Richard Hite approaches the three large gongs, kneeling reverentially and nestles in among the bells, conch shells, Tibetan temple horns and goat horns on the floor. He reaches up with a mallet, and with a feathery touch begins priming one gong with an arcing motion across the textured brass. The result is a continuous low drone that resonates deep into the skin. With his other hand he gives a second gong a glancing blow, the direct tone weaving into the undulating tones of the first.
"Playing the instrument regularly is as much a practice of my own spiritual path as anything else I do," says the 57-year-old Hite. "For me, it's a meeting with God, it's an expression of gratitude. I had a God experience the first time I heard one."
Hite and his partner of 20 years, physical therapist Susan Thompson, are living at the Embracing Simplicity Hermitage in Hendersonville while preparing for a concert at the Light Center in Black Mountain on April 25. "We don't have a plan after that," he says with astounding faith.