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Joe Lauro’s "Peter, Paul And Mary At Newport 1963-65" To Make World Premiere At Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center Benefit

Sydney A. Braat

Peter Paul & Mary, March on Washington, August 28, 1963. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center will present the World Premiere of Executive Producer Joe Lauro's Peter, Paul and Mary at Newport 1963-65 on November 3, 2018. The annual Folk Festival held in Newport, Rhode Island was the epicenter of the early-to-mid 1960s Folk Music Revival, and was the most important annual event presenting Folk and Roots music of its time. Between the years 1963-66 over 100 hours of footage was shot by Academy Award winning director Murray Lerner with the help of photographer and filmmaker George Pickow, photographer/musician John Cohen, and Toshi Seeger, wife of singer/songwriter Pete Seeger.

Lerner and the others captured a rich representation of American Roots and Folk music. Folk Revivalists of the day such as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and Judy Collins were extensively filmed, as were some of the most important American "Roots" musicians of all time such as Son House, The Staple Singers, Mississippi John Hurt, Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers, Reverend Robert Wilkins, and others. Besides the 1967 Murray Lerner-directed Newport documentary Festival and a 2007 release presenting Bob Dylan's Newport performances, 95 percent of the Newport archive sat in cold storage, unseen by anyone for over 50 years.

In 2017, after years of begging and pleading from filmmaker/musicologist Joe Lauro, the then-90 year old Lerner finally agreed to transfer the ownership and creative reins of the library to Lauro and Producer Richard Foos (Shout! Factory). Lauro said, "I begged Murray for 10 years to let me organize and digitize the footage for him and work together with him to produce a comprehensive Newport documentary. By 2017 he realized he was never going to get to direct an updated Newport documentary himself, and finally allowed Richard and me to handle it. For him it was like giving up a child."

Produced by Peter Yarrow and directed by his longtime collaborator Jim Brown, Peter, Paul and Mary at Newport 1963-65 is the first film to be made utilizing the archive, which captures the then #1 group in its youthful heyday.

"I have always been a fan of Peter, Paul & Mary, but the Newport performances possess a passion and commitment unlike any other footage I have ever seen of them," Lauro said. The Newport festival was a rare moment in time when both the performers and audiences were unified in the causes for civil rights, equality and peace, and these performances, which are musically brilliant and intensely inspired, demonstrate that commitment.

Peter, Paul and Mary at Newport 1963-65 makes its world premiere as a benefit for the Sag Harbor Cinema on Saturday, November 3 at Pierson High School Auditorium in Sag Harbor. Lauro, who lives on the East End, said, "I cannot think of a better place to premier this film. It is a film about passion and commitment, not unlike the local efforts to create the amazing Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center."

Following the film, Lauro will be present for a Q&A and will present a short compilation of additional rare footage at the screening. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door, with all proceeds going towards rebuilding the Sag Harbor Cinema. The event begins at 6 p.m.

Pierson High School Auditorium is located at 200 Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor. For more information, visit www.flipcause.com.

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