The celebrated San Francisco string group Kronos Quartet have shared their take on Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” from their upcoming tribute album, Long Time Passing: Kronos Quartet and Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger, out October 9th via Smithsonian Folkways.
Kronos Quartet’s arrangement of Seeger’s 1955 song features a pensive push-and-pull between the cello, two violins and viola during the verses before all the instruments fuse together during the chorus. The song features vocals from Sam Amidon, Brian Carpenter, Lee Knight and Aoife O’Donovan.
Long Time Passing was commissioned by the FreshGrass Foundation, and Kronos Quartet debuted their take on Seeger’s songs at a series of concerts around the world last year. Along with the singers featured on “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” the album will boast vocal contributions from the San Francisco-based singer Meklit and the Spanish singer Maria Arnal. Arnal’s contributions include two live songs recorded in Barcelona, one of which is the anti-fascist song “Jarama Valley,” which she sings partially in Catalan.
Although Seeger’s music will comprise the bulk of Long Time Passing, other tracks on the record seem to have been chosen in his spirit. These include a rendition of “The President Sang Amazing Grace,” which Zoe Mulford wrote following Barack Obama’s tearful eulogy at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church following the 2015 mass shooting there (Joan Baez previously covered it on her 2018 album, Whistle Down the Wind). Kronos Quartet also recorded a new arrangement of “Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram,” a Hindu devotional Seeger frequently played.
At the heart of the album, is an original song written by Jacob Garchik, “Storyteller.” The track is a 16-minute suite that covers a wide swath of musical ground and incorporates archival recordings of Seeger singing, speaking and playing his banjo.