One Month Later …
It’s Friday night, August 24th. I’m alone in my Ramada Inn hotel room in Rapid City, SD.
Tomorrow, a newly reconfigured Orleans will play “Kool Deadwood Nites” in nearby Deadwood; a very cool old Gold Rush town, I am told. The town’s name seems eerily appropriate.
It was one month ago today that everything changed around here. It started as a day like any other day, but it was not to end that way.
In final preparation for what was to be a weekend of big events — the taping of a 1-hour Sirius XM radio show, an appearance on national TV (Fox & Friends Summer Concert Series) and 2 live shows (one on the Hoppens’ native Long Island, the other in Bethlehem, PA), Larry and I were emailing as usual. I saw him forwarding 40th Anniversary tee-shirt orders to our SWAG fulfillment guy, John Guertin. You know … the normal, usual, mundane business stuff we do around here. It was that way up until about noon.
That afternoon, emails to Larry went curiously unanswered. But I just figured he was out doing errands for his girls, or just on overload (which was pretty normal for him).
Around 5:00, Lane’s name popped up on my cell. “I’ve got some really bad news”, he said. “Are you sitting down? You’re not driving, right?”
I braced myself. “OK. Go ahead”, I said.
“Oh, my God! … Oh, my God! … Oh, my God! … Are you sure? … Oh, my God! … Oh, my God! …”
I must have said it 10 times before we hung up. Suddenly, my world was forever changed. My elder brother, my partner for 40 years, my comrade-in-arms through thick and thin, was no more.
This last month has been surreal. First and foremost, there’s the grief. The tremendous sense of loss. The gaping hole in the fabric of not only my world, but of all who knew and love(d) him. The sheer volume and the heartfelt content of the world-wide outpouring of shock, sadness, praise, fond memories, respect and love for that man was nothing short of overwhelming. Too much for this man to absorb; but I tried my best.
I want to express my deep appreciation to each and every person who sent an email, a text, left a voice-mail, posted on Facebook and/or engaged in conversation with me. I want to thank Bob Lefsetz for his beautiful commemorative blogpost … and those who copied all the comments and sent them to me, to make sure I wouldn’t miss them. I want to thank all the dear, old friends and colleagues who had such glowing things to say about my brother. And I want you all to know that I read (and saved) every email and text, listened to every voice-mail, and truly valued those deep-feeling conversations with my inner circle.
If I did not manage to get back to you personally, I apologize. The fact is, I was inundated with a tsunami of well-wishes and condolences. As much as I tried to be present and respond in real time, not create a backlog to respond to later, it was just not humanly possible to keep up. But I thank you all just the same.
Meanwhile, what to do? Certainly, we (Orleans) would not be able to fulfill our commitments for that following weekend. Of course not, and no one expected us to. But, as I pondered it in my state of shock, I quickly came to the conclusion that we must somehow continue; not fold, not default, not disappear, but somehow we MUST finish the work that had been started 40 years ago. THAT was what Larry would have wanted. That’s what I wanted.
So, not knowing HOW that would happen, I began to gather the troops. i called Tom Kallman, our very good friend, champion and acting Agent, and told him to NOT cancel any of the shows. I asked him to please SAVE all the shows; that we WOULD play the shows … that we NEEDED to play the shows. And Tom got busy.
I called John Hall and asked if he would be willing and available to get on board to help us finish this year’s calendar, and John said yes. Welcome back, John.
Of course, the band was on board from word one (Fly, Charlie and brother Lane).
Let me say right now that, without the tremendous commitment of this amazing team, I could do nothing. But, with all of us pulling in the same direction, we are now answering the question, “How do we do this?”
First came the actual funeral on July 31st in Sanford. FL, where Larry resided with his wife, Patty, and his twin 16 year old girls, Maeve and Claire. The service was conducted by Larry’s good friend, Beth Shafer — a Jewish liturgical musician Larry had done quite few performances with (including a fundraiser for then-Presidential hopeful Barack Obama). She began with, “A bunch of aging white rockers in a black church with a service done by a Jewish woman; Larry would have liked that!” Her eulogy was brilliant.
The opening music was “Let There Be Music” played from a CD and, as Larry’s voice poured from the PA speakers, we all were viscerally moved. Many of us broke down.
As the service continued there were many impactful moments. I was grateful to be able to say a few words, and even more grateful that, whatever it was I said, it seemed to come out OK; sufficiently poignant but not too heavy, with a good deal of humor and laughter for all mixed in.
Then came more music, when I was joined by Lane, John Hall, Fly Amero, Charlie Morgan, long-time friend and Orleans alumnus Bob Leinbach, and Orlando-based drummer/friend Randy Nichols. The contemplative, somewhat melancholy lyrics of Time Passes On gave way to a joyous, uplifting rendition of Reach, which had the entire congregation singing! Indeed, music has healing powers.
The following couple of weeks were filled with an endless to-do list of time-critical tasks to accomplish. For one thing, we were offered the opportunity to do a make-up date on Long Island for the show we had to cancel that dark first weekend. The only catch was it had to be on Friday, August 17th … only a short 2 weeks out.
My initial question was “Can we do this?”, but I quickly reframed the question as “How will we do this?”. I learned long ago that the quality of the question asked determines the kind of answers one gets. And answers we got. Long story short, to play this particular show, we assembled a version of Orleans comprised of both current and former members.
Added to myself, Lane and Fly (who had just had septum corrective surgery 10 days prior to the show … we weren’t sure he was going to be able to get on a plane, let alone sing if he showed up) were John Hall (returning for his first show with us since an appearance at Mohegan Sun Casino last March), Bob Leinbach and, subbing for Charlie Morgan (who could not make that date due to his own time-crunch pressures) was Ithaca-native Charlie Shew (the first drummer ever to succeed Wells Kelly). Just to sweeten the pot, Joe Bouchard (from Blue Oyster Cult) attended to be “utility man”, playing mandolin, acoustic and electric guitars and even a little bass.
No rehearsal; just some memory-jogging homework, assigned by email, and everyone descended on Manorhaven Park. The only problem was with the weather. After opening with Let There Be Music (sung by me, a whole step down) followed by Crazy (a la the John Hall Band), the clouds opened up, complete with thunder and lightning. Show called on account of rain.
But wait! Just one more! And the crowd danced in the rain to Still the One. Seeing the cloud had passed overhead, we were allowed to continue. So we squeezed in Time Passes On and Dance With Me before the heavens poured down buckets. And that was that.
So now it’s a week later and here we are in South Dakota — Fly, Charlie, John, Lane and me. Tomorrow will again be a bit of a baptism by fire, since we have yet to actually play a gig in this configuration. But we have a plan … we have a mission … and we have the determination to carry it out.
I want to not forget to thank our Social Media Director, Steve Eberly, and our Virtual Assistant and Publicist, Lisa Walker, for manning their posts commendably. Also, our 2 most excellent Production Managers, Mike Malfesi and Marc Lewis. Without those guys, we’d be lost.
There’s so much more I could say, but it’s probably time to start winding this down. I guess I’ll finish by saying that I love and miss my brother. But I know that his spirit lives on … in the hearts and minds of those of us left behind, in the musical legacy he left the world, and in that place we all go when we leave this earthly plane.
If the object of a life is to leave the world a better place than when you came into it, then Larry certainly succeeded. He’s irreplaceable; a one-of-a-kind. In the 40-year history of Orleans, he is the ONLY one of us who never missed being on a single show. Even though there are many strengths to this band, his voice was the unmistakable centerpiece.
So how are we to continue? One day at a time, as best we know how, figuring it out as we go.
Thanks for being along for the ride.
6 Responses to “One Month Later …”
August 28th, 2012 at 8:56 AM
My heart went out, and still does, to the Hoppen family, the Orleans family, and in the very real case of you and Lane, both together. Love takes time, but so does healing. I’m sure Larry is proud of the lengths the rest of you are going to in order to keep the Orleans name and traditions going strong in the face of overwhelming emotional odds. Keep the faith. Peace and blessings to you all. Michael Shoshani, Chicago
Tommy Crist Says:
August 28th, 2012 at 9:04 AM
First my deepest Condolences to Family & Friends he had touched so many in so many different ways. I have been a singer for 40 years and had the pleasure of meeting Larry several times, he was an inspiration and a big influence on me his Voice (like no other) and concern for others gave me a great outlook on Life (Thank you Larry) I was on my way to see him in Bethlehem when i got the news I was truly devastated, but because of him it’s not just “Let there be Music,” There is Music and the world is blessed for having his presents on Earth. I’ll miss never being able to see him again but i will never ever forget him. May the Band carrie on with Peace in there Hearts as he would have wanted. See you in Bethlehem……………………TC
August 28th, 2012 at 9:43 AM
Lance, Larry will always be a LEGEND to me ! even though i live in Ireland he took the time and trouble to get you guys to autograph Dvd gift set I bought ! I am sorry that i have never seen you guy’s live but with my Surround sound system I CRANK UP THE VOLUME EVERY NIGHT , IT SOUND’S GOOD IN THE CHURCH!!! May god bless you and all your family’s . take care and keep on rocking !!!
Rgds John, Dublin Ireland.
(ps any of you guy’s need Taxi in Dublin Im your man!! on the house!!!)
August 28th, 2012 at 4:43 PM
Lance, again I will offer my deepest condolences to you, Lane and the rest of your family and to Larry’s family.
Your feelings here are so eloquently written. It can’t have been easy to write them, and I was touched to tears reading them.
I have remained a fan of Orleans since meeting you all at Shaboo so long ago…a fan of your music and the musicians as people. I know that there are so many that feel the same way.
I was happy to read that you chose to play the committed dates, and agree that music has healing powers. I feel that listening to your music helped all of us who were also so, so sad.
So, thank you for your words. I hope you will be close to my area sometime again to listen, and remember.
August 28th, 2012 at 7:27 PM
Lance, Family and Band…thank-you all again for the music, the love and also keeping us die-hard fans informed of your every move. My family (Jodi, Ashley, Erika and of course Larry’s favorite…Julia) had tickets for the Trio show on your Traditional Labor Day Weekend show…but sadly was cancelled. This is something my girls and I always looked forward in doing together, was to see an Orleans concert…usually in Woodstock. This year’s concert was to be in a beautiful Theater in Glens Falls, NY a short drive from our home. Sadly it will be a quiet weekend for us now, but look forward in joining you all for Larry’s memorial in Woodstock on the 16th. I submitted a whole bunch of photos to be used for the slideshow and am just so happy to be part of something special for Larry. He always went out of his way before and after a show to make sure myself and my family were always special to him and his appreciation for our love of him and the band.
August 28th, 2012 at 7:29 PM
P.S. I hit send by accident…we will continue to support Orleans as we always have, and look forward to whatever you have planned for your futures. Peace to you all…and may God Bless Larry forever! Thank-you again. Mike Leonard