Music for honoring and nurturing connection

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Sep 21, 2020 / 0 comments

Connection: sharing ideas, sharing stories, sharing time with friends and family is a powerful and lasting aspect of life. Connection with acquaintances and people less well known also has its place in creating and sharing community.

In challenging and shifting times, honoring and nurturing connection, in whatever ways might be safe and available, are healing and grounding things to do.

Cathie Ryan, an artist whose work you have met several times in this series, points out that music is a life boat, a life raft. Music can help us all, together, make it through troubled waters, shifting times and tides.

Music for honoring and nurturing connection

Here is a selection of songs and tunes to help you think about these ideas.

In Peace in Our Hearts, Texas-based singer and songwriter Eliza Gilkyson sings about connection, unity, and hope in the face of wrong doing. Such connection is good in many ways. "We'll stand for the earth and her children too" is another aspect of what she sings about. At the moment, people may not be walking arm and arm as she sings, but connection in other ways can be just as meaningful. You could see Peace in Our Hearts as a straightforward, powerful anthem of hope and connection. It is that. There's a lot going on in the song beyond that, too. You will find in recorded on Gilkyson's album 2020. That album, by the way, was written and recorded before most of the events of its namesake year began.

Rivers Run is a song Scottish musician Karine Polwart wrote thinking about her son. Considering what may come in future, she recognizes that there may be both dark and light. Most of all, though, there is the persistence of hope. In this video, Polwart sings it accompanied by her usual bandmates, her brother Steven Polwart and her friend Inge Thomson. You will find the song recorded on Polwart's album This Earthly Spell. You  may also wish to see her recent recording Laws of Motion.

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason know a good bit about connection: You have only to listen to the way they weave the sounds of their instruments, be they fiddle, piano, guitar mandolin, or banjo, or to hear them sing, as they play to understand that. They've also been married for twenty nine years at this writing, and musical partners for longer than that. Give Me Your Hand is a fine way to experience their music. You will find the tune recorded on their albums Lovers' Waltz and The Quiet Room. Another good place to experience their music is the Wednesday evening (US time) concerts they have been offering on the their Facebook page from their home in the Catskill Mountains of New York state.

Connection with nature is creative and healing on its own. It also a fine way to connect with other people. Those are things Hamish Napier knows well. He is a native of the Highlands of Scotland, in the midst of writing a five album project drawing on various aspects of his native ground. When writing music for his album The Woods, he considered how children in Scotland used to be taught the Gaelic alphabet through the names of trees. With that and nature in the Cairngorms as starting point, he created an album of music that references and evokes language, history, and legend, as well as the many interconnections of nature found among flora, fauna, and people in Highland forests. Track names include The Tree of Knowledge, Forest Folk, The Shield Tree, The Trembling Tree, Wildfire, and The Tree of the Return. The album comes with a booklet which explains some of the ideas which were part of the creation of each piece. This is a short piece of  the music along with images of nature in the Highlands meant to mark the release of The Woods.

While they were on a trip back to Jamie's home country of New Zealand, award-winning Scottish singer and songwriter Emily Smith and multi-instrumentalist Jamie McClennan came across a song by New Zealand writer Willow Macky, called Better Than War. It's a song powerful in its simplicity, one they decided would work well as part of their duo album Small Town Stories.

Wisdom's a mountain so steep and so high
Its feet in the earth and its head in the sky
And high on that mountain you'll see clear and far
That wisdom is better than weapons of war

It does fit well as part of the stories told in the intricate, thoughtfully made songs on the album, most written by McClennan. Small Town Stories is the pair's first release under the name of Smith & McClennan. There have also been a number of albums released under Smith's name, with McClennan taking part as performer and/or producer. The most recent of these is called Echoes.

There's no video currently available for Better Than War, but here's another from the Small Town Stories album. The song is called Firefly. It also offers much to think about in the lyrics, as well fine singing from Emily and Jamie.

You have met Cathie Ryan's music in this series before: she's an excellent musician, based in Ireland, with an ear for both writing and choosing songs from others which, among other things, invoke hope from many perspectives. They also often speak of connection. You may recall the song Walk the Road from an earlier episode in this series. It is worth hearing again. It draws together many of the ideas shared here.  It was written by Kate Rusby. You will find it recorded on Ryan's album Through Wind and Rain.

Think not of casting off your dreams
When the road goes on forever
All is just not as it seems
And we'll walk the road together

May this music be good companion on your journeys 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 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.