Music for Beginnings and Changes

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Jan 17, 2022 / 0 comments

The start of a new year always seems to suggest and invite beginnings and changes, thinking over what has come before and considering what may be.

In these shifting times with changes and uncertainties continuing in every aspect of life, music can offer reflection, hope, and guidance when considering all these situations.

Music for Beginnings and Changes

Jennifer Cutting took on the new year's start directly in her song The Turning Year. It is also the title of the six track album from her group Jennifer Cutting's Ocean Orchestra. Ocean does a lot in those tracks, including telling a tale of Robin Hood, reworking a legend involving a sunken village where church bells still sound, and offering nods to springtime and Saint Patrick's day.

The Turning Year appears twice, first in collaboration which finds Steve Winick, Lisa Moscatiello, and Jennifer Cutting of Maryland's Ocean joined by New England-based Lynn Mahoney Rowan, Will Thomas Rowan, Lauren Breunig, and Jeremy Carter-Gordon of the group Windborne.  "We live in hope...we pray for peace," the seven musicians sing unaccompanied. In a quieter fashion, Moscatiello and Cutting revisit The Turning Year with just voice and piano to close the album.

Finding inspiration and space for reflection in landscape is a way to consider changes. Eliza Gilkyson offers that through the songs on her album Songs from the River Wind. After long residence in Texas, the singer recently returned to the mountains of northern New Mexico. For this song, At the Foot of the Mountain, Gilkyson wrote the lyrics and sent them to John Gorka, who quickly created music to go along with her ideas.

Working for Zeus is the name of a recent album from the Scottish trio Salt House. Jenny Sturgeon, who lives in Shetland, and Ewen MacPherson and Lauren MacColl, who live in Scotland's northern Highlands, often get together to write, but current situations meant they wrote the music for this project at distance. Perhaps that added to the substance of the tracks they created, which include nature, work, reflection, and a touch of the mystic. This is the title track, on which Maija Kauhanen playing the Finnish stringed instrument kantele joins in.

Speaking of mystic, the artists of Spell Songs who are Karine Polwart, Julie Fowlis, Seckou Keita, Kris Drever, Rachel Newton, Beth Porter, and Jim Molyneux have a new album out, called Spell Songs II: Let the Light In. Continuing on with their explorations of the connections of nature, word, art, music, and creativity, here is a song especially appropriate for winter reflection: Bird of the Blizzard. Scotland's Julie Fowlis songs lead.

When finding one's way through changes and choices, encouragement can be helpful. In her song You Can Do This Hard Thing, Carrie Newcomer offers just that, made vivid and real through brief vignettes of times she herself has benefitted from that reminder. Newcomer is based in Indiana. The song is on the album The Beautiful Not Yet.

Beginnings and changes include upbeat and lively aspects too. To go along with those, here is The Oak, Ivy, and Ash, composed and played by The McDades. Siblings Shannon Johnson, Solon McDade, and and Jeremiah McDade form the center of the award-winning group, joined by musical friends Andy Hillhouse and Eric Breton. The McDades are based in Alberta in western Canada. The Oak, Ivy, and Ash is on their album The Empress, which contains original tracks, as well as covers of traditional tunes and songs from contemporary Canadians.

Hope, reflection, creativity, connection -- these all form aspects of thinking about and navigating change. All are present in the song Somewhere Along the Road. The song was written by Rick Kemp, and is sung here by Irish American singer Cathie Ryan.

Somehow a guiding light
 Always shows the way
 To those who lose their way by night
 Searching for the day...

Ryan sings.

Ryan liked the song so well that she chose to call the album on which you will find it Somewhere Along the Road, where it is paired with the tune Jacob's Waltz by John McCusker. You may also like to see Ryan's album Through Wind & Rain.

May the creativity of these musicians be good companion as you consider changes and choices in 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 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.