My college experience was accompanied by a soundtrack supplied by the classic rock stylings of The Moody Blues — “Threshold of a Dream” was played over and over again in the art department down at Gorham State Teachers College, now the University of Southern Maine. When I learned that Maine had its own cover band of this famed British band called Sojourn and that they were performing on June 15 at the Somerset Abbey in Madison, I just had to get an interview with a member. The contact person was Mark McNeil, a member of Castlebay for 11 years whom I was familiar with. He also was in a Beatles tribute band for 11 years. I reached him by phone at his West Bath home and began by asking him to tell me about Sojourn.

McNeil: Well, it was originally my idea and a friend of mine who at the time played drums and was a big Moody Blues fan. We had talked about it many years ago, but the time never was right to actually go ahead and try it. Four years ago, we finally were free enough to give it a shot, so we went looking for the other three or four people. We weren’t sure at the time how many and found them via Craigslist, actually, and got together. It almost immediately clicked so we started putting the material together. The original drummer eventually had to leave, he had other commitments, but we picked up another drummer and kept on going. You have to find people who are really into it, because we all knew it was not going to be a band that was going to play every weekend or probably even every month and make a lot of money doing it, because it’s a concert-type band, not a dance band or a bar band. We had to find guys who really, really loved the music. We were lucky enough to do that.

Q: Now, the line-up you sent over to me is Chris Doehne, lead guitar; Jerry Perron, acoustic guitar; Parker Kenyon, bass; Luc Bergeron, drums; and yourself on keyboards. That is the current line-up, correct?

McNeil: Yes, that’s correct.

Q: Just out of curiosity, how many of you guys vocalize?

McNeil: We all do. Luc is a little bit less in the mix as of right now because he’s newer. We did change drummers, so Luc hasn’t jumped in on vocals, although he does sing very well. Right now it’s four of us out front doing vocals.

Q: So, there is no lead singer, per se.

McNeil: No, we all do leads — the four of us all will take leads. I do a lot of Ray’s stuff — my voice is most like Ray Thomas’ voice, so I can do a lot of his material.

Q: Now, what is your repertoire like at this point?

McNeil: Oh, we’ve got probably a good four-hours’ worth of stuff, if we needed to do it all.

Q: Wow!

McNeil: Yeah, it’s quite extensive. Luckily, we usually only need two, so it’s not a problem.

Q: Have you ever played at the Somerset Abbey before?

McNeil: No, we haven’t. I’ve never even been there. On their website they have pictures of this huge tent that they put up in the parking lot. It’s got sides, windows, a heater, a big stage inside where they hoist up chandeliers. It’s quite an operation, so we’re looking forward to getting up there. They bring in a sound man with full sound equipment, so we show up and plug in and play, which is great for us.

Q: Is there anything that you’d like to get across to the folks reading this article concerning the show you have coming up in Madison?

McNeil: Well, there’s nothing different about the show itself from what we usually do. We try to play the music very true to the original. We try to maintain the original sound as much as possible, but we’re not necessarily fanatics about everything being perfect note for note, either. Our logo is “Sojourn—sounds of the Moody Blues” because the important thing about their music was the unique sound of it, the unique feel of the music, and that’s what we try very hard to maintain in terms of both the instrumentation and the sound of the vocals. So, it’s a show that’s very true to the original sound. If you like the Moody Blues — loved them over the years — you’re very apt to like what we do, because we maintain that to a very high degree. So, I think that’s probably the most important thing that I would put out there for anybody who was coming to the show. You’re going to hear something pretty authentic. That’s a deliberate attempt on our part and I think we do a pretty good job.

Lucky Clark has spent 49 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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