The Spirit speaks directly to our hearts through music.
That's why music has always had such power to move people into positive action.
--Kenny Loggins

CarlCarl Thor

A life-long musician since beginning to plunk out familiar tunes on the piano at the age of 3 or 4, Carl Thor took up the hammered dulcimer in 1990 and began performing in 1993. Piano and dulcimer are his main instruments, but he also sings, produces electronic music and plays mandolin and hand percussion. He played euphonium (baritone horn) through his school years, including 3 years with the University of Illinois bands. Since 2001, he has pursued music full time, and has studied music theory and music technology at Clark College and Portland Community College (PCC), while working as a performer, teacher, composer/arranger, promoter, and sound engineer.


Adept with piano, hammered dulcimer, vocals, percussion and, increasingly, mandolin, Carl is a founding member of dulcimer/harp duo, Celtinalia, the Vancouver Celtic and folk group Talisman, and contra dance bands Hands4 and Cascade Crossing, and performs occasionally as a soloist. He is also a 13 year veteran of the Portland Megaband, has led many open bands, and plays regularly for English country dancing. He has provided hammered dulcimer accompaniment for the Aurora Chorus, the Portland Lesbian Choir, the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, the Oregon Repertory Singers Youth Chamber Choir, and the Southminster Presbyterian Church choir.

Carl Thor and Carolyn Cruso at Oysterville, Washington, October 20, 2013:

In the past 20 years, Carl has been drawn back to his original instrument, the piano, playing for dances and sessions. He adds his driving yet lyrical keyboard rhythm to Hands4 and Cascade Crossing, and has played keys with Orcas Ruckus, LCL Express, the lab band at PCC and with The Suspects, a PCC faculty-student jazz combo. Carl serves as an accompanist, and contra dance band leader, for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Vancouver and for the July Eliot Institute camp at Seabeck, WA.

He has also sung in several different choral groups, including the Touch of Class Chorale and the Clark College Concert Choir. In the past few years, he has been experimenting with electronic music, currently working on techno contra dance music projects. His latest instrumental obsession is the mandolin, which not only enables him to write more credible fiddle tunes, but is darn fun to play and a lot easier to carry around. In 2003, he renovated his embouchure, after 27 years, to play double bell euphonium with the New Old-Time Chautauqua traveling vaudeville show.

Carl Thor and Carolyn Cruso at Hood River, Oregon, October 19, 2013:

Composer & Songwriter

Carl writes memorable tunes and songs in various styles, and his music has been performed by Celtinalia, Talisman, Hands4, Cascade Crossing, Joyride, Mystic Spatula, the Portland Megaband, the Hat Band, the PCC Jazz Band, and others. His tune, “The Sidereal Shuffle,” appears in Volume 2 of the Portland Collection, and two more tunes, “Ni Felis Gratis” and “Terrebonne Depot” are included in Volume 3. He has written and produced music for use in video by the PCC Multimedia department, his song, “Pie in the Sky” is included in the Portland Folk compilation CD produced by the Portland Folk Music Society, and his dulcimer piece “Manzanita Morning” is on the Artichoke Nights 2 CD from Artichoke Music.

In addition, Carl has published a book of his music entitled Come to the Dance Hall: A Collection of Melodies for Diverse Musical Instruments, Suitable for Use in Country Dancing and Related Pastimes, now in its 2nd edition, and has begun to publish sheet music of his original pieces and arrangements for hammered dulcimer. “Deep Peace,” a choral setting by Sara Martin and Carl Thor of a Gaelic blessing text, was performed by the July, 2007, Eliot Institute choir at Seabeck, Washington.

Wild Geese and the Full Moon, written and performed by Carl Thor:

White Clover, written, performed and recorded by Carl Thor:

dulcimer handsTeacher

Carl is recognized throughout the Pacific Northwest as a knowledgable, patient and inspiring teacher, and over the last 20+ years has taught dulcimer in workshops at the Chatter Creek dulcimer festival, the Spring Fling Rendezvous and, prior to moving to the Pacific Northwest, the Prairie Dulcimer Club in Kansas City. He teaches private lessons and workshops at Artichoke Music in Portland, and group piano classes for the PCC Community Education program. In addition to two years of course work in music theory at Clark College in Vancouver, he has studied dulcimer with Steve Schneider, Linda Lowe Thompson, and Ken Kolodner, and brings a lifetime of musical experience with piano, bands and choirs to his playing and teaching. Carl can help you to get started, or to improve your skills if you already play. His goals as a music teacher are to help the student to have fun and begin creating real music quickly, and to foster an understanding of music theory along the way.

Sound Engineer

Carl has over 20 years experience providing sound reinforcement for acoustic musicians. In addition to running sound for his own performing groups, he provides reliable and listenable live sound reinforcement for contra dances and English Country dances, wedding receptions, concerts and other live music situations. He has acted as producer for all of Talisman's recordings and has recorded and produced song demos, band demos, and his own projects. In 2006, he engineered a CD for the Michael Servetus Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, has done mixing for a CD project by Portland band, the Bull Dozers., and he always has several studio projects in the works. Once in a while he even finishes one of them!

Techno contra remix of Cascade Crossing, Devil in the Strawstack (trad) / Bus Stop Reel (© Anita Anderson, used by permission) / Crossing the Cascades (© Carl Thor); recorded, mixed, remixed and mastered by Carl Thor:


In addition to handling promotion, booking, and management for Talisman since its inception in 1994, Carl books for Hands4, Cascade Crossing, Celtinalila, and his solo and duo performances. He is also an organizer, webmaster, and booker for the Contra in The Couve! dance series in Vancouver. He was the promoter for Music at the Moon, a monthly acoustic music concert series that ran for two years (2004-2006) at the former August Moon in Vancouver.