About "THREE SCORE AND TEN":
Some of the greatest figures in US and UK traditional and sociopolitical music joined one of their own – Peggy Seeger – onstage at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on May 29, 2005, in a concert celebrating Peggy’s 70th birthday and her half-century professional career. A member of America’s legendary musical Seeger family who married one of Great Britain’s leading folksingers and activists, Ewan MacColl, singer/songwriter/folklorist/ teacher Peggy is a crucial link between both countries’ traditional and topical music and its practitioners.
“Three Score and Ten” is a joyous and historic 2-CD document of Peggy’s birthday concert, which was arranged by her three children – Neill and Calum MacColl, both professional producers and musicians, and their sister Kitty, a graphic designer and sometime backing vocalist on her mother’s recordings. Originally broadcast in abridged form by the BBC, the concert’s two full sets feature Peggy (vocals, guitar, banjo, concertina, piano, autoharp) on traditional and original favorites (including her proto-feminist anthem “Gonna Be an Engineer”), new compositions (the post-911 political reflections “Cavemen” and “Home Sweet Home”), and three spoken poems (dedicated to her mother, her late husband, and her partner Irene Pyper-Scott, one of the evening’s musical participants on vocals and spoons). She also performs the classic “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” the song her future husband MacColl would write about their first meeting (and later a Grammy-winner and #1 US chart single for Roberta Flack in 1972.)
In this family event, presented several weeks prior to Peggy’s actual June 17 birth date, she shares the stage with her half-brother Pete Seeger, the international folk/activism icon, and brother Mike (solo artist, old-time music expert and New Lost City Ramblers member) in one of their rare appearances together and the first-ever recording of all three together. Pete is also featured on three solo numbers, including “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” while Mike performs a solo “Quill Ditty.”
The contingent of British guests, aside from Peggy’s children and Pyper-Scott, includes the legendary folksinger and multi-instrumentalist Martin Carthy, his wife and performance partner Norma Waterson (also a member of the traditionally oriented Watersons), and their daughter, singer/fiddler Eliza Carthy, a solo artist in her own right. Contemporary singer/songwriter/activist Billy Bragg, a spiritual descendant of the Seeger/MacColl agit-folk tradition, duets with Peggy on a delightfully spontaneous “Darling Annie” and fronts the ensemble on “If You Want a Better Life.” Also on hand to lend instrumental support are accordionist Graham Henderson and percussionist James McNally (a latter-day member of The Pogues).
With folk music as one of the strongest ties that bind cultures, families and history, “Three Score and Ten” is an indelible, frequently rollicking and often moving testament to the living legacy of a great creative artist and that of her fellow musicians, family, friends and the traditions they celebrate and extend.
About PEGGY SEEGER:
It’s enough to make one believe in predestination – or genetics. Peggy Seeger was born in New York in 1935 to ethnomusicologist/inventor/composer/teacher Charles Seeger and his second wife, Ruth Crawford Seeger, a composer, arranger, pianist, teacher and the first woman awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for Music. Her half-brother Pete, older by 16 years, and brother Mike, two years her senior, would become beacons of folk music’s traditions and modern applications.
Peggy began playing piano by age 7 and by 11 was transcribing music and learning about counterpoint and harmony. In the years to follow, Peggy became proficient on guitar, 5-string banjo, autoharp, dulcimer and concertina but, “much to the relief of anyone within earshot,” abandoned her attempts at fiddle-playing.
After studying music for two years at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Mass., and beginning to sing professionally, Peggy headed overseas in 1955, the same year Folkways issued her first recording, the 10-inch "Songs of Courting and Complaint." She subsequently studied Russian (in Holland, in the Dutch language) and backpacked across Europe, Russia, and China before arriving in England where, she recounts, “at the age of nearly 21, on March 25, 1956, at 10:30 in the morning, I entered a basement room in Chelsea, London, and sealed my fate. Ewan MacColl was sitting on the other side of the room. Twenty years my senior, he was a singer and songwriter par excellence. . . . We were together 24 hours a day for three decades, two people rolled compatibly into one.” MacColl immortalized that first meeting in his song “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” a future Grammy winner and #1 single for Robert Flack in 1972.
After becoming a British subject in 1959 and settling in London, Peggy moved, with MacColl, to the forefront of the British folk revival, singing and lecturing about the place of folk songs in modern life and emphasizing the connections between traditional song forms and political activism. The highlight of their musical collaboration was the development, with BBC producer Charles Parker, of the innovative Radio Ballad form, a mosaic of spoken-word field recordings, instrumentation, sound effects, and new songs written in the folk idiom. For seven years, Seeger and MacColl ran the controversial London Critics Group and produced a yearly political theatrical presentation, “The Festival of Fools.” The couple also ran and performed at one of England’s best known folk venues, The Singers Club, and formed their own record label, Blackthorne. Somehow Peggy found time to raise her three children by MacColl, to write music for and perform in films, television programs and radio plays, to establish and edit a magazine of contemporary songs, "The New City Songster," throughout its existence (1965-85), and to collaborate on anthologies of folk songs with MacColl, Alan Lomax and Edith Fowke. In 1971, she was the subject of a Granada Television documentary, and in 1995 BBC Radio 2 broadcast an award-winning five-part series about her life, with subsequent episodes presented in 1996 and ’97.
In 1983, Peggy began to sing occasionally with Irish traditional vocalist Irene Pyper-Scott, with whom, after MacColl’s death in 1989, she formed a professional and personal relationship. The duo recorded and performed for several years as No Spring Chickens. In 1994, Peggy moved back to the States with Irene, settling in Asheville, NC, where they resided until moving to Boston last year to enable Peggy to teach at Northeastern University. In December 2006, Peggy and Irene entered into a civil union partnership in England.
Considered one of the finest interpreters of Anglo-American folk songs, Peggy has written several hundred original songs, chiefly dealing with political, feminist and ecological concerns. Among her most famous compositions are “The Ballad of Springhill,” about a Canadian mining disaster, and “Gonna Be an Engineer,” which is now one of the anthems of the women’s movement. One hundred and forty-nine of Peggy’s best pre-1998 compositions are published in her "Peggy Seeger Songbook, Warts and All." Aside from "Three Score and Ten," Peggy has released 21 solo albums, including three for Appleseed, issued three informal CDs of topical songs in her “Timely” series, and participated in more than 100 other recordings. Bring Me Home, the final volume in her “Home Trilogy” – new recordings of traditional US favorites interspersed with one or two originals – which so far consists of Volume 1, "Heading for Home" (2003) and Volume 2, "Love Call Me Home" (2005), will soon be released by Appleseed. Further information and entertainment may be found on Peggy’s website, www.pegseeger.com.