Music for Connecting Community

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Apr 18, 2022 / 0 comments

Music can be a way of connecting community, in hard times, in times of celebration, and in day to day life. Music is helpful for reflecting on one's own, also. Music offers ways of marking things, too, and of considering questions and challenges which may arise.

Whatever season you may be in, consider the work of these musicians as you move through the time.

Music for Connecting Community

When Megan Henderson was commissioned to write music for the New Voices strand of the Celtic Connections festival, she drew on visual art for inspiration. She'd long been moved by the impressionistic paintings of Christine Clark, who like Henderson comes from Lochaber in the Highlands of Scotland. Dawn Chorus begins in a quiet place gradually moving to an intricate and powerful close, setting the stage for the rest of the album Pilgrim Souls. Henderson, who plays fiddle and piano and is a singer and stepdancer as well, is a member of the top band Breabach (you have met their work in this series before); Pilgrim Souls is her first solo album.

Aspects of spring from wistful to bittersweet to hopeful are what Jim Molyneux turned to for the song Swallow. Molyneux plays keyboards and percussion and other instruments in addition to being a singer and composer. He created and recorded Swallow as part of Spell Songs II: Let the Light In, with Spell Songs artists Seckou Keita, Beth Porter, Kris Drever, Rachel Newton, Karine Polwart, and Julie Fowlis taking part in the recording with voice and instrument. They were creating music drawing on the art of Jackie Morris and the words of Robert Macfarlane in the books The Lost Words and The Lost Spells. Molyneux, originally from Lancashire, is based in London.

Changes in weather are hallmarks of spring. Change is not limited by season though. That's part of what Carrie Newcomer offers for contemplation in her song The Clean Edge of Change. Musically and lyrically, Newcomer includes several ideas about standing at the edge of change. You will find the song recorded on her album The Geography of Light. Newcomer is based in the US midwest, in Indiana.

In the United States, at this writing it is a time when poetry is especially honored. With that in mind, have a listen to Emily Smith and Jamie McClennan, with the song Silver Tassie. They are based in Scotland, which is also where the writer of the lyrics to this song, Robert Burns, came from. It is a story of love and parting, framed in a reflection on a moment of change. You will find the song on Smith and McClennan's album of the songs of Robert Burns called Adoon Winding Nith.

Across the the world, it is also a time when Earth Day and the natural world are celebrated. Celebration of the natural world is a center of the Spell Songs projects. So too is warning that nature is telling humankind it needs care and respect. Those things form part of Red Is Your Art, another song from the Spell Songs II: Let the Light In recording. This time Kris Drever, who comes from Scotland, takes lead voice and plays guitar. He is joined by the other Spell Songs artists Jim Molyneux, Beth Porter, Karine Polwart, Seckou Keita, Rachel Newton, and Julie Fowlis.

The song is the story of a fox, often slipping by just out of sight at edge of town, at edge of dusk, to carry on its life -- and asking, as the song ends, good questions. Listen out for them, and think about your answers.

While you are living in the midst of all these changes, it's a good reminder to take time to pause, to keep yourself centered. All the music here will help with that.

So will the reminder that when you get off track, you can get yourself centered again. You will find that in the song Keep It In Mind, from Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem. They are based in New England; you've met their work here before. You will find Keep It In Mind on their album Violets Are Blue.

Give yourself time with change and shifting times. In whatever season you are reading this, may the creativity of these musicians be a companion on your journey.


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.