Taking music seriously
by Jim Matson
Minot Daily News; August 23, 2003
CANDO – The gospel group Special Delivery has been around for about 11 years now and doesn’t plan on quitting even after losing a key member. The group had been a trio, but Brenda Halverson, the sister of Chuck Damschen, singer and guitar player for the group, decided to take a break from the band. That leaves Damschen with singer Catherine Anfinson.
“We’re kind of in a transition,” he said. “We’re not pushing it, but we feel we’ll get a third voice again.”
Special Delivery stays busy during the year, performing 50 to 80 times. They stay busy, both with full-time jobs. Damschen is a farmer, and Anfinson is a bookkeeper at a bank. They did find time to host the third annual Gospel Extravaganza on Aug. 3 with about 10 acts performing.
Even though the group has developed a following, performing is not the main reason they travel and sing.
“Our purpose is to spread the gospel through music,” Damschen said. “We don’t look at ourselves as entertainers.”
They do, however take their music seriously.
They just released their latest CD in 2002 – they’ve released four earlier ones – and it was done in a Nashville studio with session players. Anfinson said the CD cost about $15,000 to produce. It sounds expensive, crisp with a professional sheen. The name of the disc is “Signed, Sealed and Delivered.”
Anfinson and her husband, Ron, met Damschen about 11 years ago during “coffee house” music gatherings in the basements of churches. Soon after, Damschen and Anfinson started the band with Halverson. Damschen’s wife, Alice, plays keyboards, and Ron Anfinson is the lights and sound man.
In the beginning, they called places, asking if there was a chance to perform. That’s changed today. Now a popular Christian music group, churches and conferences usually call Special Delivery to get them to perform.
They’re certainly not in it for the money. Most of the payment for their performances comes through free-will offerings.
Damschen is soft-spoken and his voice is mellow on the latest disc’s songs. Sometimes it’s straight gospel. Other times, the music has a light country feel.
“We do quite a variety,” Damschen said. “We do some contemporary and light-country gospel. We even do southern gospel, but we call it northern gospel.”
What’s the main difference between northern and southern gospel?
“We don’t do any screaming,” said Anfinson, laughing.
The group tours all over the Upper Midwest and has about 200 to 300 songs it can play. Even after 11 years, they practice.
“Sometimes it’s twice a week,” Anfinson said. “You can’t sing the same old ones. You’ve got to sing some new ones.”
So new songs are always being added to their songbook.
They do standards like “Rock of Ages” and “How Great Thou Art.” Those are usually played at funerals, though, Damschen said.
They’re still adjusting to being a duet. There’s less room for error.
“With two people, you have to be more tight,” Anfinson said.
Damschen grew up in a musical family. His father played accordion and guitar. His grandfather played the violin. All members of the family sang.
Music was important in Anfinson’s home, too. Her dad sang in a choir and would coerce his children to listen to different forms of music.
“He’d have us listen to opera and classical,” Andfinson said.
How long does the group expect to perform?
“Indefinitely,” Damschen said.
Anfinson tosses out a guess.
“We’ll be really old,” she said.