Yesterday afternoon I got an email from my brother alerting me to an impromptu concert at the local university that evening. Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame, was on the board of an organization that happened to be meeting at the university and would be giving a free concert that evening.

I grew up listening to Peter, Paul, and Mary records. I’ve Got a Hammer, The Great Mandala, Light One Candle, Blowin’ in the Wind, Lemon Tree, Day Is Done, and of course, Puff The Magic Dragon—these were the songs of my childhood. Plus, one of our records, Peter, Paul, and Mary In Concert, had PaulTalk. Our old-fashioned version of books-on-tape, I listened to that record over and over. 

And then last night, an elfin Peter, his shiny bald head ringed with white, walked up to the mic and started singing This Little Light of Mine. For the next hour (or was it two?) he sang new songs and old, interspersed with winding stories about his work, bringing together Democrats and Republicans. It’s a fabricated divide, he said, and so he travels around the country, getting people from opposite sides to talk, and sing, together. When we sing, he said, our masks come down and our emotions rise to the surface, and that is what keeps him going.

When it was time for Puff, The Magic Dragon, Peter invited anyone, but especially children, who wanted to sing with him to come to the front. And my younger son went.

Photo credit: Andrew Strack, Eastern Mennonite University 

Partway through the song, Peter had us sing the chorus on repeat while he took turns holding the mic in front of different people. The mic thrust in front of his face, my boy sang his little heart out.

Photo credit: Mark Sawin

And that’s how it came to be that my son had his very first solo with Peter, of Peter, Paul, and Mary, imagine that.

Afterwards, Peter signed my son’s cast—Peter Yarrow, Peace and Love (I guess we’ll have to ask the cast-removal technician to cut out that little square, for posterity’s sake)—and kissed and hugged all of us in turn.

Photo Credit: Andrew Strack, Eastern Mennonite University 

‘Twas a puff of magic, that evening.

PS. As you can tell from all the photo credits, I left my camera at home that evening, GAH. Thankfully, a bunch of friends came to our rescue, sending me even more photos than I could use here.

This same time, years previous: language study, a dare, when I sat down, naps and mowers, old-fashioned vanilla ice cream.


  • Ernie

    That is very awesome! Glad you got photos, what a memory!! I'm a fanatic about capturing moments, of course most are less exciting than this.

  • Lizzy

    Oh my word. If I wasn't green with envy at the pie basket. (Zero chance of locating one of those in Wales!) I am now dabbling in the 7 deadly sins. You got to sing with *that* Peter! How totally totally amazeballs. Xx

  • Rebecca

    What a story! I had to wipe a tear. PP&M are the soundtrack of my childhood and of our best collective selves, I think.

  • Margo

    oh Jennifer!!! Such magic, gave me goosebumps!! I will have to show this to my kids – PP&M are in heavy rotation around here all the time.

  • Mountaineer

    That evening was the most wonderful spontaneous public event evening I've had in years, if not longer. Peter, Paul and Mary are icons in my life—they should never get old or die. Who replaces them? For me, I become bereft; the question remains for youngers to answer. So, tell me: who are today's Peters, Pauls and Marys?

  • ShirleyHS

    Great story-telling. I was there with you all the way from Pittsburgh. Puff!

    And so glad friends were there with cameras at the right moment.

  • Second Sister

    Very cool. Do you know the woman in the round earrings and black dress in the second picture? She's a good friend of mine from MCC Kenya.

    • Jennifer Jo

      I do not know her, but I think she was/is a part of the CJP program. She shared at one point when Peter asked for reflections.

    • Andrea Wenger

      Katie Mansfield is director of the STAR (Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience) program at EMU's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. She's a larger-than-life, full of wonder woman!

  • Susan Anderson

    The best story ever…!!! Wonders never cease. Immortalized moment! I love that this happened for your son

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