Pete + Peggy Seeger @ Bearsville Theater

March 19th, 2012

Photo by Letitia Smith

This past Saturday night the Bearsville Theater was packed for the Pete and Peggy Seeger concert. Pete led many sing-a-longs and told lots of stories. In one he told of composing “Where Have all the Flowers Gone” on his way to a concert at Oberlin College—one that Joe Hickerson had a hand in organizing. Some years later Joe, while at Camp Woodland, added several more verses and this version was recorded in 1961. In 2010 the New Statesmen listed the tune as one of the “Top 20 Political Songs” of all time.

Woodstock and Camp Woodland

October 19th, 2010

A Woodstock Playhouse program cover from August 1960, courtesy of Joe Hickerson

The Historical Society of Woodstock’s Folk Songs of the Catskills: The Spirit of Camp Woodland exhibit and related events drew hundreds of attendees this past summer. For example, on August 14 nearly 100 people attended the presentation/folk concert with Sue Rosenberg, Pat Lamanna, Joe Hickerson, Mickey Vandow and Eric Weissberg.

During the exhibit people asked about the linkage between Camp Woodland (near Phoenicia, NY) and Woodstock. As it happens, there are innumerable links. Herb Haufrecht, one of the authors of Folk Songs of the Catskills, and a Camp Woodland music counselor, lived in Shady, NY, a hamlet of Woodstock. Another connection was through Barbara Moncure, a local folk singer. She and Alf Evers (for many years the Woodstock Town Historian, and author of Woodstock: History of an American Town) used to venture over to Camp Woodland for the annual festivals. Barbara performed at them, and eventually recorded an album of Catskill Mountain songs for Folkways. In 1959, Alf organized the First Annual Catskill Mountain Folk Music Festival at the Colony Arts Center. Several Catskill Mountain folk singers like “Squire” Elwyn Davis and Harry Siemson, who had previously appeared at Camp Woodland, performed at that festival. Another instance of Camp Woodland/Woodstock linkage occurred in August 1960 when Joe Hickerson, a counselor at the camp, headlined a concert with Carolyn Hester at the Woodstock Playhouse.

Pete Seeger, a big influence at the camp, was connected to Woodstock via his wife, Toshi, who grew up in the town. Pete played at a Woodstock Playhouse concert in 1962. Funds from that concert partially financed the Woodstock Folk Festival at the Woodstock Estates in 1962. Bob Dylan arrived in town around 1963 and John Herald, a former camper, came up to Woodstock in 1965. John Cohen, a former camp counselor, played the Sound-Outs with his band the New Lost City Ramblers.

Many of these interconnections are spelled out in Roots of the 1969 Woodstock Festival, published last year by WoodstockArts.

From Camp Woodland to the Woodstock Music Festival

September 8th, 2010

 Raising Reds Author to Give Talk and Sign Books

Raising Reds: Young Pioneers, Radical Summer Camps, and Communist Political Culture

Woodstock, NY—On Sunday, September 12, from 2 to 4 p.m., Paul C. Mishler, author of Raising Reds: Young Pioneers, Radical Summer Camps, and Communist Political Culture, will give a talk at the Eames House, 20 Comeau Drive in Woodstock. Mishler’s presentation will be titled, “From Camp Woodland to the Woodstock Festival and Beyond.” Camp Woodland was located near Phoenicia from 1939 to 1962 and it helped to spark a revival in Catskill Mountain roots music. This event marks the final day of the Historical Society’s current retrospective exhibit on Camp Woodland.

In Raising Reds, Mishler focuses on the era of 1920 to 1950. During this time the Communist Party was able to make significant inroads into American society. Communists were active in labor unions and universities, and they published their articles in popular newspapers. These activities were undermined and demonized in the early 1950s due to McCarthyism and the advent of the Cold War. However, Mishler contends that the Communist radicalism of the 1930s re-emerged in the New Left’s activism of the 1960s.

Further, in his book Mishler explores how, during the Great Depression, some Americans believed that the music of the people was being forced underground due to the rise of larger, more impersonal instituions of social, commerical and industrial development. Therefore, during the 1930s, the Communists and their allies sought to discover/construct/create an alternative America grounded in the roots of the country’s culture. Camp Woodland set in motion an experiment to bring this alternative democratic model into being. The camp’s organizers felt that the most important way for Woodland to establish new ground was via a celebration of folk music and early American folk values, and that this could be made the basis for societal change. Mishler contends that these same beliefs led to the activism of the 1960s, to the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival, and beyond.

Paul Mishler is an Associate Professor of Labor Studies at Indiana University. Raising Reds is published by Columbia University Press. Mishler will be on hand to answer questions and sign books. Refreshments will be served and the event is free. For more information call 845.246.3436 or log onto www.campwoodland.org.

Camp Woodland Presentation and Concert

August 9th, 2010

Presentation and Folk Concert

Joe Hickerson in June 2010 at the Washington Folk Festival

Woodstock, NY—On Saturday, August 14, from 2 to 4 p.m., Pat Lamanna and Sue Rosenberg will give a talk about Camp Woodland at the Eames House, 20 Comeau Drive in Woodstock. Located near Phoenicia from 1939 to 1962, Camp Woodland helped to spark a revival in Catskill Mountain roots music. Throughout the presentation Pat Lamanna, a folk singer with The Raggedy Crew in Poughkeepsie, will reprise many old Catskill Mountain/Woodland folk songs. This event complements the Historical Society’s current retrospective exhibit on Camp Woodland, which is on exhibit at the Eames House through September 12.

 Joe Hickerson, the noted folklorist and folksinger, will also be sitting in on August 14. Hickerson was a Camp Woodland counselor from 1959 to 1960. In the late 1950s Pete Seeger stopped by the camp and parked an unfinished tune with Hickerson. The latter added two verses and the song, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” became a folk classic. Joe Hickerson served as the librarian and director of the Archive of Folk Song/Culture at the Library of Congress from 1963 to 1998. Pete Seeger calls him “a great song leader.”

 Attendees on August 14 can expect surprise guests on rousing sing-alongs for many old favorites like “Guantanamera” and “Everybody Loves Saturday Night.” The Historical Society of Woodstock gratefully acknowledges the support of Ulster Savings and Heritage Folk Music. The Eames House museum is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information call 845.246.3436 or log onto www.campwoodland.org.

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