklorist Charles Seeger and her brother is the American folk singer songwriter Pete Seeger.
Peggy played a full set with her two sons from 7.30 to 10, (there was no support) with a twenty minute interval. I was glad I wasn’t late! I feel sure it must take careful thought to choose from a lifetime catalogue of traditional folk songs and stories to chose from. Peggy beamed and showered little pearls of wisdom.
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.“ Neill and Callum sang Freight Train and also a couple of unaccompanied songs.
She clearly enjoyed sharing the stage with her two sons with Neill and Callum, who provided lovely blended backing harmonies and guitar. They played some traditional folk instruments - autoharp, banjo, guitar, concertina and piano. Ewan and Callum sang Freight Train. and also a couple of unaccompanied songs.
The family trio finished the set with the life-affirming Ewan 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. Folk artists sing with a realism and true heart and never over sing or over do the emotions.
There are no pretensions or airs or graces around Peggy. She stood for several songs and for others she clutched her instruments. Occasionally she waved her hands and arms wide. Peggy beamed and showered little pearls of wisdom. It was heartening to see Peggy still full of joie de vivre and ready to command the stage! At 80, not only is she wise and like the highest quality red wine, she is still challenging herself to be fresh and relevant.After Ewan died Peggy returned to America. She returned to the UK in 2010 and has recorded her first ever solo album which marks a musical rebirth after she suffered from serious ill health.
In 2015 Peggy released Everything Changes. She has said that she enjoyed greatly 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).
I was pleased with my photos and hope they tell the story of the gig - it is always a challenge and at a classy gig like this full of dedicated folk fans I don’t like to disturb the set and I always aim to be discreet. I take photos either seated or at the side. This was a family affair with her sister-in-law managing the tour.
Women need to say STOP!
One story from Peggy stood out – about an Amazon tribe where they considered the men tended to be destructive – they cut down trees for canoes, they killed animals for food and they fought wars. Wheras 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.
Music is the healer and motivator.