Peter Yarrow is not coming to Detroit just to help light the city's Christmas tree.
The singer, songwriter, activist, author and former third of Peter, Paul & Mary is acutely aware of the city's financial issues, and that's why he canceled another engagement to be in town on Friday, Nov. 22.
"This is an important thing," explains Yarrow, 75. "This is really something where we have to pull together and say we care about each other, that Detroit needs to solidify its courage, its strength, its heart in the face of its challenges. And we need to show we're there for you, that we care about you, that you're not alone.
"Singing can do that. It can do that for a march on Washington for civil rights and it can do it at a peace march or a women's march or an environmental march or a benefit concert. But in this context we're gathering to say, 'Let's bring our hearts together and pull together and make the sacrifices that we have to so we can reconstitute who we are and emerge from this challenging period together.
"So this is an ideal situation for singing together."
It's also not lost on Yarrow that there's some symbolism in a Jew being part of these pre-holiday festivities, but he says that's part of the message, too.
"There is a kind of irony n that but also a positive message in saying we can reach across these boundaries and love each other and find a mutual context to say, 'Let us challenge these difficult times together and do it without fighting one another," he says. "I love Christmas, but I don't love it religiously. I love the spirit of Christmas.
"And I feel comfortable at any religious service that is loving, whether it's a teepee ceremony, a Catholic mass or somebody at the (synagogue) bimah, dovening. If the spirit is kind and loving and positive, it's all good to me."
Peter Yarrow, Ethan Bortnick, Alto Reed, Damian McGinty, L'Renee, Serieux, Brad Grasl, the Michigan Opera Theatre Children's Chours and the Michigan Philharmonic Brass Quintet will perform at the 2013 Detroit Tree Lighting Ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, at Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit. The event is free and open to the public. Yarrow will also perform a free concert at noon Friday on the Beer Garden Stage is Campus Martius Park. For more details, visit www.campusmartiuspark.org.
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