STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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It is a musical family configuration that only happens two or three times a year.
Performing during “The Chapin Family Holiday Show” will be Grammy-winning kindie artist Tom Chapin; his brother Steve, who tours with former members of their brother Harry’s band (including the deep-voiced “Big John” Wallace); Harry Chapin’s daughter Jen, who tours with a trio; and The Chapin Sisters, a group featuring Tom Chapin’s daughters Abigail and Lily.
“It’s expensive to get them all together,” Tom Chapin said with a laugh in a phone interview. “It’s always magical. It’s kinda like a festival. There’s nothing better than singing with my daughters and my niece.”
Chapin said that the show is going to flow tag team style, beginning with he and Steve playing Harry Chapin songs such as “Cat’s in the Cradle,” “Taxi” and “Circle.” During that portion of the show, The Chapin Sisters’ step on stage to accompany, then into the spotlight to play a set of their own.
According to Chapin, his brother Harry saw the No. 1 hit “Cat’s in the Cradle” simply as a folk song that wasn’t strong enough to be a single. “It’s something you can relate to, whether you’re a male, a female, a parent, a kid … I don’t think he realized it,” he said.
Harry Chapin, who was also known for raising awareness of childhood hunger, died in 1981 and was posthumously awarded a Congressional medal. “He wrote ‘Circle’ for me, for my TV show ‘Make a Wish’,” Tom Chapin said. “Make a Wish” aired on ABC from 1971-1976; won a Peabody Award; in Chapin’s words, “made my career;” and earned Harry Chapin so much money as the show’s official songwriter that he bought a house. He added that John Denver and James Taylor both turned down offers from the network to be the host.
As for the family’s Dec. 9 concert at the Musikfest Cafe at SteelStacks, “Bethlehem is a beautiful place to play. And what more appropriate place to play our holiday show than Bethlehem?,” Chapin said.
Chapin shared that one of his favorites from last year’s Holiday Show was the Hawaiian Christmas song “Mele Kelikimaka.” “I get to be Bing Crosby for two minutes,” he said, referring to the recording made popular by Crosby and The Andrews Sisters.
It’s also the perfect occasion for Chapin to revisit the whimsical “The All-Purpose Carol” from his kindie album “Making Good Noise.”
“I’m part-Christian and part-Jewish/and of African descent.
And when it comes to holidays, that is truly excellent.
‘Cause on the first day of Hanukkah, my parents sing to me/this new all-purpose carol that’s for trimming my special kind of tree,” he sings.
There should also be selections from the 2005 release “The Chapin Family Christmas Collection Volume II: Variations on Christmas and Epiphany Carols.” “Steve and I were choir boys,” said Chapin, explaining that there was no volume one.