Concert will feature ’60s music and clothes – Audience invited to dress the part and sing along to the protest songs

Friday night, Christ Church United Methodist Church will step back to the 1960s for a concert that benefits a local organization devoted to peace efforts.

Organizers are hoping audience members will join in the fun by donning bell bottoms and tie-dyed T-shirts and even sing along to some of their favorite ’60s songs by Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Crosby, Stills & Nash and more.

The concert benefits Patriots for Peace, an organization that began in late 2002 with a dozen members and now has about 1,000 people in its database, said Carrie Swing, its president. The group’s main purpose is to protest the war in Iraq and so a concert featuring songs of the ’60s – many of them with anti-war messages – was considered a perfect pairing.

But the idea was first conceived by Charleston artists Colleen Anderson and Julie Adams when they collaborated with a Michigan State University professor for a February celebration of the 1960s at the university’s art museum.

Anderson had met the professor, Anita Skeen, at an arts workshop several years ago and they realized they had common ties – Skeen was a transplanted West Virginian living in Michigan and Anderson a transplanted Michigan native living in West Virginia.

Skeen was organizing a “Blast from the Past,” exhibit that included her students’ readings and fine art. She asked Anderson to organize a program of ’60s protest songs to go along with it.

Anderson enlisted Adams and said the two of them spent several months selecting music and re-learning songs. On the long drive back to Charleston, they commented to each other that they needed to repeat the concert in Charleston and enlist more friends.

“And the idea of doing it as a benefit for Patriots for Peace was just a natural,” Anderson said.

The hardest part, they agreed, was narrowing down the material for the show.

“When we first did the show, we considered dozens of protest songs from the ’60s and narrowed it down to a) those we could actually sing and b) those we could find a recording of,” Adams said. They believed it was important to include Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Pete Seeger.

“There were others that we wanted to do just because we like them, like Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’ and Crosby, Stills & Nash’s ‘Teach Your Children,’ and even a great Tom Lehrer song,” she added.

Fellow musicians they asked to participate responded enthusiastically with lots more ideas.

“That’s what has been the most fun and surprising about this whole experience, everyone’s enthusiasm,” Adams said.

“And the most frustrating,” added Anderson. “Too much great music!”

John Lilly and Kate Long will contribute original songs they wrote. Poems and short readings will be interspersed between songs.

Audience participation is encouraged.

“When we did this in Michigan, we were thrilled that so many people sang along,” Anderson said. “It’s such a wonderful, powerful thing when people sing together, and people don’t seem to do that these days. So we hope people will sing along with us.”

Patriots for Peace is perhaps best known for its Wall of Remembrance, a series of 8-foot panels that list all who have died in the Iraq War. There are enough names to fill 29 panels and a 30th has been started. The wall has been set up at least once a week for the last three years.

Suggested donation for the concert is $10, and proceeds will benefit the work of the group.