Music for Solace, Inspiration, and Hope

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Mar 15, 2021 / 0 comments

In ever-shifting landscapes of world politics, day to day life, and all in between, music can be a way to seek solace, to seek inspiration, to seek hope.

Music for Solace, Inspiration, and Hope

That is something the artists and people of Ireland and its diaspora know quite a lot about. If you've been following this Music for Shifting Times series (or care to explore the archives of it), you will know that music from Irish artists often plays a part.

In spring, with Saint Bridgid's Day and Saint Patrick's Day on the calendar, thoughts often turn to Ireland and its music, even from those who otherwise rarely think of the Emerald Isle.

Legend, nature, history, music in Irish and English, music from the diaspora, lively tunes with no words: these are all part of the mix.

Explore this music to find out about that:

John Spillane's song We Come in the Wind brings in legend, mystery, and history, and draws listeners in with all those things. It is a story of travels, drawing on tales of The Voyage of Bran, The Voyage of Maeldun, and The Voyage of St Brendan. It can also be taken, Spillane said in an interview with Irish national broadcaster RTE, as a journey through one day in one's life, or through the whole of one's life.

John Spillane comes from Cork, and writes in both English and Irish. His songs have been recorded by other artists as well, among them Cathie Ryan and Danu. You've met some of those songs as part of this series.

Backing vocals are from Pauline Scanlon, who has albums of her own you will want to look up. You will find We Come in the Wind recorded on John Spillane's album 100 Snow White Horses.

Murieann Nic Amhlaoibh was thinking about legend and myth for her song Port Na Bpucai/Song of the Fairies. It's said that a fisherman out late on the waters near the Blasket Islands off the West Kerry coast heard the words—perhaps a whale song, perhaps a song of the waters, perhaps the fairies.

What is that haunting sound backing Nic Amhlaoibh's voice, and what is that instrument you see in the video? It is a Yaybahar, an acoustic instrument with a sound which fits the song's story. It is played by Billy Mag Fhlionn, who built built the Yaybahar himself after a concept by Gorkem Sen.

Nic Amhlaoibh and Mag Fhlionn are based in West Kerry themselves. You will find Port Na Bpucai recorded on Nic Amhloaibh's album Thar Toinn/Seaborne.

There's a bit of legend in The Piper in the Cave, which you will find recorded by the band Altan on their album The Gap of Dreams. A piper, the story goes, was attempting to make a journey which included going through a cave. This, it is said, is the last tune he was heard to play before entering the cave, never to return. Altan pairs it with An Ghaoth Aniar Aneas (The South-West Wind). Altan are based in Donegal in Ireland's far northwest, and often choose Donegal music to play and record—and it is said that the piper's fateful journey began in Donegal.

The time of Patrick season is also the time of spring in the northern hemisphere. That's an idea Cathie Ryan often references and celebrates when she performs the song Follow the Heron.

Ryan, first generation daughter of parents who emigrated from Ireland to the US, has been living in Ireland herself for some years now.

Karine Polwart, who wrote the song, is from Scotland. She came by the idea while traveling up to the northern isles in Scotland and seeing the changes of season along the way.
Ryan has recorded Follow the Heron on her album The Farthest Wave. You may also wish to see Ryan's album Through Wind and Rain, and Polwart's album Laws of Motion.

There are strong and long-lived connections between Ireland and Scotland.

Rachel Hair is from the north of Scotland, and celebrates that often in her music. She plays the harp, that instrument so associated with Ireland, though, and her mother comes from Ireland. For this track, Hair and musical collaborator Ron Jappy have chosen to record a tune by fellow Scot Calum Stewart, who has his own connection and collaborations with musicians from Ireland. The tune is called Looking at a Rainbow Through a Dirty Window, an idea and tune which all the artists involved have said reminds them of the power of hope. You will find it recorded on Rachel Hair and Ron Jappy's duo album Sparks

May this music and the creativity of these musicians be good companions as you make your way through these shifting times.

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Music for Solace, Inspiration, and Hope


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.