Music for friendship, connection, and perspective

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

Friends old and new can offer connection and perspective in shifting times.

The many aspects of friendship come up as a source for musicians, of course. Friendship also often informs the creation of music itself, as musicians collaborate in writing, playing, and recording their work.

Here are several ways to consider these varied aspects of friendship as expressed through music.

Music for friendship, connection, and perspective

The Barra MacNeils, a family band who come from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, reference that idea directly in their song The Way Old Friends Do. You will hear this also in their harmonies, and in the ways they support each other on their varied instruments, as well. You will find the song recorded on their album On the Bright Side.

Lucy MacNeil, who sings lead on The Way Old Friends Do, is working on a solo album, on which she may include this song too.

As it is getting toward winter at this writing, you may like to know that The Barra MacNeils have two albums and a dvd with Christmas themes.

Ruth Keggin comes from the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea between Scotland and Ireland. Rachel Hair comes from Scotland. They met through music and became friends ten years back.

Ruth is a singer, one of the few musicians who sings in the language of the Isle of Man, Manx Gaelic. Rachel is a top player, composer, and educator on the harp, who has often traveled to the Isle of Man to play and to teach.

Their friendship and respect for each other’s musical traditions led them to create duo concerts, and then, to thinking about recording an album. The result is the recording Lossan.

They chose the title from a word in Manx Gaelic which means shimmer or glimmer or flame. This track, Mish As Y Keayn/Me and the Sea, joins two songs, a contemporary one by Manx writer Annie Kissack about a person leaving and missing home, and a lullabye with lyrics which include words that mean “the king of the stars showers blessings on you.”

Jacqueline Schwab drew on themes of history and stories of connection, friendship, and adventure for the music she has on her album I Lift My Lamp.

You will have heard Jacqueline’s piano playing on the scores of many films, including the award-winning Civil War series from Ken Burns, additional films of his including The National Parks and Lewis and Clark, and other documentaries. She is also well-known for her playing for the traditional dance community in New England where she is based, and all across the US as well.

This piece, Oyfn Pripetshik/On the Hearth, was written by Mark M. Warshawsky in the late nineteenth century. He was from Odesa. As a song to help children learn the alphabet in Yiddish, it became an instant hit. Jacqueline plays the melody without words here. In part, it is in honor of her mother’s Ukranian family roots, and in part as a memory of a childhood friend’s mother, a woman who tried hard to teach the young Jacqueline the Yiddish alphabet, she recalls in the album notes.

Friendships can span the generations. There are not so many songs written about aging, in romantic relationships or in friendship. Gretchen Peters offers one in her song When You Are Old. It is a song which might give you a tear, or a smile, or both.

Artists from George Strait to Etta James have recorded Gretchen’s songs and had hits with them; she is a fine performer in her own right as well, and you have met her music in this series before.

Though she is based in Nashville, Peters may be better known on stage as a performer in the UK than in the US. This track comes from her double album The Show, recorded across three live concerts in the UK. That’s Barry Walsh on keyboards and the Seonaid Aitken Ensemble (you’ve met their work in this series before, too) on strings.

Cathie Ryan recorded May the Road Rise to Meet You on her album Through Wind and Rain. It was written by Roger and Camilla McGuinn. A fine songwriter herself, Ryan also has a good ear for songs by others to which she can add her own touch; this is one such. Many musical freinds joined her for the album, among them Michael McGoldrick, Joanie Madden, and John Doyle.

In the chorus, Ryan sings
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your land
May the rain fall soft upon your face until we meet again
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand

Words make good blessings between friends. May the creativity of these artists help you think about friendship, trust, and connection 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.