New Lauro Film Taps Largely Unseen Musical Archive

Executive Producer Joe Lauro.

The annual Folk Festival held in Newport, Rhode Island, was the epicenter of the Folk Music Revival — the most important annual event from the early- to mid-1960s for folk and roots music of the time.

Between 1963 and 1966, Academy Award-winning director Murray Lerner shot more than 100 hours of footage, with the help of photographer and filmmaker George Pickow, photographer and musician John Cohen, and Toshi Seeger, wife of singer-songwriter Pete Seeger.

What they captured and preserved on film is perhaps the richest single archive of American Roots and Folk music in existence. Not only were the folk revivalists of the day extensively filmed — Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and Judy Collins, to name a few — but also some of the most important American “roots” musicians of all time made the cut, including Son House, The Staple Singers, Mississippi John Hurt, Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers, Reverend Robert Wilkins and more.

And other than the circa-1967 Lerner-directed documentary, “Festival,” most of the footage sat in cold stage, unseen for 50 years.

Until now.

In 2017 — after years of begging and pleading by Joe Lauro — the 90-year-old Lerner agreed to transfer ownership and creative reins to the filmmaker and musicologist, whose newest film, “Peter, Paul And Mary At Newport 1963-65” will make its world premiere on Saturday, November 3.

“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 in a press release. “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.”

The screening will begin at 6 p.m. at the Pierson High School auditorium, located at 200 Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor, and a Q&A will follow. Tickets are $25 or $30 at the door, and proceeds will benefit the Sag Harbor Cinema.

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