From Saeko S. Cohn, Nyack, NY
On May 31, a blissful Whitsunday afternoon, I received a text message from a friend: "Did you hear about the fire in Pine Lodge?" "What is Pine Lodge?" I asked. I soon learned that it was one of the residential buildings in the Rudolf Steiner Fellowship Community in Chestnut Ridge, NY – the very building where our lyre colleague Laura Langford Schnur lived.
Pictures: 1) Laura with the restored “Maria Renold” Hofstedter lyre on International Lyre Day, July 2020. 2) The fire in Pine Lodge. The remains of the building were demolished relatively recently. For details, please click here. (Picture courtesy of the Fellowship Community) That day, the devastating fire consumed the entire building, which was home to Laura, ten other senior residents, and two co-workers as well as the Fellowship's weavery and guest quarters. 3) Laura’s John Bryan solo lyre following the fire and water damage. (Picture: Alan Thewless)
Miraculously, no one was injured, but the extent of personal loss was and remains unmeasurable. Our lyre friend and colleague, Laura, and the other residents spent the entire summer adjusting to a new living environment elsewhere on the Fellowship campus. Laura’s cat, Papoose, was gone for a whole week but finally returned, to everyone’s great joy, after being searched for by the whole community.
Laura lost most of her personal belongings in the fire, including her vast collection of printed music, music books, children’s instruments from her years as a Waldorf teacher, and many stringed instruments acquired during her anthroposophical music therapy training, the Dorion School of Music Therapy. Her two lyres survived, shielded by their deformed cases, but they were severely water-logged. With great expectations, they were sent to lyre builder Alan Thewless soon after the fire. In the meantime, her set of metal gongs and larger set of choir-chimes were retrieved from the rubble and restored at considerable expense.
Today, more than half a year after this tragic event, we are asking for your support to help Laura fund her purchase of a new lyre. Our goal is to raise $3000 for this purpose.
We first sought ways to restore her lyres. In fact, in July, Alan did a marvelous job restoring her Hofsteder solo lyre and made a beautiful wooden case for it. This had been Maria Renold’s own lyre during her years of tuning research in Dornach, Switzerland. After Mrs. Renold’s death, it was on “permanent loan” to Laura from the Renold family. We hoped to restore Laura’s own, beloved John Bryan solo lyre, but it was more severely damaged. Finally, due to its unique shape and construction, Laura and Alan decided not to put further efforts into its restoration.
Afflicted by the pandemic, the year 2020 was an extraordinarily challenging year for all of us. As we turn the page on the beginning of a new year, we wished to bring the attention of our LANA members and friends to the great personal tragedy that our lyre colleague Laura has had to endure over the last seven months. Many of us never have or will experience a personal tragedy of this magnitude, so we cannot imagine what Laura has had to go through, both materially and psychologically.
On a personal note, I have been fortunate to have been able to play the lyre with Laura regularly over thepast year. I fondly recall afternoon visits to Laura’s apartment, drinking tea, browsing through her music files (now all burned) and coping music on her printer. Shortly before the beginning of the pandemic in February, with lyrists Sally Willig and Christiane Landowne, Laura and I performed in the Threehold Auditorium. A few hours before the concert, we experienced a “tuning” crisis, arguing whether to tune to Laura’s non-tempered tuning or to our tempered electric tuners. Laura, a student and teacher over many years of the unique approach to tuning championed by one of her important music mentors, Maria Renold, ended up tuning most of our six lyres, affirming that we cannot mix tempered and non-tempered tunings when we perform, because we would have “very discerning people” in our audience, including some of the world’s most respected eurythmy teachers. Everything Laura said on that day remains deep in my heart, and at the onset of our time of confinement at home, I resolved to learn the Maria Renold approach to tuning. A few days before the fire, Laura had sent me hard copies of some of her writings about the Renold tuning, which are now indispensable guides for my personal “tuning path.” Having worked with this over the last nine months, I can attest to every single point Laura made about this inherently therapeutic tuning. The fact that tuning alone can make such an audible and tangible difference on the lyre is a great blessing. Especially at a time when the world seems to need more harmony than ever before, it is wonderful to know that the simple act of tuning a lyre can become a step toward knowing ourselves and how to better serve the world.
We invite you to read more about Laura and her contribution to the work of the Lyre Association of North America through her articles and presentations on this important approach to tuning. In addition, please look for re-prints of one or two of these articles in an upcoming edition of our Soundings journal.
Thank you in advance for your support for Laura, who has brought an understanding of this tuning approach to so many of our members and friends. As she still has much to teach us, it is crucial for Laura to obtain a lyre that she is comfortable playing at this point in her life. For this end, we request and express gratitude for your kind support.