Letter to the Editor

Bieroc veteran performs at inauguration

Thursday, January 22, 2009
Tao Rodriguez performs at the Bieroc Cafe in 2005. (Tor Olson)

Regardless of your political leanings, you couldn't help but be impressed by the grandeur exhibited at the transition of power during the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

The gathering of more than one million people at our nation's capital to witness an historic event produced a lump in the throat and goose bumps on the skin. Call it pride; optimism; hopefulness for the future -- even the most skeptical citizen should be proud that our great nation has reached this point in its history.

One of the most awe-inspiring celebrations was televised on HBO -- the We Are One Obama Inaugural Celebration. It was recorded live on Jan. 18, at the Lincoln Memorial. Musical performers for the event included super stars Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Renee Fleming, Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock, Jon Bon Jovi, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Usher, Pete Seeger, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, U2, will.i.am and Stevie Wonder, among others.

Historical passages were read by Jamie Foxx, Martin Luther King III, Queen Latifah, Denzel Washington, Jack Black, Steve Carell, Rosario Dawson, Tom Hanks, Laura Linney, Ashley Judd, Kal Penn, Forest Whitaker and Tiger Woods.

One of the closing performances was a traditional folk music sing-along rendition of "This Land is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie and performed by Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen and Tao Rodriguez.

Tao Rodriguez? Live at the Bieroc fans know the grandson of Pete Seeger well. He has performed at the Bieroc venue on three occasions -- March 2003; June 2004, and March 2005. Bieroc patrons know that Rodriguez was part of a musical group called The Mammals which also included performers Ruth Unger-Merenda and Michael Merenda.

The Mammals' connection to McCook started back in 2000, when the Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival hosted Jay Ungar and Molly Mason as their musical performers. Ruth Unger-Merenda is Jay Ungar's daughter. Jay Ungar and Molly Mason returned to the Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival in 2002, and this time they brought daughter Ruth with them. Ruth enjoyed the community (and the community enjoyed her) so well that she jumped at the chance to return to Live at the Bieroc with her own group, The Mammals, the following year - and the next, and the next.

On Feb. 12, Jay Ungar, Molly Mason, Ruth Unger-Merenda, and Michael Merenda will perform at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln.

Tao Rodriguez-Seeger is no longer a part of the group -- he has formed his own group in addition to performing with his grandfather, Pete Seeger. They appeared together on the David Letterman show in September last year, singing a song called "Take it from Dr. King".

Imagine the thrill Tao Rodriguez experienced performing "the greatest song ever written" with his grandfather and Bruce Springsteen for the nation's first black president. Imagine the thrill experienced by Live at the Bieroc organizers, Dale Dueland and Matt Sehnert, when they realized that one of "their" musicians played such an important part in this amazing celebration. According to Dale, "(Tao) was having the time of his life playing his twelve string and singing the high harmony on that popular tune. It was fun to see him on stage with two music giants of our generation. I hope he remembers us, maybe we can get them back to McCook."

Matt said it well, "So set your political convictions aside if you need to and enjoy the show." The entire HBO Inaugural Celebration program will be re-broadcast on Jan 24 at 6 p.m. and Jan 25 at 3:30 p.m. or it is available to watch online at www.hbo.com/weareone.

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