New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

Harry Chapin: A Celebration In Song

By Gary Wien

originally published: 04/21/2016

Harry Chapin: A Celebration In SongHarry Chapin may have died 35 years ago, but his music and spirit live on.  There are Harry Chapin fan communities on the internet, his strong legacy of activism and charitable work continued on by his family, and songs like “Cats In The Cradle” and “Taxi” are still played each day on radio stations around the world.  And on Friday, May 13, the Chapin family will pay tribute to Harry’s songs along with their own originals at the Bergen Performing Arts Center (BergenPAC).

It’s always special when Tom, Steve, and Jen Chapin,  along with The Chapin Sisters (Abigail and Lily) get together on stage.  The night is basically split between half of Harry Chapin songs and half of their own.

“We all kind of mix it up, overlap, and help each other out on different songs,” said Jen Chapin, Harry’s daughter.  “But it’s fairly eclectic.”

It’s also a very interesting mix of music from the traditional folk of Tom Chapin to the jazz-infused sounds of Jen Chapin; the harmonies based Chapin Sisters to Steve Chapin, whose style might most closely resemble Harry’s.

While many in the audience might get chills hearing these songs - some that will be performed by many members of Harry Chapin’s actual band - Jen says that her father has been gone for so long that it’s a different experience for the family.

The article continues after this ad


“This is more of a fun, professional challenge for us versus what the audience goes through,” explained Jen.  “They may go through years without thinking of Harry.  We’re trying to put together a show and do a great job.  We’ve heard each other grow in these songs as musicians and it’s not quite work because the play is so mixed in.  We have such a relaxed time backstage and in front.  I think the chills have happened, but that’s not what we’re doing.  We’re putting on a show.”

Songs in the show do change, but you can expect to hear many of the best loved hits like “Mr. Tanner” (usually done by Steve) or “Cats In The Cradle” (usually done by Tom).  Jen’s cousin Lily usually performs “Shooting Star,” a song Jen sang for years and says is fun to perform.

“The songs that I do, I do them because they make sense for my musical perspective and I love them,” said Jen.  “There’s a song we do called ‘Tangled Up Puppet’ which is kind of the daughter counterpoint to ‘Cats In The Cradle’ because it’s about having a teenaged girl.  She’s in and out; one minute she’s hugging and the next she’s disgusted.  I love to sing that song.  It’s a very moving ballad.  And I’m not sure if we’ll do it this time, but there’s a song about education and imagination called ‘Flowers Are Red’ that I love to do.  We have a fun arrangement for that one.”

Normally, Jen performs her set with a trio that includes her husband Stephen Crump on bass and Jamie Fox on electric guitar, but her husband will be on tour in Europe so it’ll be her and Fox at BergenPAC. Jen mentions two songs of hers as the ones she’s most proud to contribute to the show.   

“I have a song called ‘Let It Show’ which is the song that’s requested the most and that hits people almost immediately,” said Jen.  “It’s a simple song, but there’s a challenge in singing it.  It’s very engaging to perform; different lines in the lyrics take on different resonation depending on what’s going on in the world.  That one feels good to play.  And I have another song from my latest album which I’ve done at a few family shows.  I play ‘Let It Show’ pretty much every time, but the others are up for grabs.  But last time we played a song called ‘Gospel’ which is very much an anthem like a protest march.  It celebrates social movement from the Civil Rights movement to Occupy Wall Street and Fight for 15.  It’s political, but sort of optimistic.  It has the big picture.  It feels good to add that to the conversation as far as my father’s activist legacy.”

Jen has played a large role in keeping that activist legacy alive, having held a seat on the Board of Directors for Why Hunger (an organization started by Harry and Bill Ayres in 1975) for many years.  The organization went through a key transition last year when Ayres left his position as Executive Director and Noreen Springstead took over.  

“That was a crucial transition,” explained Jen.  “It can be dangerous for non-profits to move beyond the founders.  We’ve weathered some storms over the years — the most significant being when Harry passed.  The organization, for me, is so powerful because we’re a grassroots support organization.  We’re looking at what amazing innovations and wisdom exists in communities that are dealing with hunger and poverty themselves.  And we’re connecting between hunger and food as a human right and nutrition, obesity, the diabetes epidemic, sustainable agriculture, climate change, and racial justice.  It can sound overwhelming or confusing, but it’s actually empowering because you see that a lot of the issues are addressed by the same kind of solutions.  And you can’t look at them in isolation.”

“We’re very much as we were from the beginning,” she added.  “Why hunger? It’s asking a why question and looking systemically at the big picture and the root causes and building solutions from the grassroots up.”

For more by this author, click here

NJSO presents 2019 Winter Festival, 'Music Speaks'
(NEWARK, NJ) -- A trio of renowned guest artists with distinct musical voices—pianists Emanuel Ax and Daniil Trifonov and soprano Dawn Upshaw—headline the NJSO’s Winter Festival, “Music Speaks,” in January 2019. The Orchestra’s signature artistic event takes place across three weekends, January 10–27, in six New Jersey venues.
RVCC Chorale to Perform Annual Holiday Concert on December 8th
(BRANCHBURG, NJ) --The RVCC Chorale will give its annual holiday concert on Saturday, December 8 at 8:00pm in the Welpe Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College’s Branchburg campus. The program will feature Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata, Das Neugeborne Kindelein, as well as a cappella pieces from by Sergei Rachmaninov, Zoltan Kodaly and Giuseppe Verdi. The program also will include an audience singalong of traditional carols.
Classic Stones Live! The Complete Rolling Stones Tribute Show Comes To SOPAC
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- The Rolling Stones, the greatest Blues band of all time, couldn’t make it to SOPAC on their 2018 tour. Instead, the acclaimed tribute band Classic Stones Live! makes an appearance on the SOPAC stage December 15 at 8:00pm for those who like to hear their Rolling Stones hits live.
Tony Trischka Presents "Of a Winter's Night" at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- Of a Winter’s Night is Tony Trischka's acoustic celebration of the holiday season. Based on his CD release of the same name, this concert features Trischka’s considerable melodic inventiveness on a wide variety of seasonal tunes. He turns his inventiveness loose on bluegrass and Americana music for the holidays. This one of a kind concert will take place at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship on Saturday, December 8 at 7:30pm.
Idle Wave To Hold Record Release Party At Asbury Park Brewery
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- Pop-punks Idle Wave will celebrate the release of their self-titled EP on Saturday, December 1st at Asbury Park Brewery.  The record release show also includes performances by Skyeline, Roderick, and Pollyanna.

"An Amazing Musical Genius!" Brian Wilson LIVE! at the State Theatre
In the music room in the back of our house, there’s an electric bass and amp, two acoustic guitars, a microphone and PA speakers, several pieces of music recording equipment, and a bookcase filled with books on music, not to mention a slew of assorted music memorabilia. But, perhaps, one of the most highly prized items in the room is hanging directly above the piano next to the college music diplomas.
Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.
Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood
The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.
Sha Na Na LIVE! at the Newton Theatre
The audience is streaming into the Newton Theatre auditorium in Newton, NJ this Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 for a live concert starring Sha Na Na!

Event calendar
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018


New Politics @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

THE REPUTATIONS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

TOTO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

ANNIE, The Musical @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 7:30pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 7:30pm

Spring Awakening: The Rock Musical @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm


PARSONS DANCE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm


Crybaby Matinee: March of the Penguins @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

View all events


For more on our awards, click here

New Jersey Stage © 2018 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.