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Concerts on mountains and skyscrapers raise cancer funds

Saturday, June 7, 2008
By CHERYL HALL / The Dallas Morning News

James Chippendale has built a thriving business selling insurance to entertainment promoters. Now he's arranging rock concerts on his own.

But his musical extravaganzas are unlike anything done before.

The first was held atop the Empire State Building, the second at the highest mountain summit in Wales. The latest was held above the base camp of Mount Everest at 18,600 feet.

The money generated from these X-treme concerts goes to the Love Hope Strength Foundation, which helps build cancer treatment centers. The $700,000 raised so far from Everest Rocks is being used for a center in Nepal.

The 40-year-old leukemia survivor co-founded the foundation with Mike Peters, lead singer and guitarist for the Welsh band the Alarm.

The two met via e-mail arranged by a mutual friend after Mr. Peters was diagnosed with leukemia in 2006.

"James is one of those people who would literally go to the end of the world for you," says Mr. Peters. "I should know. He went there and back for me."

The alternative rock singer describes Mr. Chippendale as the true visionary of the foundation.

"I had dreams of a concert on the summit of Mount Snowdon at 3,560 feet," says Mr. Peters, referring to the mountain he sees from his village. "James had designs on Mount Everest at 18,600 feet. That surely tells you all you need to know."

Everest Rocks was a 10-day ascent in October by 40 musicians, cancer survivors and foundation supporters. They paid at least $15,000 apiece to climb to Kala Patthar, where they set a Guinness record for the highest-altitude concert.

"We wanted to shout our message from the top of the world: 'You too can climb back from cancer,' " says Mr. Chippendale, who is cancer-free eight years after learning he had leukemia.

A documentary by MTV producer Alex Coletti will air on VH1 Classic and MHD later this year.

After hiking seven hours each day, the production team edited and sent back video to the foundation's Web site to be podcast on iTunes.

"We laid out 800 square feet of solar panels on the ground every night to power our computers and charge the cameras and equipment," Mr. Chippendale says. "We took guitars, amps and drums to pull off the concert."

Next up: Machu Picchu and Peru Rocks this October.

One hundred cancer survivors, musicians, mountaineers and supporters will hike up the ancient Inca Trail to the famed archaeological site. Each will pay at least $8,000 for the four-day trek, plus raise funds through sponsorships. A concert will take place above the ruins.

"Machu Picchu is going to be a tough one," says Mr. Chippendale. "There are a lot of steps, and they're straight up."