Music for Mist and Brightness

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Aug 21, 2023 / 0 comments

Over the course of this series (seven years and counting at present), we have known we are in shifting times. We have known, too, that there are many ways music offers to navigate changes of all sorts.

Not really surprising, then that there have turned out to be recurring themes and ideas, including resilience, reflection, creativity, communitywhich are all aspects of music, when you come to think about it.

For this month’s journey, there’s a song inspired by the timeless nature of a timely event, a set of tunes which come from an unexpected crossing of ideas, another that explores creative and family connections, one that weaves in nature and reflection, and look back at a passionate version of a classic song.

Music for Mist and Brightness

Haar is a sea fog, a mist which often arises along the east coast of Scotland. Lauren MacColl comes from Scotland’s north, and she is well familiar with this. Through a time of personal loss, she thought about the disorienting aspects of haar.

She decided to write a tune about haarand call her album on which it is recorded after the tune. Through nine tracks on the album Haar, MacColl continues to reflect on the shifting nature of sea, light, and human connection.

“Working on this album has been a solace,” she writes in the notes for the track, “and at the heart of it is a strong pull towards the coast and both its fragility and its strength. Haarto meis a reminder that after the mist, always comes the light.”

Lauren’s main instrument is the fiddle; you have met her music as part of the series before. She’s joined by Alice Allen on cello, Rachel Newton on harp and spoken word, Anna Massie on guitars, Jennifer Austin on piano, Mairearad Green on accordion, and James Lindsay on bass.

Laura Risk also plays the fiddle. The set Elsa’s is made up of the title tune, written to honor her daughter, and two tunes from a friend, Barbara McOwen of Boston. Joined together, they make a journey that is at once reflective and lively.

Joining Laura on the track, you will hear Rachel Aucoin on piano and Nicholas Williams on accordion. You will also hear percussion from the dancing steps of Nic Gareiss. The set is recorded on Laura Risk’s album Traverse.

Laura is based in Montreal, where she is both a performing musician and a university professor and scholar of music.

Irish singer, songwriter, and activist Sinead O’Connor passed away recently. You might recall her rock songs, or perhaps her collaborations with many artists from many genres. To remember Sinead, I’ve chosen one of those, a recording of a live performance where she joined The Chieftains at an event where the band was receiving an award for their contributions to Irish music. The song is The Foggy Dew.

You will find a recording of it on The Chieftains' album Long Black Veil. For Sinead’s take on several other well known songs of Ireland, look for her album called Sean-nos Nua, and for a side of her work that is both gentle and strong, look for her duet with Willie Nelson on the song called Don’t Give Up. It’s on Wille’s album Across the Borderline.

When she was commissioned to write a song for the Conspirare Choir by Choirmaster Craig Hella Johnson, Eliza Gilkyson was at first asked to write something based in the Beethoven Quartets in A minor, which the award winning singer and songwriter says “was way outside my wheelhouse! But after many listens I found that the First Movement had a chord progression in it that got me started down the trail of a song, but of course with me everything turns into a folk song sooner or later!”  

Sunflowers - for Ukraine is the result of that. It’s a song which reminds of lasting hopes and reflections in the midst of upheaval and change. Eliza is based in New Mexico, and you will find the song recorded on her album called Home.

Hanneke Cassel is a fiddle player based in the Boston area. She draws deeply on the music of Scotland and of Cape Breton, and brings in ideas from other styles as well: Appalachian bluegrass which she loves, Texas style fiddle which she played as she began learning fiddle growing up in Oregon, and the music of Ireland; among other connections to Irish music, Cassel toured for a number of years with Cathie Ryan, whose music you’ve met before in this series.

Out of those strands, Cassel weaves her own distinctive style. You’ll hear that on this set which pairs two of her own compositions, Serendipity and Making Tracie Smile. Joining her on the track are Jenna Moynihan on five string fiddle, Keith Murphy on guitar, and Tristan Clarridge on cello.

The album on which you will find it recorded is called Infinite Brightness. Through the nine sets which comprise the album, Cassel reflects on loss and joy, sadness and celebration, quiet times and lively ones. This track holds both quiet and lively aspects of joy and connection, and came about from a commissiontwo commissions, actually. A couple had seen Hannele in concert and decided, independently of each other, to ask her to write a tune as a gift each for the other. These tunes were the result.

May the creativity and ideas of these musicians make good companions as you make your way through these late summer days, and beyond.


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.