Train Keeps ‘A Rollin’

Our 2014-2015 season recently ended.  These last few months have been memorable, and not always for the best of reasons.  Despite everything, both the good and the difficult, we are continually reminded that we are blessed.

Let’s start with the good.  We celebrated our 20th anniversary together at Christmas time.  As part of that milestone, we released a new CD, our fourth, and held a concert at our beloved Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church. The concert was great.  It was well-attended, and we had a really good show.  There was an enormous amount of preparation put into the CD and the show, and our musical output definitely reflected the amount of work we put into it.

We welcomed two new members to the group – Todd and Scott.  Todd is helping shore up the baritone section with Chaz, and Scott is providing us a solid foundation with his warm and wonderful bass guitar playing. Oh, and he’s learning to sing high tenor at the same time – no small feat.  Both Todd and Scott are great guys, which is the number one prerequisite for being part of the Seven. We are fortunate to have them in our midst.

Our musical output is stronger than ever.  We have a confidence that is helping us deliver one solid performance after another, and we are branching out into new styles and trying different musical ideas.  It feels like we are at the beginning of something new, even after 20 years.

Now for the difficult.  Our friend and long time member John McLaughlin died in November after a long battle with a brutal disease.  John was a very important part of this group for 10 years, and singing at his funeral was a very emotionally difficult thing for many of us to do.  I miss his lovely high tenor voice, as well as his caustic charms.  I think about him nearly every day, particularly since I have his great old Gibson knockoff as a reminder, in safekeeping at my house.IMG_0087

Not long after John’s death, we lost his wife of 35 years, Barb, to a horrible accident.  Barb was a great friend and supporter of the Seven over the years, and we performed at least once at their old house in St. Louis Park.  John and Barb were no longer together when they passed, but I know they were still one another’s strongest supporters until the end.

At the end of our season, we had one more funeral to sing at, for longtime Bryn Mawr Church member Edna Johnson. Jim wrote a nice piece about her in this blog.  She is credited with helping the church survive through very lean years, faithfully serving, and welcoming in the next generation of young families that would revitalize the church.  I’m not sure we’ve ever done three funerals in one season before, and I hope we never have to do it again.

We are at an interesting place. Some guys are trying to establish careers. Others are welcoming new grandbabies and imagining what retirement will be like.  Some guys are expanding their families with new babies, some recently arrived and others coming soon.  Others are sending kids to college.  Some of us have an empty nest. Others are not quite there, but see it on the horizon.

We suddenly have a new and noticeable phenomenon in the group, something we have never had before:  A generational gap.  The old guys still outnumber the younglings, but not by much.  Having the younger guys in the group has suddenly made me very aware that I’ve been telling the same stories over and over for the last 15 years, and that I need to come up with some new material.

Change is a good thing, not only for my newfound awareness, but because of the new life and energy it brings.  We are making great, fun, and uplifting music.  We are going places musically I would not have imagined even five years ago. We can honor the past, with all of the music and friends we have enjoyed along the way, and still look ahead to what is possible, realizing that this little ol’ gospel train is not going to stop any time soon.