Music for Peace, Reflection, and a Cup of Tea

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Nov 20, 2023 / 0 comments

Music for Shifting Times: that is what we have chosen to call this series.

One of the ideas behind it was that music—especially the sorts of music we share with you here—can offer ways to help you reflect on these changes.

At times, what is needed in the midst of many changes is peace, is space to let those reflections come or not, to have quiet, to have good conversations, to dream, or just to sit with a cup of tea.

As autumn turns to winter and times continue to shift, here are ideas of music to help with that search for quiet, for community, for reflection—and perhaps to go along with that cup of tea.

Music for Peace, Reflection, and a Cup of Tea

Joanne Shenandoah was a member of Oneida First Nations, a singer, composer, and player of several instruments. While staying true to her Native heritage, she was a pioneer in bringing in instruments such as piano and cello to her sound.

Through her singing and songwriting, Shenandoah brought First Nations music across the world. Based in New York state, she made more than twenty recordings.

This song, called Peace and Power, comes from a winter-themed compilation of First Nations music by Silver Wave Records called Prayer for Peace, which includes music from Mary Youngblood, Robert Mirabal, Peter Kater, and others. You will also find the song recorded on Shenandoah’s album Peacemaker’s Journey.

November is Native American Heritage month in the US; it is also two years since Joanne Shenandoah passed away, also during the month of November.

Two landscapes come into stories of the tunes in the set called Daybreak, played by Rachel Hair and Ron Jappy. You will find it on their album Elan.

The first tune is called Dinan Dawn; Rachel composed it. She was inspired by early morning walks on her way to teach harp classes in the medieval town of Dinan in Brittany in France. The namesake tune of the set comes from the well-known fiddle player and composer Tom Anderson, from Shetland, set over to harp and guitar.

Rachel plays Scotland’s oldest instrument, the clarsach or harp, and Ron plays one newer to Scottish tradition, the guitar. Rachel comes from northwest Scotland, while Ron grew up in the northeast of the country. They both now call Glasgow home.

Emily Smith is also from Scotland. Her home ground is to the southwest, in Dumfriesshire. Being snowed in there brought inspiration for Winter Song. You may find it recorded on Emily’s albums Too Long Away and Songs for Christmas.

For her album Dialogues, cellist Su-a Lee decided to invite some of her favorite musicians to join her. Fiddle player Jenna Reid is one of those.

Jenna is an award-winning composer and solo player, as well as vibrant a member of the top band Blazin’ Fiddles. Jenna chose a tune from Shetland composer Tom Anderson (the same composer you met above with Rachel Hair and Ron Jappy) called Mareel. Jenna comes from Shetland herself; Su-a was born in Korea and has long been resident in Scotland where she is a member of the Scottish Camber Orchestra as well as an in-demand player in Scottish traditional music.

Carrie Newcomer made a visit to the Abbey of Gethsemane, a community of Trappist monks in Kentucky. The monks keep the canonical hours (such as matins, lauds, and vespers), singing services at various times of day, including very early in the morning.

Though she is not Catholic herself, Newcomer attended some of these services. Reflecting on that early morning experience led her to write the song Singing in the Dark. You will find it on her album called A Great Wild Mercy. When she is not traveling the world with her music, Newcomer is based in Indiana.

Thanksgiving Waltz, from Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, honors both the US holiday of Thanksgiving which comes at the end of November and the idea of community and giving thanks. It is on their album called Harvest Home, which you may have to hunt for but is well worth the search. Jay’s main instrument is the fiddle, Molly’s are guitar and piano. Jay comes from New York City; Molly grew up in the Pacific northwest. They’ve long made their home in the Catskill mountain area of New York State.

May the creativity of these musicians and their respect for land and community make good companions to you in 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.