During the summer of 1963, I had a job in Little Compton, Rhode Island as nanny to four children 10 and younger and housekeeper for a rich family, heirs to the Brooks Brothers men’s clothing franchise. (They owned a big house in Little Compton, as well as a New York City apartment and a farm near our home in Sandy Hook, Conn.) I received $25 per week plus room and board with Thursdays off. I also took Sunday mornings off to go to the Episcopal church a 10-minute walk from the house. The family went to Mass in the next town. One Sunday, there was an announcement that Pete Seeger would lead a singalong that night following a pot luck supper. He was to perform at the Newport Folk Festival that week and was staying mwith some other summer residents in Little Compton. I asked my employers if I could have the night off for the event and they agreed. I got the kids bathed and ready for bed and took off across lots for the church. After supper, Pete Seeger led the singing in the church basement. He sang a few songs accompanying himself on the banjo. Then he divided us into six groups – low bass to high soprano – and led the songs. I remember “Wimoweh” especially, but we sang for at least an hour. I was amazed how good we were harmonizing. Seeger would sing each group’s part and each group would try it out.
Now, at 94, Seeger has died. I’ll never forget how he just assumed everyone wanted to sing with him.