As it says in Ecclesiastes, “For everything, there is a season….”
So it is that we are announcing to you that Connections Band intends to take an indefinite hiatus, following our current season of concerts.
Many of you have been fans and followers of our band for years, so we wanted to be sure you heard this word now. Know that this is a bittersweet decision for all of us, as the core members of the group.
The reality is that Connections’ shows always take a great deal of time, energy and commitment from our entire band. “Load in/Load out” for an average show means a full day of work for some of us. Rehearsals, booking, etc…the daily grind of any band…also takes up additional time.
So, for this season, we feel that it is time for us to enter into a time of “hiatus.” To be clear, we are not “breaking up.” And there is absolutely no bitterness or animosity among our membership. We *love* what we do as a band. But we do not intend to book a “season of shows” past the current season.
Each of us also have other musical outlets, family, and church obligations that we feel the need to tend to, in the near future. Brian will soon be retiring. Rusty has several other musical projects, and may well continue playing shows with some of the current members of the band in another form. (If so, we’ll say more about all this as it happens…) Eric hopes to spend more time with his own music. Much of our horn section also plays with other bands too.
In short, we’ll all still be doing music…and we’ll hope to keep publicizing that through our website…we just won’t be doing Connections shows. And, we certainly hold out the possibility of “reunion shows” down the road. In fact, we can all easily imagine that happening.
So…when will this hiatus happen?
Well, that all depends upon how many shows we book over the next few months. Which is to say:
If you’ve ever wanted to book, or rebook the band at your church or venue…now is the time to contact us! You can get in on this “Final Tour” year.
Contact any of the three of us if you would like to book us.
Finally, a word of thanks to all of you who have been such avid supporters of the band over the years.
Fourteen years ago, we started with one show. We never in a million years could have dreamed of all the amazing things we experienced since then….
Playing for THOUSANDS of people…and more than 70 shows…
Playing with an orchestra and choir…twice!
Raising $335,000 for charity…
And all this from a band fronted by Methodist clergy…
You couldn’t make up this story in a million years.
It’s been such a blessing to be a part of this ride, and such a joy for each of us, and for all the members of our band.
We are not done. Let’s plan for a great final year together.
But we thank you now for all the memories we carry with us, and for all your continued support.
We passed a significant milestone with Connections last Sunday night.
We officially passed the $300,000 mark in funds raised by the band.
Wow. Pretty freakin’ awesome.
Below, you’ll find some graphs, that detail how much has been raised for each beneficiary, and how much was raised each year.
We are grateful to all those who come to see our shows. As we like to say, you make the world a better place, just by deciding to see a concert. And you’ve done it to the tune of $300,000, all while enjoying some of the greatest music of our time.
Thanks for all you do to make Connections possible.
We’re still tabulating expenses and computing exactly how many folks came to Friday night’s big show (We think: 500-600) in Allen. And we’re still figuring out just how much we raised for our beneficiaries.
James Taylor Signs the Guitar
But one thing we do know: the heart and generosity of James Taylor helped us tremendously. In case you missed the incredible news, James Taylor (Yes, THE James Taylor) heard about Connections‘s big show with the Allen Symphony Chorus and orchestra. He sent us an autographed guitar and some concert tickets to upcoming shows.
You can’t imagine what a thrill this was for all of us. Before the show, several of us in the band got to play the guitar a bit. Rusty ran through “The Secret O’ Life.” I threw down a little “You’ve Got A Friend.”
And we all said, “Holy Crap, we’re playing JT songs on a guitar that JT touched!”
Eric Considers Running for the Door…..
All told, the items James Taylor contributed raised an additional $4,000 for our causes!! How amazing. Thanks again to James….we are so grateful to him for thinking of us.
Turns out, the guitar found a good home. Dave Sherman and Beverly Sharpe ended up taking it home. I know Dave from song circles, down at the Kerrville Folks Festival. Nice that this “connection” got made.
Dave and Beverly
If we get some decent video of our two James Taylor songs, we’ll post those in coming days. But thanks again to Dave and Beverly….and especially to James Taylor!!
As many of you know, Connections started with Dan Fogelberg. At the “core” of what drove us to ever get our crazy band together ten years ago was a chance to play Dan’s music, and to do in a BIG way…with a big band that could recreate some of the lush instrumentation that you’re used to when you hear his records. Many of you also know that he’s my all-time favorite songwriter.
We had a BIG show in Allen again last night….Connections…the Allen Symphony Chorus…an orchestra of about 20…approaching 70 musicians onstage. (I’m not sure we actually counted!)
We covered many great artists, and had some incredible support from James Taylor…yes, THE James Taylor….)
The Innocent Age came out my senior year in high school. So long ago, that I had it on LP. That year, while several of Dan’s songs were charting on the radio, I was attracted to the whole thing…to the “song cycle” that was that amazing double album. Really, one of the last great concept albums, and certainly the last great double album for a generation.
I’d put on “side four” in my room, as I fell asleep at night. I’d crank it as loud as I could get away with, and in the dark, I’d fall to sleep to the sounds of this mysterious and ethereal anthem. What an incredible end to that record. And what a song filled with mystery and spirit. An anthem to the past, present, and future. A song about the mystery of spirit, all around us, if only we will be quiet enough to listen.
“Sometimes in the night I feel it…”
And I’d sit there in the dark of my room, learning now to feel it.
This is a BIG song….it’s deserves to be played big, like this. I think we did the song proud…
It gave me chills to hear it last night…especially how the Chorus nails the ending…and I can’t believe how great this recording sounds here. (Thanks to Alison for capturing it…)
If we get a nice full recording of “The Reach,” I’ll add it to this post….and I’ll likely post additional video from the show, as it become available.
When Glenn Frey died, I took the liberty of paraphrasing an old spiritual adage that gets passed around from time to time…
“a person dies three times: the first time when your heart stops; the second time when you’re buried or cremated; and, for songwriters, the last time your songs are played, sung, and heard.”
That’s true for Dan too.
It’s such a unique honor to be a part of Dan’s “living legacy,” the fans, musicians, and friends who honor his memory and keep his music alive. And…to be able to do so in such a bold and big setting…
How freakin’ lucky am I?!!
Could I have ever dream, listening in the dark of my room as that high school kid, that I’d ever sing that song with such a ridiculously talented cast of musicians?
Last night, then, as I was singing, I was thinking that “Ghost” of my own past….but I was also thinking of all our DanFan friends/family from around the country…many of whom were with us the last time we did a big show like this. I was most definitely thinking of Dan, and of Jean and her generous support to all of us who try to honor Dan.
I was thinking especially of our buddy, Sheldon Felich, whose own killer band is also one of the great “living legacies” to Dan. (Sheldon and Dan’s actual orchestral arranger, Glen Spreen, shared with us these arrangements you hear on this recording…)
But most of all, as I said from the stage, just after this video cuts off….
But this morning, the show became a little more poignant. Hours ago, Dr. Martin Salia died from Ebola in Nebraska. What you may not know is that he’d been working in Africa, at our United Methodist Kissy Hospital in Sierra Leone. Recently, Dr. Salia gave an interview about his sense of calling to minister to those in Sierra Leone’s poorest neighborhoods.
Friday’s show was already poignant, in that Dallas had been affected by Ebola. In part, we were pledging to fight Ebola in Africa as a way of remembering how we are now Ebola free. Now, we also remember the true sacrifice that those fighting Ebola, through the United Methodist Church and may other NGOs, truly make.
Come to enjoy the music. But also don’t forget the truly important cause.
Your presence Friday, and your gifts, will make a difference.
“Sometimes in the night I feel it,
Near as my next breath and yet untouchable.
Silently, the past comes stealing,
Like the taste of some forbidden sweet.” ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
A week ago right now, we were rehearsing for that night’s Dan Fogelberg Tribute Show. It feels like just yesterday. It’s taken me a week to come down from the high enough to clearly write my thoughts. (That, and the fact that’s it’s been a busy week in the real world too…)
As I noted from the stage last Saturday night, you could argue that all sorts of incredible things started with the Dan Fogelberg song, “Old Tennessee.”
It was on a night many years ago, as I played that song for the first time with Rusty King, that something dawned on me.
We were at a clergy retreat, and I had never met Rusty. I knew we were both Methodist ministers. He, Paul Escamilla, and John Fleming brought their guitars up to my room to play music, while other friends just played games and talked the night away.
We started out playing songs we all knew, but that quickly drifted into Dan-songs. Then, into obscure Dan songs. Songs you’d only know if you had a copy of this. One of those songs was “Old Tennessee,” and Rusty not only played it note-for-note, he also matched the harmonies.
And I thought, “Who is this guy? He knows as many Dan songs as I do.”
That night of “Old Tennessee”-like songs, eventually led to a crazy “what if” from Rusty:
“What if we did a Fogelberg “tribute show” to raise money for mission?”
I thought it was a crazy idea. Who would come?
But Dan was my favorite singer songwriter of all-time. Do you think I was gonna turn down the chance to sing his music, backed by a 20-piece band?
Not a chance.
So we did the show. And what I assumed was pure self-indulgence on my part became two hundred and fifty people who belted-out the closing chorus of “Gambler” at the top of their lungs, and donated over $2,500 dollars to missions.
After a few days to allow the adrenaline to work itself out, we said, “Hey. Maybe we’re on to something…”
What we were “on” to was Connections. The clergy members who founded Connections(1) were soon meeting to dream of a future, and asking…
“What if we kept the band going, did 70s Shows, and raised money for mission?”
That question, and the ability to dream increasingly larger “what ifs,” has kept this wild and crazy band going now for seven years now. We’ve played over 40 shows for tens of thousand of people and we’ve raised $240,000 for some really fine causes.
“Down the ancient corridors, And through the gates of time, Run the ghosts of days that we left behind.” ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
We weren’t the only folks dreaming “what ifs.” Over in Peoria, Illinois, the family and friends of Dan Fogelberg were asking…
“What if we create a memorial to honor Dan, and invite fans/musicians from around the nation to come for the dedication?”
There’d never been a public memorial service after Dan’s death. And as time passed, it seemed more and more like something needed to be done to publicly honor him. So, a group that has now morphed into the Fogelberg Foundation of Peoria was formed. Some really fine folks like Hugh Higgins, Eric Mills and Deb Jelinek worked to create a powerful weekend, where a memorial would be dedicated, and “DanFans” and musicians from around the nation could come and participate.
Deb asked me if we could come. Rusty, Mike Sheehan and me were all a part of that initial year. It was incredible. We played for 300 passionate DanFans from around the nation, for his Mom, wife, and family. It was electric.
So our little tribute band had led to being part of the very first “Fogelberg Weekend,” and new “connection” with souls around the country who keep the “legacy” alive.
Time passed. We kept doing shows. Mostly non-Dan shows, truthfully. (I think we’ve done the Fogelberg show five times?) Rusty got a new job in Allen, where he not only works for the church, but also with the Allen Symphony Chorus.
Ever the dreamer, Rusty asked his craziest question yet…
“What if we did a Fogelberg show, with a twenty-five piece orchestra, the Allen Symphony Chorus, and our band? And what if we invited DanFans around the country and had a “Welcome Party” like Peoria?”
The result of that craziest “what if” yet was last Saturday night at the Allen Performing Arts Center.
I added my one of my own “what ifs,” when I learned that he just lived down the road in Lago Vista…
“What if we invited Glen Spreen (Seven-time Gold/Platinum Record recipient for his work with Dan. Orchestra composer on almost all his most-known work) to come direct our orchestra?”
And so, the Fogelberg Weekend in Allen came together.
Days after our very first Dan Fogelberg Show in March of 2006, I wrote a blog called “A Magical Night.”
So, what do we call last Saturday?
Ridiculous? Awesome? Beyond words?
What do you call a Tribute Show to Dan Fogelberg with Connections, a 25-piece orchestra, a 50-voice chorus, a thousand people listening, DanFam and musicians from around the nation, AND Glen Spreen?
“All of the above?”
We’re still pinching ourselves.
Here’s a pretty fine video of Nether Lands from the show. The balance may seem a bit off in parts…but all-in-all, it’s wonderful…
On behalf of our little band, let me offer some “Thank Yous” we said that night and elsewhere, but that we cannot repeat enough…
First, thanks to Connections and our core members.
When Rusty pitched the Fogelberg Weekend, I think that even many bandmembers didn’t realize just how cool the whole thing would be. So, thanks to Connections, and its core members, for being willing to to continue to dream these big “what ifs.”
Thanks to the DanFam members who spent their own money/time to drive/fly to Dallas to be with us.
It meant a great deal to have you here, and we’re really pleased you got to be a part of it all and see what we do. The “connections” are now even stronger! Special thanks to Diane Panasci, who helped host a whompin’ load ‘of these folks.
Thanks to the Tribute Musicians from around the nation.
Thanks to Donnie Mills, Jay Hennesey, Steve Rodman, Bob Ritter and Mary Bomar, Tim Pastor, and Lee Giardina-Foran. Thanks for spending your own money and time to fly/drive here, and share your talents with all the folks in Dallas. It meant a lot, especially to me, Rusty, and Mike to have you with us.
Thanks to our own members, Mike Sheehan and Paul Simonson for doing yeoman’s work all through the Friday night show and the Saturday one. Jesse Plymale sat in on keyboards during all of the Tribute Show too.
Special thanks to Sheldon Felich.
Sheldon organized Friday’s show, and brought all the tribute artists together, played with us Saturday, and behind the scenes has done so much to continue the work of keeping Dan’s musical legacy alive, including our show. Y’all should check out his great tribute band too.
Here is Sheldon and our own Wendy Curran, doing “Only The Heart May Know”
Thanks to Deb Jelinek for all her continued support.
Thanks for singing with us, and for being a part of the Fogelberg Foundation of Peoria. Thanks, from afar, to good folks like Hugh and Eric Mills. We love you guys.
Thanks to the Allen Symphony Chorus and members of the Allen Philharmonic Orchestra for also being a part of this big dream.
Thanks especially to all the behind-the-scenes work of Kathy Litinas, and other chorus members who worked hard to staff the Welcome Party.
Thanks to Caryn Fecht who directed the chorus during the show.
After the show, more than one chorus member said to me, “We should do this again.”
(That’s how the big-crazy “what ifs” start!)
Thanks to Glen Spreen.
You can’t imagine what a thrill it was for you to be with us, and to have you conduct our orchestra. You are a kind and wonderful spirit, and we’re so pleased you seemed to enjoy the night as much as we did. We’re pleased the crowd gave you that well-deserved standing-O.
Thanks to James Miller, who wrote a whole ton of charts for this show.
It was all wonderful, and the music wouldn’t have been there without your work.
Thanks to First United Methodist Church of Allen.
They deserve copious and overflowing thanks. FUMC Allen put thousands of dollars into this production. They contributed the resources of several of staff members. They did publicity, provided dozens of volunteers for meals, set-up, refreshments, and many other behind the scenes tasks. All of you deserve much of the credit for this success.
Thanks to our friend, Todd Harris, and to bandmates Brian McPherson, Rusty, and all the rest of the staff there.
Thanks to Rusty.
Keep throwing out those crazy, “what ifs” my friend.
Finally, all thanks to God.
Thanks to God for allowing us to continue this incredible work. With this show, we raised $12,000 for United Methodist Committee on Relief, and work they are doing to alleviate the suffering of Hurricane Sandy. We’re grateful that God keeps opening these doors for our band. We’ll try to keep walking through.
And thanks to Dan.
Thanks to Jean Fogelberg for being a gracious human being. We miss Dan a lot. Those of us who are “DanFans” miss him in a way that tugs at the gut.
Those of us who are privileged to play his music –across the nation, as solo acts or in large bands– we find ourselves with the feeling that we’ve been given a “legacy” to maintain. It’s a calling to make sure that others keep hearing the incredible music of this incredible artist and soul.
In fact, probably 90 percent of the audience Saturday night hadn’t heard a lot of this music. Most came knowing just “the hits.”
I’m so warmed by messages I got –one while we were still tearing down just after the show– from audience members who’ve said, “I just downloaded some of the songs I’d never heard.” They were downloading Dan’s music to their phone on the way home from the show!
That makes me smile. I’d hope it would make Dan smile too.
“Death is there to keep us honest, And constantly remind us we are free.” ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
I know I speak for me, and probably for everybody else on stage during Saturday’s show, but we knew in the moment that it was a one-of-a-kind night.
Many of you have mentioned our version of “Ghosts“ last Saturday. Some have said it was a highlight of the show. (btw, it’s one of the songs folks have told me they’ve now downloaded for the first time!!!)
When Rusty first pitched the idea of a show with orchestra/chorus, I told him I only had two real “musts”:
a) We have to do “Ghosts;” and
b) I want to sing it.
Here’s a video. It’s never gonna capture the moment as it was, but it gives you an idea…
I used to listen to “The Innocent Age“ on my record player while falling asleep my senior year in high school. I’d been a DanFan for several years(2), but that seminal record came out during that seminal year of my life. Many times, I’d put on “Side Four,” and allow myself to drift off to “Ghosts.” So, it’s always been a personal favorite. (In fact, I just noticed that I cited it in a previous blog, written just after Dan’s death…)
Without drifting too far away from the general point of this blog, let me opine that “The Innocent Age” was perhaps the last record of its kind.
Very few records would ever again be “double albums.” Very few records by singer-songwriters would ever again have that impressive a combination of chart-topping hits and richly artistic numbers.
In fact, I have made the case before that Dan Fogelberg was the last of the great chart-topping “singer-songwriters,” and that unbeknownst to all of us at the time, “The Innocent Age,” was the last great popular “singer-songwriter” album. Ever. (3)
“Ghosts” is an amazing song. The past, the present, the future, all morph into one in that song. And, I’d like to believe, all three came together on that stage, in that moment, last Saturday.
The morning of the show, I hurriedly penned a two-page journal entry. Knowing that nerves might well be a problem that night, I prayed: “Let me just be in the moment…”
During the whole show, but especially during “Ghosts,” I really felt like that happened. Like we were all aware of just how special this was, and what an honor for each of us to play our parts.
It felt like we left it all on the stage.
For me? In that moment, I recalled all those nights, listening this song in the dark of my high school room. I thought of all the beautiful souls who love Dan’s music, gathered into that hall for one evening.
I even imagined Dan himself, having stepped into life beyond life, singing back to us: “Death is there to keep us honest, and constantly remind us we are free.”
Now and then, past, present, future all do come together in one Kairos moment. For all of you who were a part of this special weekend…. Thank you….thank you….thank you.
(BTW…check back, as I will add video clips to this blog as I can work them in….EF)
Notes: (1)Rusty King, Me, Frank Rahm, Paul Escamilla, John Fleming, Ann Willett
(2) First, through the “FM” soundtrack, and “Gambler.” That led to buying “Souvenirs,” to hear the original context. Then, I went back to “Home Free” and worked my way forward in time. (3) This is not to say that Dan did not have success after this. He did. Nor is it to say that others have not had it since. They have. But in the early 1980s, pop music was just about to change drastically. The era of the singer-songwriter dominating the airwaves of pop radio…which you can trace all the way back to folks like Dylan, and then through folks like James Taylor, Carole King, Cat Stevens, Harry Chapin, Jackson Browne, Stephen Bishop…even bands like Eagles…that era was drawing to a close.
Dan, being among the youngest of this generation, produced IMHO, the last, great opus of that era: “The Innocent Age.”
Again, all these artists continue to produce excellent work to this day. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, the combination of their artisanship being rewarded with hits on the pop charts…that era was drawing to a close. Dan, I have argued many times, was the last of the great American singer-songwriters on pop radio, and “The Innocent Age” was the last great singer-songwriter record. It’s a tour-de-force, and a fitting end to that era. He didn’t intend for it to be this, but with 20-20 hindsight, we can say this now.
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One hundred thousand dollars is an awful lot of money.
So, this morning, we pause in awe to reflect on this:
Connections has raised over $100,000 to eradicate malaria from the face of the planet.
We passed this milestone last night, at our Denton show. We’re grateful to the good folks in Denton for putting us over the top, and for coming out to enjoy the great music.
I know I speak for all the members of the band, when I say that we stand in awe and amazement. The idea for this band started out with just five us us, saying “What if?”
It’s grown into a beautiful thing that allows us the chance to play great music for thousands of people, provide a quality evening of entertainment, and raise money for several good causes. You can learn more about our band, its history, and its mission, by clicking here.
Today, however, we pause to specifically give thanks that we’ve been able to raise so much for malaria prevention. For those of you unfamiliar, you might be saying “why that cause?”
Mainly because it’s an absolutely preventable disease that still kills far too many people, mostly on the continent of Africa.
When we began this work, it was to directly support a project called “Nothing But Nets,” which was a project focuses exclusively on providing bed nets for Africa.
Within a few years, smart folks realized that bed nets were absolutely an important part, but to literally eradicate the disease, it would also take prevention, treatment, and education.
Thus, “Imagine No Malaria” was born, our current beneficiary of our anti-malaria shows. The ambitious goal of this project to literally eradicate the disease from the face of the planet. It can be done.
It’s a joint project of our own United Methodist Church, the United Nations Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and several other very worthy NGOs.
Here’s an overview video for the project:
We’re honored to be partners with them in this effort, and to be doing our part to help.
Here’s another short video, featuring Pauley Perrette, who plays Abby Sciuto on NCIS, and is a member of the Hollywood United Methodist Church:
Every forty-five seconds.
That means that, likely, four people have died of this preventable while you read/watched this here. In the time it takes to play a Connections’ show, 113 people die.
But, here’s the awe-inspiring thing. In terms of bed-nets, the funds that Connections has raised in our shows, have saved 20 to 30,000 lives!!!
We’re so deeply grateful to be a part of it all.
If you’ve never contributed and are moved to do so, click here to donate online right now.
We want to specifically thank all of you who sometimes drive great distances to hear the band, and to all the churches who have hosted our anti-malaria shows. In addition to Denton, here are the other churches who have hosted a “Nothing But Nets” or “Imagine No Malaria” show:
And, last but most definitely not least, Kaufman County.
This last group absolutely deserves special note. In two concerts, the good folks of Kaufman County, mostly small lakeside churches, have raised more than $25,000!! That’s one quarter of all we’ve raised in this effort. Copious thanks to them, and especially to our friend and colleague, Eston Williams.
Here’s the crazy thing. We’re not done celebrating great milestones.
In fact, at our next show in Allen, we’ll very likely pass two more significant fund-raising milestones.
We’ve got some year-end stats now for Connections in 2011. And, the results are pretty amazing.
It was clearly our best year yet. This was on the back of our single-largest concert ever: “The Concert for AMK,” last June. That one show, by itself, surpassed our fundraising for every other single year in our history. Pretty dang amazing.
This first graph shows our all-time funds raised over time.
As of year-end, we’ve raised $180, 547!!
This graph shows the funds raised, per-year:
As you can see, 2011 blew the roof off of every other fundraising year we’ve ever had. The “Concert for AMK” was. of course, the thing that more than doubled our fundraising over every previous year.
However! When you factor out the “AMK Show,” 2011 was still our second largest fundraising years ever!!
Taking out that show, for an apples-to-apples comparison with other years, not only was 2011 our second largest fundraising year, but it was only $350 from being number one!!
So, it was an incredible year, no matter how you run the numbers.
Finally, a breakdown of the funds raised, per beneficiary. Our two primary beneficiaries are UMCOR, and “Imagine No Malaria.” (Follow the links to learn more about each). The “Other”category is the “Concert for AMK.”
Connections’ 2012 Spring schedule is now available at our website. At all our Spring shows, we’re rolling out our new show: “Superhits of the 70s, Part II.”
Connections continues to be an incredible gift to all of us in the band. We’re grateful to be able to share great music, offer fun shows, and raise money for these incredible causes. We are profoundly grateful to the thousands of people who, simply by coming to see our shows and enjoying some music, make a difference in the world.
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