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Popular folk artist sings about peace and justice

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Popular folk-singer John McCutcheon will be coming to Bethel College to support one of the causes dear to his heart: global peace and justice.

McCutcheon will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16 in Memorial Hall on the Bethel campus. Doors open at 6:45. The concert is free as part of the annual Peace Lecture series sponsored by the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR) at Bethel College.

On Sunday, Feb. 17, McCutcheon will be the featured speaker and performer for the annual Peace Sunday at Eden Mennonite Church in rural Moundridge. He will sing and speak during Sunday morning worship, beginning at 9:30 a.m., and again during the Sunday school hour in the church sanctuary.

McCutcheon is a staple performer at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield every September. He gives frequent benefit concerts in the Wichita area and has been at Bethel and Hesston Colleges several times as a solo performer or with long-time collaborators Tom Chapin and Michael Mark. He has also performed at the Old Settlers Inn in Moundridge.

The oldest of a large Irish-Catholic family from Wisconsin, McCutcheon took up the banjo while he was still a college student and roamed the southern Appalachian Mountains learning tunes and technique from musicians of all stripes. He became known for his interpretations of traditional songs while honing an ear for a good story. These days, he writes much of his own material and while he tends to perform most as a solo artist has collaborated on recordings with everyone from Mary-Chapin Carpenter to the Washington Bach Consort. He has also appeared with artists ranging from Odetta to Loudon Wainwright III to the Paul Hill Chorale.

McCutcheon is a master on the fiddle, autoharp, banjo and guitar but is probably best known for his work with the hammer dulcimer. He has pushed the instrument’s boundaries, exposing it to country, rock and jazz audiences as well as showcasing it in symphonic settings.

McCutcheon has recorded 31 albums, including five Grammy®-nominated children’s albums. On his 2005 release Mightier Than the Sword, McCutcheon collaborated in writing original songs with many of contemporary literature’s most celebrated authors, including Barbara Kingsolver, Wendell Berry, former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove and Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking. His latest release is This Fire (2007). He is also the author of two children’s books based on two of his songs, Happy Adoption Day and Christmas in the Trenches.

McCutcheon tours yearly in the United States from coast to coast and has also toured in the former Soviet Union, Europe and Australia. He has been heard on public radio on “A Prairie Home Companion,” “All Things Considered,” “Morning Edition” and “Mountain Stage.” His songs have been covered by musicians throughout the world. “Christmas in the Trenches,” based on a true incident from the First World War, has been cited as “the greatest anti-war song ever written” and is the subject of an annual coast-to-coast special by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

The KIPCOR Peace Lecture Series, now in its 35th year, provides a forum to address issues of peace, justice and conflict resolution in the world and at home. The series has included Nobel laureates, scholars, performing artists, activists and visionaries. All lectures in the series are free and open to the public. The series receives support from the J. Winfield Fretz Lecture Fund and the Peace with Justice Task Force of the Kansas West Conference of the United Methodist Church, both of which support speakers and events on peace and justice. Other funding for the series comes from individual contributions to KIPCOR and, for the John McCutcheon concert, from the Ted Mueller Trust and Eden Mennonite Church.

For information on John McCutcheon’s concert at Bethel College, call KIPCOR at 316-284-5217 or e-mail For information on McCutcheon’s appearance at Eden Mennonite Church or directions to the church, call 620-345-8320 or e-mail

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the highest ranked Kansas college in the national liberal arts category of U.S. News & World Report’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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