The Warrenville Public Library will present suburban troubadour Mark Dvorak in a livestream/Zoom performance of “A Tribute to Pete Seeger” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17.
“Thousands upon thousands of people over the years have taken up the banjo, the guitar, and began opening their ears to the world of music because of Pete,” said Dvorak, who will lead the audience through a program of Seeger’s most enduring songs.
“Pete taught us how to use music to grow our communities and celebrate our heritage,” Dvorak stated in a news release. “He also demonstrated over many decades the importance of using art and song to help build a more just and peaceful world.”
After a long life filled with music and activism, Seeger passed away in 2014 at age 94.
Following World War II, Seeger, along with Fred Hellerman, Ronnie Gilbert and Lee Hays, enjoyed a number of chart hits as The Weavers, introducing the work of seminal folk artists like Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly, and reintroducing American listeners to their own roots music traditions.
Seeger left The Weavers in the mid-1950s after being called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He subsequently was banned from radio and television. At the same time, he and his wife, Toshi, were raising a family in a log cabin they had built near Beacon, New York, on the banks of the Hudson River.
Seeger scrambled to earn an income. He embarked on a long string of performances at community centers, colleges and grade schools, crystallizing the powerful essence of American folk music.
By 1969, The Sloop Clearwater was launched, a 106-foot-long replica sailing vessel common on the Hudson in the 19th century. The Clearwater served to draw attention to the problem of pollution of the Hudson River, which included mercury contamination, PCBs and raw sewage.
Seeger’s greatest legacy may have been saving the Hudson, according to those who worked with him to preserve the waterway. And his environmental activism didn’t stop with the river. In the autumn of 2013, he put in a surprise appearance with Willie Nelson and Neil Young at a Farm-Aid benefit. Seeger added an extra verse to the anthem “This Land Is Your Land” by singing, “This land was made to be frack-free.”
“It’s such a fitting tribute to Pete,” said Dvorak, who is resident artist for the community organization Music & Potlucks, and who also performed with Seeger on a handful of occasions.
“There is a very strong community singing tradition here in the Chicago area,” Dvorak said. “‘How Can I Keep from Singing’ is a beautiful hymn that Pete helped popularize. It begins, ‘My life flows on in endless song, above earth’s lamentation.’”
Dvorak has performed in 38 states and in parts of Europe and Canada. He has won awards for journalism and children’s music. In 2008, he received the Woodstock Folk Festival Lifetime Achievement Award and the Lantern Bearer Award from Folk Alliance International in 2013. In 2012, WFMT 98.7 FM “Midnight Special” host Rich Warren named him Chicago’s “official troubadour.”
The Riverside resident has performed across the region, including at the Fox Valley Folk Music and Storytelling Festival in Geneva and for Steel Beam Theatre in St. Charles.
The Zoom event is free, with registration required. For information and registration, contact the Warrenville Public Library at 630-393-1171 or visit tinyurl.com/y4tckdou.
Learn more about Mark Dvorak at www.markdvorak.com.