A crisp October evening spirited everyone’s steps into the shadowy nave of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Webster Groves, Missouri. Within this intimate setting, fixtures suffused a warm glow. There would be a concert. A slight musician wearing a white collarless dress shirt and black suspenders and trousers stood in the sanctuary and tuned a hammered dulcimer; from its strings, a spirited taste of the concert to come.

Following a brief introduction, tantalizing rhythms imploded our predicable worlds, nudging us into stillness. A long piece, the tension was almost unbearable. Then it was over. Rick Thurn, composer, teacher, builder of instruments, and storyteller palmed his hammers and smiled to the audience, hungry for more.

“That was called ‘Spider on the Bed,’ a piece that came to me in a dream,” he said, still awed by the experience. “When I awoke, I could play it on my dulcimer.”

In place of childhood toys, Rick had listened to recordings of folk songs. One of them, ‘The Crawdad Hole,’ fired a life-long passion, its simple repetitive rhythms compelling him toward the Sacred within him. He, too, would school himself in the rich folk tradition of our country. He would make music with their instruments: hammed dulcimer, banjo, harmonica and others.

Then wistful strains of ‘Oh Shenandoah,’ dating back to the eighteenth century, evoked experiences of settlers, lovers, sailors, traders, merchants, and runaway slaves. Even more folk songs and stories followed, inundating us in the longings of simple people, who transmuted life’s tragedies, hardships, and joys into songs, accompanied by mountain dulcimers. While developing our country, they had formed meaningful communities and survived impossible odds – certainly a model for our times. Witness the string-pickers in the Occupy Wall Street movement camped out in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park.

Thus an uncanny wisdom worked its transformation among us. We experienced the cathartic effect of music from a master,  at one with the Master Music Maker. With the humble Psalmist, Rick can proclaim, “I will sing and make melody.” – a melody that continues reverberating among us.

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