Musical event, featuring local artists, to pay tribute to Dave Kirkland

ARCH ROCK – Love makes the world go ’round, and Dave Kirkland delivered it through music.

“You could tell Dave from a mile off,” said friend and fellow musician, Jon Mertz.

He described Kirkland as a positive, happy and beautiful person.

Tragedy hit on Christmas Eve when the Mifflin man, owner and operator of the Mifflintown business Back Home Trading Company and musician in the local band Blue Heron, was struck and killed by a car on Route 35 in Milford Township. Mertz said Kirkland’s death devastated an entire community.

“It threw everybody that knew him into shock,” he said. “It forced not just me, but everybody, to search for a positive in this seemingly black, negative situation.”

The positive, as it always had been for Kirkland, came in the form of music.

“Suddenly I realized, ‘What am I waiting for and what am I thinking about?” Mertz recalled. “One thing that needs to be done is for there to be a musical tribute.”

A musical tribute to Dave Kirkland is set to be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at Laurel Rock Farm, 232 Laurel Rock Road in Arch Rock. There is a suggested donation of $5.

Mertz said he asked Will Markley to be the musical director for the event, which will feature Blue Heron, Dave’s and his wife, Delphine’s, band. More musical talent will include Clark Lewin, guitarist from East Waterford; The Roads, a band that includes Kirkland’s guitar student, Collin Hadsell; The Heggs, including Tom and Sue Hipple, Will Markley, Tessa Gross, Lucas Fultz and Mertz; Erica Shellenberger and 61/49; The WHORLEY Brothers; Katherine Kaufman; and various guitar students of Kirkland’s.

“Everybody’s gonna be bringing their A-game to pay tribute to a guy who changed everybody’s life,” Mertz said. “I’m looking forward to it being a powerful night – the only tears allowed are tears of joy.”

Delphine Kirkland said Dave would be happy to see the event come together.

“Dave would never have imagined how much his life and music has affected others,” she said. “This tribute should inspire others to play, and that would make him happy.”

Delphine said Dave had been playing and studying music for close to 50 years before his death. The couple had gigs throughout the summer and fall, and they were working on six new songs, poised to start writing.

“Above all, Dave loved to play,” she said. “He played every minute he could. He would learn from anyone he could. He was always teaching.”

Mertz said Dave taught kids of all ages to play – he guessed dozens of students, at least.

But Dave’s musical outreach was an extension of a greater mission, Mertz explained. He said Dave was a spiritual man from whom he learned every time they sat down together.

“Delphine told me … Dave believed in humanity. He believed that we were on an upward spiral,” Mertz said. “We’re being perfected every day, we’re moving toward something good.”

Mertz said the tribute event will be a positive dose the audience can take with them.

“I want anybody that ever played with Dave or played lessons from him to bring a guitar and join in,” he said.

By the end of the night, he hopes everyone in the building will be providing percussion, playing or singing along.