Posted by: Susan Cleary, Cultural Affairs Officer
Watching Peter Yarrow and Maria Burmaka working in a “Coffein” Studio to record three songs for Peter’s anti-bullying campaign “Operation Respect,” you would think they had been singing together for years. But when they met on Dec 16 to record, they had only communicated through e-mail and through their music. The resulting collaboration seemed so natural, Peter said to Maria after an impromptu first singing of Blowing in the Wind, “This was meant to be!”
Folk singer Peter Yarrow, of the influential folk band “Peter, Paul and Mary” is in Ukraine this week as part of a campaign to teach tolerance and respect to school children through music. His song “Don’t Laugh at Me” was written for this program which has been introduced into more than 22,000 schools in the United States and will be taught in Ukraine through partnerships with the Peace Corp, YMCA and Alternative V and with support of the Public Affairs Section of the US Embassy. Maria Burmaka’s Ukrainian version, as recorded on Thursday with Peter, is a surprisingly beautiful and touching song that works as well with adults as with children. Maria’s rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind” and “Let it Shine,” work remarkably well in translation.
Second and third year students of the R. Glier Kyiv Institute of Music are singing back-up on the CD: Kateryna Andrieieva, Anna Komliakova, Iana Melnyk, Mariia Dmytruk, Melnichenko, Oleksandr Marynenko, Kyrylo Suchak and Igor Benedyk . They spent more than 5 hours in the studio, working together with Peter Yarrow and Maria Burmaka, and also sang several traditional Ukrainian songs for Peter. The CD will be produced in New York and should be ready in the next month.
In 1999, Peter founded a non-profit organization called Operation Respect: “Don’t Laugh At Me” (DLAM), based on his passionate belief that music, with its power to build community and catalyze change, can be a particularly powerful organizing tool, as well as a source of inspiration for children. The project utilizes music and video along with character education curricula to help fight bullying in schools and establish safe, compassionate and nurturing environments for children.
For Peter Yarrow, civic involvement has gone hand and hand with music for many decades. Along with his singing partners, Noel Paul Stookey and Mary Travers, Peter played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The trio performed two iconic songs, “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “If I Had a Hammer”, at the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., where he delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. They also participated in the Selma-Montgomery March in Alabama in 1965. Peter went on to produce and organize numerous events for the Peace/Anti-Vietnam War movement, including festivals at Madison Square Garden and Shea Stadium in New York City. These efforts culminated in his co-organizing the 1969 Celebration of Life, a now-famous march on Washington, in which some half-million people participated. Subsequently, many issues have moved Peter to commit his time and talent: equal rights, peace, the environment, gender equality, homelessness, hospice care and education.
Maria Burmaka will join a free concert on Saturday (December 18, 2010) at the Ukrainian House in support of the program. Peter will perform with his daughter and son, Bethany and Christopher Yarrow, both accomplished artists and musicians in their own right.
More photos are on U.S. Embassy Facebook Page.