Music's threads of hope and resilience

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

News of natural disasters comes from Turkey and Syria and New Zealand. There’s the ongoing war in Ukraine and strife in Myanmar and Ethiopia. There are shootings, arguments, food insecurity, racism, political division around the globe, the ongoing effects of climate change, anger in public and private life...

All of which can make for a rather bleak scenario. Musicians live through these things, too. Often, there are threads of hope and resilience to be found in what they create.

Music's threads of hope and resilience

Have a listen to these explorations:

Sarah McQuaid takes a contemplative and rather somber approach to hard times through both lyric and melody in her song The Sun Goes on Rising. As the title suggests, there is persistence in there, too, and the possibility of making it through hardship.

You will find the song on Sarah’a album The St. Buryan Sessions. That is where the album and this video were recorded; it is church near where Sarah lives in Penzance, Cornwall, in the far southwest of England.

Notice Sarah’s distinctive guitar playing, too: she’s recognized for that, as well as her songwriting and singing, has written a book on DADGAD tunings, and teaches workshops.

Similar subject and a different musical approach find New England-based Rani Arbo and the men who make up daisy mayhem (who are Scott Kessel, Anand Nayak, and Andrew Kinsey) with the song Keep It Mind.

Rani wrote it, remarking that it came to her on a morning when she found herself already anxious and distracted early in the day. It was a prescription for herself on that day, she recalls, “and I’ve been glad to have in the medicine cabinet ever since,” she says. The song is recorded on the Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem album called Violets are Blue.

In the United States as I write this, it is Black History Month.

To honor that, here is a song from Rhiannon Giddens about that very thing, Black history. It is called Build a House. Rhiannon composed the song for the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, a day celebrated as marking the day enslaved people in Texas learned they were free. In this video, she is joined by world renowned cellist YoYo Ma. Rhiannon, originally from North Carolina, is now based in Ireland. You will find the song as a standalone single at Bandcamp.

The song has become a book, a story of resilience and hope which children and adults can share. It is also called Build a House, and is published by Candlewick Press.

This is also time for Seachdain na Gàidhlig/World Gaelic Week, a time of celebration of Gaelic culture and language. With that in mind, have a listen to the band Capercaille with the song Fainne An Dochais/Ring of Hope.

Karen Matheson sings lead on a song which resonates with ideas of hope we’ve heard in the songs which have come before in this story. You will find the song recorded on Capercaillie’s album At the Heart of It All.

Drawing these ideas of hope and resilience together, music without words: Boston area-based Matt and Shannon Heaton play the Shetland air Day Dawn followed by a set of uptempo jigs. Matt is on guitar, and that is Shannon on flute.

You will find the set recorded on Matt and Shannon Heaton’s album Fine Winter’s Night. You may also want to see their album Tell You in Earnest.

Reflection, hope, joy, connection: all part of the gifts music helps us share through hard times and good times. May the creativity of these artists be a good companion to you in all sorts of 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.