Music for a Winter Afternoon

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Dec 21, 2020 / 0 comments

In the northern hemisphere, it is winter. Winter has many faces and facets. As you travel through winter, you may well experience all of them. I have always enjoyed winter's aspects of quiet and the season's call to reflection; you may experience this time of year differently. There are holidays and holy days of most faiths; there are secular celebrations; there is the turning of the year. This music will help with the journey. Some of it you may have heard before, and some will be new to you, That's another good aspect of winter, the mix of familiar things and new beginnings. Let the music take you to all those places.

Music for a Winter Afternoon

Emily Smith wrote Winter Song late one winter while snowed in at her home in the southwest of Scotland. In it, she looks toward spring, considers the changes of winter, and takes in the wisdom of elders who have seen may winters come and go. You will find it recorded on her albums Too Long Away and Songs for Christmas.

Christmas is central to winter in may ways, whether it is central to your understanding of faith or not. In recognition of both those things, here is the Enniscorthy Carol, from the west of Ireland group Dordan. There are words to it—it is a carol, after all—but the musicians chose to perform it as an instrumental, which among other things allows for a cross cultural evocation of the season. Dordan are Kathleen Loughnane, Mary Bergin, Dearbhaill Standun, and Martina Goggin. Enniscorthy Carol is easiest to find on the album Best of Narada Christmas. Take note of  the work of back up guitarist Steve Cooney, too: he has recently been recognized for lifetime achievement at the RTE Folk Music Awards in Ireland. Steve's most recent album is Ceol Ársa Cláirsí: Tunes of the Irish Harpers for Solo Guitar, and you've met his work alongside Mary Black in this series before.

Baloo Baleery is not a Christmas or winter song, as such. It is a lullaby from the traditional music of Scotland, which you will hear at times as part of Christmas season programs. This version is from the album The Ledger, from Findlay Napier and Gillian Frame. The album came about from a real ledger, one that Findlay's grandfather kept. In it, during the 1950s he placed clippings from a newspaper column which focused on traditional songs of Scotland. Going through what he'd saved, Findlay and Gillian knew they had the makings of an album. Based in Glasgow, they are both accomplished, award winning singers, songwriters, and players—Findlay's main instrument is the guitar, Gillian's the fiddle. Recruiting their friends Mike Vass, Steve Fivey, and Euan Burton to join in, they set about picking their favorites and then putting their own mark on the ten songs they chose, while respecting the spirit and history of each piece, as they do with Baloo Baleery.

Winter is a season that calls for faith, whether you find that through religion or in the turn of season or in the idea that you will make it through until spring or perhaps something else altogether. Wherever you find yourself in that range, there is a place for you in Low Lily's song Hope Lingers On. Low Lily, based in New England, is Flynn Cohen, Liz Simmons, and Lissa Schneckenburger. You will find the song recorded on Low Lily's album 10,000 Days Like These. Each of the three has other work going on, too. Flynn is teaching guitar through online lessons among his other projects. Lissa (she's on the right in the video) has a recent album called Thunder in My Arms, while Liz (center in the video) is preparing a solo album for release, her first in a number of years. It's to be called Poets.

The song Fine Winter's Night is by Matt and Shannon Heaton, who are based in the Boston areas. When they first moved to the area, they were getting used to the particular qualities of Massachusetts in winter. Reflecting on that led Shannon to create the song, which they chose as the title for their album focusing on the winter season. You may also want to know about their other albums, including Matt's children's recordings and Shannon's solo album, as well as their recent duo album Tell You in Earnest. Catch them leading Irish music sessions online, as well.

Fine Winter's Night marks a circle of ideas with where we began in Emily Smith's Winter Song. In Fine Winter's Night, Matt and Shannon sing:

Deep and fierce winter chill brings us in
inside to survive and flourish within
the warmth of the hearth, the stringing of cheery lights
brightens the cold as the season  begins

All on a fine a winter's night
in the quiet of snow...


May this music and the creative ideas of these artists help you on your own journeys through this winter season and beyond.


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.