Folk Music Hero Tom Chapin Coming to York PA

Iconic folk and children music legend Tom Chapin, whose career spans five decades, 23 albums, and three Grammy awards, comes to York, Pennsylvania, on Friday, November 20, 2015, for a 7:30 p.m. Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George Street. Equally regarded as a performer for children and for adults, Friday’s performance will be more adult-focused; although still ‘friendly” to his young fans.

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Concert tickets are $25 General Admission, $21 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website.

The following is an excerpt from an article written by LINDA MORRIS for Dirty Linen Magazine. It was published in the December/January issue, 2004 under the title “Joy, Delight and a Little Bit of Anarchy!” (Used by Permission)

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Utterly comfortable and confident around people, Chapin has no “onstage/offstage” personae, and he’s well-known for making even the most nervous stranger feel welcome. “You know, Tom — there’s no other way of describing him other than as a gentleman,” said his longtime friend Tom Paxton. “He’s the most considerate, friendly, talented guy — born to perform, got all kinds of chops, and he’s just such a decent guy, everybody loves him. I would love to see Tom get more respect for his entire repertoire,” he said. “Boy! He plays the hell out of that 12-string!”

It’s easy to forget Chapin is a celebrity with two Grammy Awards to his credit and a slew of nominations.  In fact, he probably would reject that title. He seems more like a big brother, or favorite uncle, who listens with a quick mind and a caring heart, and to whom you can say anything, confident he will understand. He hears a concern and wants to know more; if there’s a problem, he wants to help. Chapin is, above all, a friend and partner in all things that really matter — children, families, and the Earth we all share.

Chapin was born in 1945 in Charlotte, North Carolina, but he grew up in Greenwich Village, then in Brooklyn Heights, New York. “Both my grandmothers were teachers — Grandma Chapin and Grandma Burke — and Dad is a teacher. My own teaching experience was short-lived,” he said. He taught in the Head Start program in 1968 in Deans, New Jersey. “But I found that in your whole life, you’re teaching.  Being a parent, you get to a certain age, and you realize you have things to impart — you want to tell stories. So you end up giving context for songs — which is another way of saying you impart information.”

In his youth, Chapin and brothers Harry and Steve witnessed the folk revival first-hand in Greenwich Village. “For us, at the time, we had no context. It just drew you. The music was so interesting — these people were making music you wanted to hear. There were a lot of differences there, as well. There were the hardcore folkies that hated the Kingston Trio or any of the pop groups, there was the pop-folk world, and the in-betweens. Suddenly these old ethnic singers, who had been toiling forever in bars or on street corners, were appreciated. That was really powerful.”

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Tom with brother Harry Chapin

It changed very quickly, but that was part of the delight — the different kinds of music.” Chapin attended Brooklyn Technical High School with Stefan Grossman, who started a folk club with the brothers there. “Stefan was taking lessons from Rev. Gary Davis. He was five bucks a lesson, and Harry and I didn’t have five bucks, so we got to sit there and watch Stefan get a lesson. I learned a lot from him.

“I grew up steeping myself in the folk music genre — it started with the Weavers. Because of them, I went back to some source material like Rev. Gary Davis. But I was also a young man who had this voracious appetite to listen to stuff, and then you had Dylan, then you had the Beatles, and Paul Simon, the Stones, and all the Motown stuff.”

“I had this kind of possibility of hearing all kinds of stuff. My mother was a big opera fan, so I grew up listening to that. My oldest brother, James, loved the hit parade…There was this incredibly eclectic upbringing that you had in my generation if you were a musician with open ears when radio was much more open, and you could find everything if you searched around.” When the brothers heard The Weavers at Carnegie Hall, their reaction was “We can do that!” So, in 1966, they made their first and only LP, Chapin Music by the Chapin Brothers — Harry, Tom, and Steve.

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Chapin Music by The Chapin Brothers

In 1969, he wrote the score for Peter Gimble’s documentary Blue Water, White Death and from 1971 to 1976, he hosted the Emmy and Peabody award-winning “Make a Wish”. He was musical director and arranger for Harry Chapin’s Off-Broadway musical “Cotton Patch Gospel,” in 1981.

“The kind of music I have been in, because of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, and the beginnings of all that has had a political side to it. But I don’t have a political message .When you’re a parent, you look at not what the corporate bottom line is this month, but what the world will be like for your children and your children’s children. Artists have always had that sense.

Chapin is on the board of directors of World Hunger Year (WHY), an organization founded by Harry Chapin in 1975. He has joined Save the Children, dedicated to making positive changes in the lives of disadvantaged children, and he is involved in Friends of the Earth.

A native New Yorker, he was devastated by 9/11. In reaction, Chapin, John McCutcheon, and Mark wrote “Follow the Light” between sets at the Walnut Valley Festival, in Winfield, Kansas, where they performed the song to 20,000 stunned listeners. After that weekend, he was flying back across the country and was struck by the awesome enormousness of the terrain he saw out the window of the plane. “This is a big place,” he said, “These guys [in government] have no clue how big this place is, and how strong — and all that sense of community that happened that weekend.” [The song was featured on the 2015-2016 Susquehanna Folk Music Society CD Sampler]

To read the entire article e-mail Jess Hayden at concerts@sfmsfolk.org

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