The Huntington Arts Council celebrates its 50th-anniversary Summer Arts Festival with a family whose name virtually defined arts on Long Island in the 1970s.
The Chapin family last performed on the outdoor stage named for singer-songwriter and social justice activist Harry Chapin in 2011 -- 30 years after his death in a car accident on the Long Island Expressway. They open the festival's first weekend with songs written and recorded by Harry as well as by his brother Tom and daughter Jen, performing with siblings, uncles, nieces, in-laws and friends.
Harry Chapin first played the Summer Arts Festival in 1974. He and his wife, Sandy, participated in the Lively Arts Festival in their adopted hometown of Huntington Bay in the late '70s, with Harry occasionally sitting in to play trumpet with the Isotope Stompers, a Dixieland band that returns to the festival July 23. Chapin, determined to share his fortune earned through his huge success in pop music ("Taxi," "Cat's in the Cradle"), was involved directly and through contributions in forming the Long Island Philharmonic and the now-defunct Performing Arts Council, and supported the Eglevsky Ballet and Huntington Arts Council. The Chapin Rainbow Stage was named for Harry in 1979, and Sandy founded the Journey arts-in-education program in 1985. Harry also helped establish World Hunger Year and his legacy continues with the Harry Chapin Food Bank and Long Island Cares, which continue to distribute food throughout the Island.
Although Summer Arts Festival admission is free, nonperishable food donations or money to feed the hungry are requested by the Chapins for Saturday night's concert.
DAD AND DAUGHTER
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Jen Chapin, who was 10 when her father died, says she "grew up in and out of Heckscher Park."
"The concert is about half and half -- Harry's songs and ours," she says by phone during a jury-duty break in Brooklyn, where she lives with her husband and two sons, 10 and 5. "Tom" -- Harry's younger brother who performs with kid brother Steve -- "is the patriarch of the family. He'd love to still be junior, but it wasn't to be."
Jen Chapin describes her jazz-inflected music as "a pastiche, not so linear and narratively driven as my dad's." Her trio includes her husband, Stephen Crump, on bass and guitarist Jamie Fox.
Tom Chapin, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter-storyteller, recently released "Tom Chapin 70" -- giving away his age -- a collection of folk covers and originals on which he's joined by the Chapin Sisters, who are Tom's daughters and Sandy's nieces.
WHAT Chapin Family concert
WHEN | WHEREE 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Heckscher Park, Huntington
ADMISSION Free; 631-271-8423, complete lineup of shows at huntingtonarts.org