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.

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

Folk Songs of the Catskills—the Spirit of Camp Woodland

July 23rd, 2010

New Exhibit at the Historical Society of Woodstock Examines the Renaissance of Catskill Roots Music

Pete Seeger at Camp Woodland—near Phoenicia, NY—in the 1940s (Photo reproduced courtesy of the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University at Albany Libraries.)

Woodstock, NY—On Saturday, July 31, 2010, a retrospective exhibit on Camp Woodland opens with a reception from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Eames House, 20 Comeau Drive in Woodstock. The Camp Woodland story, its influence and legacy, is told through film, music, artifacts, images and archives culled from the collections of former campers, the Norman Studer Papers (University at Albany), and from the Historical Society of Woodstock.

 Camp Woodland (1939–1962) was founded near Phoenicia, NY, by Norman Studer, a former Ph.D. student of John Dewey’s and an educator at the Elizabeth Irwin School in New York City. Studer sought to bring America’s democratic roots alive to his students. His vision embraced cultural diversity and a multidisciplinary approach. He brought city kids up to the country and put them in touch with old-time Catskill Mountain folks—like Aaron Van De Bogart from Woodstock. Not only did Woodland Campers hear stories from the hill people, but they were put to work collecting and preserving hundreds of folk songs for posterity.

 The camp was an annual destination for Pete and Toshi Seeger and they proved to be an incalculable influence. Pete performed for each division of campers, for the camp as a whole, and—when the campers had gone to bed—for the counselors. In 1954, a 15-year-old camper named John Herald saw Seeger sing and decided to become a musician. The camp’s multi-cultural population was a fertile incubating ground for Seeger. One counselor, Hector Angulo, introduced him to a Cuban song, “Guantanamera,” which became hit for Pete in 1961. Another time Pete wrote three verses based on a Russian folk tune and left it with counselor Joe Hickerson. Joe worked with a group of campers on the rhythm and personally wrote two more verses. This song, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” charted on Billboard for The Kingston Trio as a “B” side in 1961.

Read the rest of this entry »