Peter, Paul and Mary soar again with ‘Symphony Sessions’

Rhino honors the trio’s legacy with an album that pairs their unmistakable harmonies with an orchestra on many of their best-known songs.
Folksingers Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey and Mary Travers comprise the trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Photo copyright Annie Leibovitz/(Contact Press Images).
Folksingers Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey and Mary Travers comprise the trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Photo copyright Annie Leibovitz/(Contact Press Images).
Folksingers Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey, and Mary Travers formed a trio in 1960 that would emerge from New York City’s Greenwich Village to become one of the most influential groups of the ’60s. Now, their emotionally powerful performances are showcased with the backing of a full symphony in “The Prague Sessions.”

The album, which was released March 9, 2010, is dedicated to Travers, who died Sept. 16, 2009, following a lengthy battle with cancer.

The album encompasses 14 live stage performances — all but one previously unreleased — recorded during the ’80s and ’90s by Peter, Paul and Mary. It also includes jewels from their celebrated repertoire, such as their No. 1 hit “Leaving On A Jet Plane,” “Puff, The Magic Dragon,” “Blowin’ In The Wind,” and “Where Have All The Flowers Gone.”

The trio’s longtime music director and friend Robert DeCormier then combined their voices with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, performing symphonic arrangements DeCormier had created and developed with Peter, Paul and Mary over the last 30 years.

The final track on the album finds the orchestra performing Samuel Barber’s “Adagio For Strings,” an instrumental piece Mary had requested to be played at her memorial.

“When the songs and the orchestrations are combined, it’s as if two languages are being spoken simultaneously,” Yarrow says. “One is the language of Peter, Paul and Mary’s voices and the other is a commentary on, and an exchange with, the voices of the trio by the orchestra. In Bob’s hands, the orchestral instruments restate and emphasize the essence of what the trio is feeling.”

Only a few of the songs included here were ever recorded with a symphony orchestra and fewer than 30 live orchestra concerts were ever performed. In the last few years, the trio began discussing how this remarkable aspect of the trio’s musical legacy, one that few of their concert-going fans were able to experience firsthand, should be preserved. Travers was especially resolute that this project be completed. Yarrow recalls that Mary was “determined that this chapter of our creative journey be shared with the public and allowed to tell its story.”

These recordings bring the trio full circle, Stookey said.

“This feels like the last page of the photo album, where the family is all collected and everybody’s got their hair combed. It’s Peter, Paul and Mary’s legacy and a way of honoring Mary’s sensitivity to the scope and importance of the music we shared,” Stookey said.

Fourteen of the 15 tracks on “The Prague Sessions” are previously unreleased tracks; “Light One Candle” was released before.

The track listing is:

1. “Weave Me The Sunshine”
2. “It’s Magic”
3. “Some Walls”
4. “Don’t Laugh At Me”
5. “The Kid”
6. “Leaving On A Jet Plane”
7. “Light One Candle”
8. “Jesus On The Wire”
9. “Day Is Done”
10. “Puff, The Magic Dragon”
11. “Greenland Whale Fisheries”
12. “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”
13. “Blowin’ In The Wind”
14. “This Land Is Your Land”
15. “Adagio For Strings”

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