Music for Reflection, Courage, and Hope

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Mar 21, 2022 / 0 comments

Connection and community: as events  shift and change, so do understandings and perspectives about events and circumstances.

Music can offer a thread that pulls through, a life line, even a life boat, in times of change. There are dark times; there are lighter times. Music can be a friend along the way through all these shifts and changes.

That is something people in Ireland have known a good bit about through the long course of the island's history. One aspect that recurs in the song and tune of Ireland is the ability to lift spirits in the midst of hard times.

Music for Reflection, Courage, and Hope

That's what going on in this set of a song and two tunes from The Alt, who are Irish musicians Eamon O'Leary, Nuala Kennedy, and John Doyle. Each has a flourishing career of solo and collaborative work. They decided they really like the music they make together, though. Each is a fine singer -- Nuala takes lead in the song in this set, with John and Eamon backing. Each is a fine player and composer as well, as you'll hear in the tunes which round out the set. John's main instrument is guitar, Eamon's bouzouki, and Nuala plays flute. You will find this track, which is called Paidin O' Raifeartaigh/Lohan's/The Donegal Tinker, on The Alt's album Day Is Come.

Sorrow, questions, history, friendship, and shared grief: that's a good bit to pack into the few moments of a song. Tommy Sands has done that, though, in his song There Were Roses. Tommy comes from Northern Ireland, as does Cara Dillon, who sings it here. They both know the landscape of history from which the song arose. That's one reason I chose a live recording of Cara singing it; her performance adds to the power of the song. You will find the song recorded on her album called Sweet Liberty. You may also wish to look for Cara's album Wanderer.

Landscape and connection with home and community are among the things music offers, especially in shifting times. Dublin-based songwriter Maurice McGrath put those things into his song Glenties as he drew on his memories of the landscape of Donegal. Here it is performed by Cherish the Ladies, with Kate Purcell singing lead. It is recorded on the band's album Heart of the Home.

The idea of welcome has been in the news quite a bit in recent days, in thought, action, reflection, and planning. The idea of welcoming someone in, or not, comes up in day to day life at times, too. Tommy Sands has set welcome into a song which brings it down to its essence: gathering around the fireside. Tommy comes from Rostrevor in County Down in Northern Ireland, close to the border between the North and the Republic. You met him above as the writer behind There Were Roses. This song is called Let the Circle Be Wide. It appears on Tommy's album of the same name, on which he is joined by his son Fionan Sands and daughter Moya Sands.

Music may also remind of possibility, of courage, of connection. This is the band Breabach, who are from Scotland, with the song Dòchas Glan Na Fàire paired with the tune Knees Up. The tune was composed by band member Calum MacCrimmon and the song was written by Calum, along with Ewen Henderson. Megan Henderson, singer and fiddle with Breabach (and Ewen's sister), is lead voice on the song. It is in Gaelic, with lyrics in English as part of the video.

The journey must be taken
Living in pure hope of the horizon

is how part of the lyric translates. Ideas resonate whether you know the language or not. You will find this set recorded on Breabach's album Frenzy of the Meeting.


As you look for reflection, courage, and hope and seek to share those things in shifting times, may the creativity of these musicians be a good companion.


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.