ORONO — Still searching for the law of physics that explains how the voices of Peter, Paul and Mary merged to create the harmony that resonated through the Maine Center for the Arts on Friday evening?
Give it up. Just say they were sublime.
Tell how your breathing slowed and your racing heart eased as they began by leading you to the waters of “Babylon.”
Then, officially relaxed, you could enjoy that timeless mix of peace and love and social justice and fun that only one folk trio could craft.
Of course, it helped that Peter Yarrow, Mary Travers and Noel Paul Stookey offered both elements of a great concert — wonderful music and proper deference to their host state.
“You seem to be very, very friendly,” Yarrow told the audience. It must be, he continued, “that you’re all personal friends of Noel,” making reference to Stookey’s more than 20 years of living in Blue Hill.
Travers joined the banter, too, appropriating a Tim Sample joke to remind Stookey that a cat can have kittens in the oven, but that doesn’t make them biscuits.
Thoroughly enjoying the concert and helping out the trio with clapping or singing along was a packed house, not just of baby boomers, but older folks and little children, and the latest generation of young people.
Eyeing the gradeschoolers who might get sleepy before the evening was over, the singers announced they would move old favorite “Puff, the Magic Dragon” up to the first part of the program.
Of course that was a sing-along, with the audience carrying their part of the melody, then punctuating it with laughter as Stookey soloed one verse in a thick Down East accent.
During the seven years in the ’70s when the trio didn’t sing together, Stookey toured with his gospel group. That influence continued to be evident, from “How Can I Keep from Singing” to “Hallelujah, the Great Storm Is Over.”
But of course some of their most powerful moments were the songs that reminded you that Peter, Paul and Mary stood against racism, marched against war, protested apartheid.
“I had no idea Nelson Mandela would ever be released from jail,” Yarrow said of the South African leader.
Of the circular song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” with its young girls and soldiers and graveyards and then flowers again, Travers said she had hoped it would be obsolete someday, just “an antique of a more brutal time.”
Still, times have changed in some ways, the three acknowledged, saying they were retiring “Parallel Universe” after Friday night.
In talking about the subject of the song, Stookey poked fun at his own travails with computers, telling of how he had traveled to the University of Maine last fall to take a course and get up to speed with the technological creatures.
It was a fairly fruitless pursuit, he admitted. But it gave him the opportunity to sing a tune he certainly never sang 30 years ago, “Parallel Universe,” upholding the joy of locking onto the Internet while praising the strength and comfort of a relationship that makes room for such a passion.
Relationships are still big with Peter, Paul and Mary, of course. Yarrow sang a song to honor the 3-week-old marriage of his daughter, and mentioned that Stookey’s daughter wed a few weeks before that.
Neither father sang at the weddings, Yarrow said. “We just wanted to be daddies.” It was yet another circle.
Even oldie “Day Is Done” took on new meaning years later: “And if you take my hand, my son, all will be well when the day is done.”
Peter, Paul and Mary — still telling you what’s wrong with the world, still promising there’s hope.