by Bob Keeler, Montgomery News (reposted by permission)
When Tom Chapin took to the stage for his June 29 Concert Sundaes performance in Souderton (Pa.) Community Park, it was expected he’d have some friends along, so it was no surprise that fellow musicians Jon Cobert and Michael Mark were there.
They weren’t the only ones there to accompany the three-time Grammy winner, though.
Members of the Salford Mennonite Church Peace Camp also got to sing from the Maurice W. Foulke Bandshell.
This was the ninth year for the Peace Camp, which ran June 23 through 27, according to Meredith Ehst, who with Ashley Miller and Carissa Gredler are interim directors of children’s ministries at the church on Groff’s Mill Road in Harleysville.
The Peace Camp used a grant from the Salford Mennonite Foundation Fund to partner with Concert Sundaes to sponsor Chapin’s appearance, Ehst said.
“It was great to partner with them and the community to bring him to the area and have such a great community event,” Ehst said.
“It really was a great night for the kids and they’ll really remember peace camp,” she said. “Tom and the band were really great to work with and it worked out really well.”
Chapin was chosen because some of his songs are part of the music at the camp, she said.
“The three songs the kids sang [with Chapin], we use each year and have incorporated into the program,” Ehst said.
The children, who met Chapin the night of the concert, rehearsed with his CDs, she said.
The children also performed sign language to the songs.
They performed with Chapin just before intermission.
After-intermission songs performed by Chapin, Cobert and Mark included the Steve Goodman-written “City of New Orleans,” recorded by Arlo Guthrie and Willie Nelson, Harry Chapin’s “Mail Order Annie” and “Cat’s in the Cradle,” and the Chapin family anthem “Circle” with a verse tailored specifically to Concert Sundaes. Tom Chapin is the brother of Harry Chapin, who was killed in a traffic accident in 1981. In addition to his songwriting and performing, Harry Chapin was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his humanitarian efforts to end hunger.
“It was a wonderful concert. I think everybody had a great time,” Sam Martin, Concert Sundaes Committee chairwoman, said.
The church contacted Concert Sundaes to see if it would be possible to work together to schedule and sponsor the Chapin concert, she said.
Although there have been other types of support for Concert Sundaes, this was the first partnership of this kind that she remembers, Martin said.
“We don’t really have a policy because it doesn’t happen all that often, but we’re always open to any ideas,” she said. “Each thing, we take to the committee. It’s a committee decision.”
Peace Camp, for children who have completed kindergarten through fifth grade, included a meal for the children in its 5 to 8 p.m. sessions each night, Ehst said.
It is somewhat similar to Vacation Bible School, but Salford has created its own curriculum, she said.
The youngest children learn about “Peace and Me,” the oldest learn “Peaceful Conflict Resolution” and the middle classes are taught “Peace with the Earth,” she said.
Many of those who attend are from the community and are not members of the church, she said.
Salford member Mary Jane Hershey, who got the idea for it from Quaker programs at Gwynedd Friends Meeting, introduced the idea for the peace camp to Salford, Ehst said.
“It really just goes along with our core values as Mennonites,” Ehst said.
Concert Sundaes are held 7 p.m. Sundays in the park at Reliance Road and Wile Avenue. The fifth show of the 10-concert season, Chapin’s appearance marked the halfway point. In contrast to some other years, none of the five had to be moved inside because of rain.
“We hate to go inside and this weather has just been a gift to us,” Martin said.
Attendees at the concerts are invited to take photos and submit those pictures to be posted on Concert Sundaes Facebook page.
“Luke Bennett, a member of our committee, has kind of amped up the Facebook page,” Martin said. “I think the photos entice people to come to the park, too.”