backroads music jam

We wanted to be early for the December Music Jam at the Clotho United Methodist church in western Todd County so that we’d get a good seat. We were early, but that didn’t matter. The joyous music, which poured out the door when we opened it, was in full swing and the best seats had already been taken by a large group of smiling and toe tapping music fans. 

Clotho is an unincorporated village of about ten people. But hundreds of people from miles around say, “I’m from Clotho” when asked where they are from. That’s largely because of the parishioners and pastors at the Methodist Church have, for decades, insisted that their ministry is about building community — and that community is bigger than they are.

The church’s anchor event is its first Sunday in August ice cream social, which is one of the “must-go-to” events for hundreds of people from wide and far. In the last few years a group of parishioners and friends have been serving coffee and treats to all comers on the first Friday of the month from 6:30 to 9:00 a.m. Then there’s a community board game and potluck supper Sunday nights during the winter.

The First Mondays Music Jam is the church’s most recent foray into community building. It’s popular, as the 30-plus audience members and about a dozen musicians from Alexandria, Sauk Centre, Long Prairie, Browerville and Rose City attest to.  

Dick Lackman, from Long Prairie, launched the project, according to pastor Kali Christensen, who was busy turning the sanctuary into a refreshment stand. But Dick is in Texas right now and the project is full steam ahead in his absence. One after another musician takes the lead on a Christmas hymn or carol or tune. They play accordions, guitars, ukuleles, banjos and violins. Some sing like they’ve come out of the Carolina mountains for the afternoon and there’s woman who sings like Johnny Cash’s sister while playing her guitar on her lap. She sings a duet with an Irishman who loves a story and has a voice like an angel. 

“Oh, I like that,” says the talented violin player as she passes the microphone down the row to the next musician. He’s a big lanky guy whose acoustic guitar booms with the power of an electric guitar. Next to him is a gentleman with a lovely baritone and he takes us through a delightful rendition of “On the Wings of a Dove.”

After an hour and a half of music, it’s time for a cookie break and we’ve got to go.

“Y’all come back,” one of the mountain ladies says.