Of Justice & Music

Courtesy of Annie Patterson and Peter Blood

We all know social justice and music go hand-in-hand. Annie Patterson and Peter Blood have made it their life’s work inviting people to sing out important messages of hope and calls to action—together.

All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Brattleboro will host a Repairing the Breach virtual concert on May 8. The livestreamed concert will seek to “repair the breaches” within our nation, our communities, and our families “from the ravages of the virus, racism, fear, and the many breaches that divide us from each other.”

Proceeds from online ticket sales will benefit the Community Asylum Seekers Project to help the Brattleboro-based organization provide critical basic needs and a supportive community for those seeking asylum in the U.S.

The Amherst, Mass.-based couple have made it their mission to help create change for peace and justice through song. Patterson is a singer-songwriter, vocal coach and jazz vocalist; Blood splits his time leading workshops and doing interfaith work for racial and climate justice.

They have spent decades honing their skills as performers and song leaders in schools, churches, conferences, folk song clubs and festivals across the U.S. and abroad.

Their 2005 songbook, “Rise Up Singing: The Group Singing Songbook,” contains a mix of 1,200 songs from Beatles to Broadway, gospel to carols, and from children’s songs to songs of peace and justice. The collection has sold over a million copies since its publication. Their second songbook, “Rise Again,” was published in 2015.

Another mission is to curate concerts to support different social justice organizations.

“Through the process of making the songbooks we’ve gotten to know some fabulous artists,” said Patterson. “What’s nice is it’s really about community, and when we fashion a concert that is a fundraiser we think about how are we going to bring community awareness through the music we choose and artists we ask to be part of that program.”

Performing in the May 8 virtual concert will be Munit & Z Lovebugs let by Munit Mesfin, an accomplished Ethiopian American singer-songwriter. She will be joined by her daughters “Z Lovebugs.”

In addition to the singalong concert led by Patterson and Blood, also performing as special guests will be Pat Humphries and Sandy O of Emma’s Revolution.

“Sandy and Pat like us are very much activists as well as musicians,” said Blood. “They do concerts with other organizations and perform at rallies.”

Munit and Z Lovebugs are a newer band.

“We also use these concerts to shine a light on younger or newer performers,” said Blood, adding that the band recently performed at a Children’s Music Network event and were a hit.

George Carvill, a fellow activist who provided support to Patterson and Blood in putting together their two songbooks, is a member of the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Brattleboro, which is hosting the May 8 benefit concert.

The Community Asylum Seekers Project has a mission that is important to them, having done work with The Sanctuary Movement. That religious and political campaign in the United States that began in the early 1980s to provide safe haven for Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict.

“It’s a cause Peter and I are very passionate about,” said Patterson, adding that they attend a weekly vigil in Amherst meant to support and lift up immigrants and other disadvantaged populations.

Given their long-time commitment to social justice issues, it should be no surprise the late Pete Seeger was a mentor to them.

“When you’re working for justice you really have to think about where is it you can land so you can help,” said Patterson. “For us it’s through music, getting people to sing together and providing a bit of hope when things are dire. That’s what Pete (Seeger) did. He was a teacher for so many musicians and activists.”

The documentary short film, “We Began to Sing,” focuses on the work the couple and Seeger did together.

During the May 8 concert, people will be invited to sing along on Zoom with their microphones muted. Those who register will receive a lyrics sheet. Some of the songs are in a call-and-response format. Patterson and Blood accompany their songs with guitars, banjo, mandolin, autoharp, African drum and pennywhistle.

“The engagement isn’t about reading lyrics only,” said Patterson. “It’s about looking around the (Zoom) room seeing you’re not alone. You’re with all these other people. We see our role as to remind people we get to do this together.”

The Repairing the Breach concert will be next Saturday, May 8, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Buy a ticket here:

https://www.riseupandsing.org/events/repairing-breach-brattleboro

You can pay the amount you can afford and feel is right for you to give.

You will receive a Zoom link for the concert and a songsheet that you can sing along with us from home via email.