Autumn: Music of Harvest and Home

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Nov 20, 2017 / 0 comments

The turn of seasons from autumn to winter brings gatherings, travels, time for reflection, and in the United States, the holiday of Thanksgiving. Wherever in the world you may find yourself, it has been and continues to be a challenging time, with upheavals and uncertainties in public life - and no doubt challenges changes in each of our personal lives, as well. It has been and still is, a time for asking questions and looking for hope, thinking about the power of connection and the value of friendship, holding out a hand to give help and to receive it, and to reflect on all that.

Autumn: Music of Harvest and Home

It is also a time of thinking about home and homecoming. This is a season for the giving of gifts, too. Music is a lovely gift to give, and to receive. Here is music to inspire your thinking about all this, beginning with two pieces which come from far afield of American Thanksgiving.

Cara Dillon grew up in County Derry, Northern Ireland. She maintains strong ties to her home ground, though work and family have found her living most of her life away from Northern Ireland. Her latest album at this writing is called Wanderer. Dillon says that she and her husband and musical partner Sam Lakeman (that's Sam you hear on piano ) think of working with old songs as finding gems that they dust off a bit and put in new settings. The Tern and the Swallow is a traditional song from Derry, which you could hear as a lament. It is also a song of thinking about and coming back to a well-loved place. 

Word of Thanksgiving celebrations in America may or may not have reached Robert Burns in Scotland. The eighteenth century bard knew about farming, however, often working behind the plough and caring for animals as he was growing up and later on his own farms. Farming is, indeed, hard work, but especially celebrating harvest time in the autumn of the year there's a lighter side, too. Emily Smith and Jamie McClennan tap into this with their version of The Plooman. It is on their album of the songs of Robert Burns, which is called Adoon Winding Nith.

Farmers know of the work to bring food to the table. So too do those who make their livings following the crops. American folk singer Woody Guthrie wrote several songs about the lives of migrant workers. Pastures of Plenty is one that still rings true some fifty years after he wrote it. The band Solas re-imagined the song with Irish American flair for their album Reunion. A number of former band mates returned to join in for that project,. Among them, for Pastures of Plenty, was singer Karan Casey.

Rhythms of harvest and connections that suggests helped inspire guitarist Molly Mason for her song Bound for Another Harvest Home. Mason is originally from the US west coast, For many years though, she's made her home in the Catskill region of New York state with her husband, Jay Ungar. That is Jay's fiddle you hear on this song. You will have heard both Jay and Molly on their own recordings -- this song appears on Harvest Home and on Songs of Stephen Foster -- and on the soundtracks of many films by Ken Burns.

Home, harvest, food, connection, reflection, the turn of seasons from autumn to winter -- there's time for reflection on all of that. Time for taking courage in the reflection and time for reaching out to share the good things of the season, too. When Carrie Newcomer sings Room at the Table in concert, she often invites her audiences to join in and sing -- and clap, and dance -- along. You may want to do the same. You may find the song on her albums A Permeable Life and Live at the Buskirk Chumley Theater

Homecoming, gathering, sharing, giving and receiving of friendship and family and gifts -- may this music add to your ways of celebrating this season.


Read other stories in this series:

Asking Questions, Telling Stories: Music for Times of Change

Music for Unsettling Times: Conversations and Questions

Music of Resilience

Songs of Hope

Songs of Hope, Gracias a La Vida

Songs of Courage

Songs of Friendship

Music in Times of Change

Music for Reflection

Three Feet or So: Music and Creating Positive Change in the World

Music: The Power of Connection

Geography of Hope: Music of Immigration and Refugees


Kerry Dexter is Music Editor at Wandering Educators. You may reach Kerry at music at wanderingeducators dot com.

You may find more of Kerry's work in National Geographic Traveler, Strings, Perceptive Travel, Journey to Scotland, Irish Fireside, and other places, as well as at her own site, Music Road