Music

A Tale of Thanks

"Sing Away Hunger" for the RI Food Bank on November 17

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As we celebrate the harvest with gratitude this Thanksgiving, I can’t help but wonder about those without plentiful food on their table. Like many of you, I try to help how I can, though time and family commitments keep me from actually serving the food at local food pantries. However, there is another joyful way to help with the problem of hunger and that’s to attend this month’s “Sing Away Hunger” Concert and CD Release Party on November 17 to benefit the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. The event, features Bill Harley and Friends who will perform two shows.

Harley, who helped organize this concert with friend and fellow musician Keith Munslow, resides in Seekonk with his wife and two children and has been working with the food bank for the past 12 years. “The concert has usually been held in December, but this year we decided to do it before Thanksgiving,” Harley explains.

A two-time Grammy Award winner for his children’s albums Blah Blah Blah: Stories About Clams, Swamp Monsters, Pirates & Dogs and Yes to Running! Bill Harley Live, Harley is a storyteller, songwriter, singer, author and social activist. His songs span the generation gap, including favorites like “Zanzibar,” “Monsters in the Bathroom,” “50 Ways to Fool Your Mother” and “The Ballad of Dirty Joe.” His latest CD, High Dive, was released earlier this year and Harley is also busy promoting his latest children’s book, Lost and Found, published last month.

Harley uses his talents to bring awareness to important issues including food and the environment, and serves on the board of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities from which he received a Lifetime Achievement Award. “Children going hungry is insane,” he says, passion on his tongue. “Mothers living on the edge are why we do this concert for families, to highlight the connection with hunger and families, and by selling tickets make everybody feel like they are working on this project.”

Cindy Elder of the Food Bank concurs and says, “All the musicians cheerfully donate their time and Lincoln School graciously donates the facility. It’s much more than a fundraiser – it’s a way to bring the community together around the problem of hunger. The concert has thrilled children and their parents for years!”

Harley met Munslow in the early ‘90s when he was invited to perform with Whoopi Goldberg, Dave Hensley and Sting in California and asked Munslow to perform with him. Munslow, also a family entertainer, storyteller and songwriter, has earned the Parents’ Choice Award for two of his recordings: Accidentally on Purpose and Dressed Up for the Party. Harley states that they usually perform together four to five times a year. The pair will celebrate the release of their new song “It’s not Fair to Me” at this year’s concert, which also serves as a CD release party.

Harley says that the song was written as part of a contest that the Sirius Radio Station program Kid’s Place Live held. “[While Keith and I were at the studio] we asked the kids listening to send us a song title. We received 1,000 entries for a title. Keith and I then wrote the song around the title. Since Keith and I squabble like siblings, the song was written from that perspective.”

Harley’s written songs based around specific topics too: Last year Harley wrote a song called “I Want a Big Table (Where Everyone Can Eat).” He performed the piece on the soundtrack to the Food Bank’s 30th anniversary documentary. The Rhode Island Community Food Bank currently serves more than 65,000 Rhode Islanders every month through their statewide network of emergency food programs. One in three is a child under the age of 18. Come out to the concert and help Harley and Munslow help the hungry. All proceeds go directly to the Food Bank.

Shows are at 11am and 2pm at the Lincoln School Auditorium, 301 Butler Avenue, Providence.

Tickets ($10-15) available at www.rifoodbank.org/BillandKeith or by calling 401-230-1673.