Tag Archives: Pete Seeger

Smiles remembered after all these years

I know this day well; I never forget it; it invariably sneaks up on me and grabs me unaware; and when I pause for a moment to reflect, I remember why things feel so raw. After all these years. And then I smile.

People have been posting on Facebook about remembering this day because of the Challenger disaster. I remember that. 

But I remember this day for an event that took place twelve years before the Challenger. An event that also claimed the lives of educators.

Forty years ago this day,  on January 28, 1974, William Koenig climbed into a small plane with another educator from Grove City. They planned a trip to Harrisburg, the state capitol, where they were to advocate for funds for the Grove City Public School system. At the time of his death, Bill worked as the assistant superintendent for the Grove City Public School system. But he was a musician. He played string bass in the pit orchestra for the high school musicals. He directed the town band. He was a tennis player. He was a photographer. He was also a private pilot. Though they had tickets on a commercial airline, the two colleagues decided Bill would fly. The plane went down near Emlenton, Pennsylvania, the crash site only located the next day. When I arrived at JFK a day later, after a college choir trip to Europe, family members met me and broke the news and shattered my heart.

Because grief lasts, I raise a glass to remember loses and acknowledge pains. And because love never ends, I raise a glass to give thanks and to celebrate love shared past, present, and future.  On this anniversary, I raise a glass to William Koenig, to his life, to the time, the far too short time, we shared. To all I learned. To laughter and tears. To music made well and badly. To a multitude of remembered smiles.

Goodnight and joy be with you, Dad.

Goodnight and joy be with us all.

See you along the Trail.



Filed under Family, Music

Almost 70 years

20 July 1943 – Toshi-Aline Ohta married an aspiring folksinger about to be deployed overseas.

9 July 2013 – Toshi-Aline Ohta Seeger died.

For the almost 70 years between those two days, Toshi shared life with Pete Seeger. In their partnership, Toshi provided support and counsel and wisdom and stability. Toshi served as the rock that allowed Pete to carry on his work.

Toshi worked as an organizer (Pete noted that she become accomplished at this work because she had to organize him), activist, and filmmaker – she produced a film of work songs by inmates of a Texas prison in Huntsville.

Toshi served as an organizer and programmer for the Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival that has raised funds and consciousness on environmental issues.

Toshi and Pete had four children, one of whom died in infancy.










Child of God.

Thanks be to God for the life of Toshi Seeger.

See you along the Trail.


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Thanks Pete!

PeteOn his 94th birthday, I remember seeing Pete Seeger in concert many times, including a benefit concert for Leonard Peltier shortly before Christmas 2012. I remember listening to his recordings – on LPs, tapes, and CDs. I remember singing along as he transformed audiences into choirs.

Most of all, I remember the one conversation I had with Pete. Actually, it was a conversation with Pete and Si Kahn. They had led music at a conference I was attending. I sat down beside them. Si noticed that I was wearing a watch (this was the old days). He asked, “What time is it?” I responded with the time. “Thanks,” said Pete.

That should have been my line.

Thanks, Pete
for unflagging witness
persisting patiently
sharing hope
living with integrity
caring for creation
pursuing justice
building community
breaking down walls
crossing lines when appropriate
and honoring lines when appropriate.

Thanks Pete
for rising up in song,
bringing us along,
and reminding us that
we cannot keep from singing.

Happy Birthday!
May you stay Forever Young.

Thanks Pete!

See you along the Trail.


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Christmas music 2012

Every year about this time, I post about Christmas music. Here I go again.

I like Christmas music. I manage to refrain from playing it on my iPod until Advent begins. Once that first Sunday of preparation and waiting dawns – away I go!

IMG00078-20111212-1925This year, after attending the Bring Leonard Peltier Home in 2012 Concert that he co-hosted with Pete Seeger, I purchased my first Harry Belafonte CD – a CD of Christmas music. I had known of Belafonte’s incredible commitment to social justice. Now, through the lens of Christmas, I appreciate him as an artist.
Two Christmas songs I have to hear over and again at this season are:

Christmas in the Trenches” by John McCutcheon

The Rebel Jesus” by Jackson Browne

How about you? What music speaks to you at Christmas?

See you along the Trail.


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The People Have Spoken

On my way to work today, Tommy Sands‘ song “The People Have Spoken” came on the iPod. The whole song is well worth a read or a listen – click on the title on the left. It appears on his CD, Let the Circle Be Wide.

Two images spoke with particular power today. One line comes from the second verse:

Well I say the sun shines on all or on no one

And the whole final verse:

And don’t sing the songs of the wrongs we have suffered
Till first we can hear of the wrongs we have done
And together we’ll write a new song for tomorrow
It’s then, only then, that our day will come

Sands, a native of the County Down in Northern Ireland, has performed with his family of birth, his children Moya and Fionan, Pete Seeger, Vedran Smailovic, and a choir of Protestant and Catholic children among many others. Tricia and I had the privilege to see him in a solo concert in Cleveland more than ten years ago.

His deep commitment to peace shines through his music. He has played a key role in the peace process for Northern Ireland:

Ten years ago [this would be about 1990], Sands started an event called “The Music of Healing.” Musicians from both factions in Northern Ireland – Catholic and Protestant – met to play music together, to test and prove the bonding power of their shared music. Later, the musicians brought leaders from their parties with them; they would open these discussion sessions with music, “to create an atmosphere of neighborliness and humanity.” The discussions were often heated, but never dissolved. According to Sands, the Citizen’s Assembly which, in 1996, began to hold its “consensus sessions,” grew out of these musical exchanges. Led by Peter Emerson, a key thinker in the group, the Citizen’s Assembly looked for new ways of solving conflict and new ways of decision making – moving from “majoritarianism” to a concensus approach – a true democracy where instead of 51% of the people being happy, everyone is. Each voice – even minority voices – are heard, considered, and made part of the final decision. Instead of the up/down referendum, they used the “preferendum,” where representatives rank alternatives. Ex-prisoners from both the IRA and the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) acted as referees or facilitators in fashioning solutions that took all points of view into account. Sands said it was his own son, Fionan, who came up with the idea that each party in the talks should be represented by one man and one woman. It was this Citizen’s Assembly which was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the Good Friday Peace Accords, which remain a source of hope for lasting peace in Ireland despite continuing problems.

He has taken his search for peace on the road – working with Palestinian and Israeli peace activists.

Confronting the evil humans can do, the awful wounds we can inflict on each other, Tommy Sands remains a person of hope and peace. He sings:

The people have spoken, a new day is dawning
The people have spoken, and new day has come

May the day dawn soon.

See you along the Trail.


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Giving thanks for song

Originally written for my work blog:

I give thanks today for those who cannot keep from singing.

Song sustains us, guides us.
Song expresses our deepest fears and our most profound hopes.
Song challenges the powers and proclaims an alternative vision.
Song leads us into living that alternative.

The January Term Doctor of Ministry class meeting at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations attended chapel at the Church Center for the United Nations today. Chaplain Kathleen Stone reminded us of the power and roles of song. And I thought of:

Victor Jara
Pete Seeger
Paul Robeson
Sweet Honey in the Rock
Vedran Smailović
Tommy Sands
and musicians through the age whose names I cannot remember, whose names I do not know, will never know,
but whose songs touch and inspire and bless people,
cause tyrants to tremble,
shape and support struggles for justice.
For each, for all I give thanks.

And it seems to me that since I believe Love is Lord of heaven and earth, it might be time to get out my guitar.

See you along the Trail.


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