Music for the Changes of Autumn

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Nov 19, 2018 / 0 comments

Autumn: at times there are vibrant colors in the foliage. At times there are muted hues of rain swept days. The stars are brilliant some nights. On other nights,there are no stars to see for the clouds. Sometimes there's a hint of warm breeze; more often, it's the sharp edge of wind that hints of winter. At times there's sunshine; at times there's snow. It is a time for gatherings, and a time for solitude. There is time for conversation, and space for reflection. Autumn: it is  a season of shifts.
As you make your way through the changes of autumn, here are music ideas to go along with reflecting on all this.

Music for the Changes of Autumn

Sarah-Jane Summers is a fiddle player, composer, and teacher who grew up in the Highlands of Scotland. There's music in her family tree. Summers often shares her gifts in collaborative settings, and she's long been drawn to connections between Nordic music and the music of Scotland. For her album Solo, though, she chose almost all tunes from Scotland, both music she'd learnt early on and pieces gleaned from more recent research. She also chose create exactly as the title suggests, solo, in a church near her current home in Norway. Her husband, musician and producer Juhani Silvola, handled the recording. All that said about music from the tradition, there is one piece Summers herself composed. It begins this journey in music. It is called Morning Prayer.

There's no doubt it has been and continues to be a time of change and discord in the public sphere, where ever in the world you may be and however you might place yourself in the spectrum of thinking about that. On their album Wintersong, Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem offer a song called Ring Out Wild Bells. The lyrics are part of a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, set to music by Arbo. One of the verses is:
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Which seems rather appropriate to the times now, as it no doubt did to Tennyson when he wrote it in 1850. Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem are a New England based quartet whose music, both original and traditional, ranges over the spectrum of folk music. They are Rani Arbo on fiddle and guitar, Andrew Kinsey on bass, banjo, and ukulele, Anand Nayak on electric and acoustic guitars,  and Scott Kessel on percussion. Arbo is often the lead voice, but all of them sing.

Matt and Shannon Heaton both sing, too, in recordings they make together and in independent projects. For this part of the journey, though, take a listen to a piece where not a word is sung, but instruments tell of one aspect of the autumn to winter changes. It is called Dust of Snow, recorded on the album Fine Winter's Night.

Part of the autumn to winter change is the marking of Saint Andrew's Day on 30 November. Saint Andrew's Day is the national day of Scotland. It seems only right to include a Scot as part of this November journey. Eddi Reader is long known for her creative and adventurous choices as a singer and a songwriter, as well as for her fine voice and conversational way with a song. Robert Burns, Scotland's national bard, wrote a piece called For All That, but the full title of the song is A Man's a Man for a' That. The ideas in the  lyrics resonate a bit with Ring Out Wild Bells, which you met above. Reader sings them as they were written, in Scots, but you'll have no trouble following the thought. You may find this recorded on Reader's album Cavalier.

Autumn is often a time for gathering in. Heart of the Home is a song which celebrates that. The members of Cherish the Ladies invited Nathan Carter along as guest vocalist. The band members liked the song so well they called their album after it: Heart of the Home. Cherish the Ladies are a well loved and long running Irish and Irish American group, with founding members Joanie Madden on flutes and whistles and Mary Coogan on guitar and banjo, joined by Mirella Murray on accordion, Kathleen Boyle on keyboards, and Nollaig Casey on fiddle. On Heart of the Home, they are joined by a selection of guest singers. 

Each of these albums -- and indeed the other work of Cherish the Ladies, Sarah-Jane Summers, Matt and Shannon Heaton, Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem, and Eddi Reader -- are well worth your further exploration. May this music be good companion through dark and light days of the shifting changes of autumn.


Read more in our series...the full list is here: 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.