Few fans can
pinpoint their first exposure to Harry's music as closely as Bill Pere.
"It was 1972 and I was doing Summer school at Bucknell," he said. "I was
in from Hurricane Agnes and working with the Red Cross when I heard
'Taxi.' I was mesmerized by this story for seven minutes."
ability to tell great stories through songs continued to have an impact on
Pere both personally and professionally. "I followed his career and saw
him perform at least once a year. When I learned about his involvement in
social issues, it increased my respect and admiration for Harry," said
Pere. "He showed how one person can make a difference." It was that
admiration that later inspired Pere to found the Local United Network to End Hunger
(LUNCH), an organization that will celebrate its 15th anniversary in
|Photo courtesy of
1989 I knew that the 10th anniversary of Harry's death was coming up in
'91, and I wanted to do a memorial event. I put on a Harry Chapin legacy
show that was designed to be a one-time event," he said. "I talked with
others who were touched and influenced by Harry. Corporate sponsors came
through and so did individuals. It was a success and raised more than
asked Pere when they would do it again, the idea for LUNCH came to him
while driving down a road.
activity of the LUNCH program is the performance of family shows by an
ensemble cast including members of the Connecticut Songwriters
Association, under whose umbrella they operated for the first few years,
and students from grades four through twelve.
all-volunteer program features concerts and performances of original skits
and plays formed around Harry's songs as well as Pere's original songs.
Participation is free and open to all regardless of ability. Since its
inception, LUNCH has raised more than $300,000 through shows and sales of
the 13 CDs it has created. Proceeds are used to keep the programs going
and to provide direct support to 20 social service agencies and World
Hunger Year, which was co-founded by Harry.
part of the program is teaching the kids about Harry's example of
generosity and social action in the belief that through arts and education
they will develop into the kind of leaders who will work toward social
justice. "Once or twice a year we do a full stage play with Harry's songs
woven in. They are light-hearted pop culture parodies tailored to kids
like "Star Wars" and "Batman," he said. "The kids go in for the fun
activity, but we always make sure they know why we're doing it and what
to the ongoing LUNCH performances, Bill has served as music director at
Camp Wightman for the past eight years. "We'd been doing a lot of programs
in area churches, and one minister/musician wanted to start a music camp
for younger kids in grades three through six," Pere said. We began with a
couple of the LUNCH kids and it really worked. It's fun and a place where
kids can get together with other kids away from other issues." This year,
Pere said, they had about 40 campers, and some of the counselors were
young people who'd previously been campers.
the same enthusiasm in the LUNCH ensemble participants whose siblings and
parents get involved and have become the backbone of the programs. One of
the greatest rewards for Pere is to see participants later get involved as
volunteers in local social service activities. Sometimes they come back to
advise kids and become liaisons with businesses, he noted. "It gives them
confidence and self-esteem. They aren't afraid to talk in front of people.
Kids write about LUNCH in their school assignments, and one said it made
her so much more aware of the needs of others."
LUNCH has a
year-long schedule of events to celebrate its upcoming anniversary
including concerts, a songwriters conference with Jen Chapin, and a Hunger
Awareness Day in March that Perehopes will be the start of an ongoing
program. For more information about LUNCH's programs and schedule, go to
their website at http://www.lunchensemble.com/.
LUNCH CDs also can be ordered through this site.
courtesy of lunchensemble.com