Autumn's Music: Reflection, Community, and Connection

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Oct 16, 2023 / 0 comments

It’s early autumn at the time of writing. A time when it may be good to be outside; a time when weather or circumstance may invite you inside.

A time for reflection, whether gathering in community or staying on one’s own.

Autumn's Music: Reflection, Community, and Connection

Reflecting on that gathering in community was the spark for Carrie Newcomer’s song called Potluck. Newcomer was talking with her friend Siri Undlin.“We’re both midwesterners,” Newcomer said, “and we got to laughing about all the thingss people bring to potluck dinners.”

The reflection and that laughter turned into the song they wrote together about acceptance, reflection, trust, and community. You will find it recorded on Newcomer’s album A Great Wild Mercy. Newcomer is based in Indiana.

Collaboration and connection may be among musicians and other creative professionals who make and record music to be shared; it may be between those who listen.

Collaboration is at the heart of what cellist Su-a Lee does, whether she is working in classical music with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, creating new music in varied styles as a member of the group Mr. McFall’s Chamber, or supporting Scotland’s top folk musicians in live performance and in recording.

With all that, you may imagine that Lee, who is based in Scotland, has a full calendar. She says that “Playing solo is not really my thing.”

It’s natural, then, that when she set about making an album of her own, she imagined creatve partnerships. That is what the album Dialogues came to be.

It comprises both newly composed pieces and material from traditional sources, which Lee plays in collaboration with a range duo partners, both singers and instrumentalists. The music is varied, but in general, the tracks focus on the cello’s place in folk music.

This is Waltzska for Su-a, a piece that fellow cellist and top folk player Natalie Haas (you’ve met her music in this series before) plays with Su-a.

The only musician you will hear on the album I Lift My Lamp is Jacqueline Schwab.

Her instrument is the piano. Her collaboration in this case is with idea and with audience. Through 19 tracks on the recording I Lift My Lamp, Schwab shares stories in music from immigrants to the Americas and from countries from which they came.  

Growing up in Pittsburgh and now based in Massachusetts, Schwab counts Swiss, German, Jewish, and Ukranian among her own heritages.  

You will have heard her music on other projects involving collaborators, among them many films by Ken Burns, including the Civil War and Mark Twain. This album, however, allows focus on her solo piano work. This reflective tune is called For Ireland I’ll Not Tell Her Name.

Jackie Morris (she’s the painter you see working in this video) learned that a number of words, mostly to do with plants and animals, were to be dropped from a popular children’s dictionary where she lives in the UK. She decided to make a book with a series of paintings that would celebrate the things that were to be left out, to call them back. She contacted nature writer Robert Macfarlane to see if he’d write a forward for the book, and he came back with another idea: what if he were to write a series of poems, spells, so to speak, about these plants and animals?

One book, and then another came to be, and along the way, organizers of Folk by The Oak Festival saw the possibilities for music.  

They gathered a small group of musicians they knew had interests in the natural world: Jim Molyneux, Kris Drever, Beth Porter, Julie Fowlis, Rachel Newton, Seckou Keita, and Karine Polwart. Two albums and a number of concerts have come from this thus far.

This song is called Oak, which you will find on the album Spell Songs II: Let the Light In. Kris Drever, who is from Scotland, sings lead, backed by the other Spell Songs Singers. In the video, you can also get hints of the collaborative process of writing, arranging, and recording this music. The lyrics may have you reflecting on connection and collaboration between humans and nature, too.

May the creativity of these artists help you reflect on the possibilities and presences of connection and collaboration as you make your way through these shifting times.



Thank you for staying with us through this journey. Below, you'll find a link that will take you to an article which has a bit more backstory on the series. It also has links to a number of the stories, including ones called Listening for Community, Music for Winter's Changes, and The Geography of Hope.

Music for Shifting Times

Music for Shifting Times



Kerry Dexter is Music Editor at Wandering Educators. 

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.