Music: A Path to Community and Connection

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

Maybe you have offered a hand to steady someone -- friend or stranger -- on an icy sidewalk.

Perhaps you've been the person who accepted that assistance.

There are surely times when you've confided in a friend, secure in the knowledge that what you talked of would be kept between the two of you. Could be you are the friend who has respected that confidence.

These and many other large and small acts are acts of trust. 

In unsettling times, many questions arise arise. Trust in many things is shaken. Trust involves belief in reliability. Belief in ability. Belief in honesty. Trust in one's self and trust in others is a bedrock of how to function in society. What does music have to do with all this? Making and sharing music is an act of trust, for one thing. In times when many aspects of society across the world are in for questioning, music is a way to connect, to seek out community, to lift spirits, to gain perspective. With these ideas in mind, here are four songs to consider. Through the tools of music, they invite reflection on hope, resilience, connection, and peace -- all states which invite and involve trust.

Music: A Path to Community and Connection

Kim and Reggie Harris use their work on stage and in education to illuminate aspects of  African American history. Slavery times involved all sorts of complex webs of trust. That was even more true of those who chose to try to escape slavery. One of the songs Kim and Reggie Harris chose to record on their album Steal Away: Songs of the Underground Railroad is called Follow the Drinking Gourd. Though the song has a rather complex history -- how much is historic? how much is newly written? -- the idea and images are clear: it is a song of hope. It is what's known as a map song, with the drinking gourd -- the Big Dipper in the night sky-- providing a steady star filled guide on a route to freedom. Kim and Reggie Harris offer their trademark harmonies and a lively energy to a song which vividly evokes the hope and trust needed to make a journey in which everything is at risk.

As you walk backroads in Ireland, especially in spring, you will notice profusions of wildflowers. They make a friendly, informal counterpoint to manicured gardens of great houses and tidy garden plots at many homes. There's a deeper idea going on, too, one that John Spillane explores in his song The Wild Flowers

The wild flowers I enjoyed / They had nothing to do with you / Banished from the garden / They made their own way in the world
They sang their own songs in the spring / And wore their own colors in the sun

A song of resilience, certainly, independence, connection, may never see flowers along the roadside in  quite the same way once you have listened to the song. John Spillane comes from Cork, in Ireland. You may find The Wild Flowers on his album Hey Dreamer. Cathie Ryan, whose music you have met before in other stories in this series, has also recorded it, on her album The Farthest Wave.

Trust involves independence, bravery, hope, risk, and many other things -- and there are times when it involves stepping away. At times it is necessary to go away from the hardest of times to make time to recover from the demands and challenges such things involve. What do you do when you feel personally and professionally heartbroken? Songwriter Carrie Newcomer was wondering about these questions, questions which many have shared in light of changing world situations. Her friend, author Parker J Palmer, suggested that at such a time, what you have to do is seek sanctuary. Newcomer took that idea of seeking sanctuary into a song. You may find it recorded on her albums The Beautiful Not Yet and Live at the Buskirk Chumley Theater.

Making time for rest and making safe space for others to take rest are acts of trust. Both are parts of creating and nurturing creativity and community. With those thoughts in mind, consider the song John O' Dreams. It was written by Bill Craddick, who set his words to a melody by Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky may have based that melody on a folk song. Emily Smith, who comes from Scotland, sings it here. You may find it recorded on her albums Echoes and Smith & McClennan Unplugged.



Other stories in this series....

Music for a Winter's Day

Music for a Winter's Night

Three Feet or So: Music and Creating Positive Change in the World

Geography of Hope: Music of Immigrants and Refugees

Autumn: Music of Harvest and Home

Music for Reflection

Music for a Winter's Eve

Music for Winter's Changes

Music: Listening for Community

Music of Resilience


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.