Music for Wisdom, Hope, and Connection

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Feb 19, 2024 / 0 comments

Many things in the world seem unsettled these days. Events in the news may make circumstances in day to day life seem more challenging, too.

There is wisdom, hope, community, rest, and fresh perspective to be found in music, in many ways and through music of many sorts.

Have a listen to the creativity of these musicians. Seek out their wisdom and ideas through these ever-changing times.

Music for Wisdom, Hope, and Connection

Woman of the House is a song which began as a riff played by Montreal-based piano player Rachel Aucoin, picked up by Cuban/Canadian musician Elmer Ferrer, passed along to Natalie MacMaster. It became a tune as MacMaster and her husband, Donnell Leahy, worked on music that would become their album Canvas.

They knew it needed something else, though. Maybe it could be a song? “Donnell and I aren’t singers, we’re instrumentalists,” Natalie pointed out. She began writing lyrics anyway, and though she was writing in English, the idea of Gaelic song came to her.

Natalie comes from Cape Breton in Atlantic Canada; Donnell grew up in Ontario with a mother from Cape Breton.

Emigrants from Scotland, among them the couple’s forbearers, brought their language with them to Cape Breton. Natalie’s grandmothers were Gaelic speakers.

She thought of them as she had her words put over into Gaelic. Remembering her powerful performance of Gaelic song at a recent Celtic Colours Festival, Natalie and Donnell asked Rhiannon Giddens if she would sing the the song. The result is a memorable collaboration evoking community and family.

Family and community are always part of the music that Massachusetts-based husband and wife Matt and Shannon Heaton bring to their music. Matt’s main instruments are guitar and bouzouki; Shannon's main instrument is flute.

Whirring Wings is their sixth recording as a duo (they each have other projects, as well). It comprises mainly original material along with fresh arrangements of music from Irish and Scottish tradition, and a song from Robert Burns added in. The Maid of Selma set is three jigs: the title tune, Rose in the Heather, and Shannon’s original jig, called DGaF. The tunes, at once gentle and lively, will add brightness to your reflections.

With all that is happening in ever-shifting times, it could be that what’s needed is a great wild mercy. Indiana-based Carrie Newcomer followed that idea from a poem she wrote a while back into what became the title title song of her album A Great Wild Mercy. Her words and images remind of mercy and of kindness in everyday connection and ways that may connect to that great wild mercy.

There are times when lively tunes cleanse the air and help make way for new reflections. Though they handle laments and other slower-paced pieces with just as much insight, the five musicians who make up the Scotland-based band Blazin’ Fiddles have you covered when it comes to fast-paced tunes.

The band began twenty five years ago to showcase the fiddle styles of Scotland’s Highlands and Islands. The lineup has changed now and again over the years. The current ensemble of founding member Bruce MacGregor on fiddle along with fiddlers Jenna Reid, Rua Macmillan, and Kristan Harvey, Anna Massie on guitar/fiddle, and Angus Lyon on piano have been together for some years now; that connection shows through in the music they make together. In this video of the track Jukebox, made during the recording for their album XXV (titled to mark that twenty five year anniversary), you will see them concentrating on the music as well as enjoying playing together.

Taking a breath after that, Irishman Declan O’Rouke evokes family history, memory, and night sky in the west of Ireland in his song The Stars Over Kinvara. You will find it recorded on his album Arrivals.

During lockdown, Cara Dillon was moved to write poetry as well as songs. She found many of both those drawing on and referencing her time growing up in Dungiven in County Derry in Northern Ireland. She and her husband and musical partner Sam Lakeman decided to put these two aspects -- song and spoken word -- together for their next project.

Even for artists as acclaimed and well known as Cara and Sam, that might seem a bit of an unlikely project. It works well, though, as you will find in this video of the poem into song Giving.

The album Coming Home and a book to go along are at the point of being released at this writing. I will say I had the chance to hear Cara and Sam do most of the material from the album in concert at the 2023 Celtic Connections Festival; as is the case with the piece you find here, all the material is thoughtful, creative, and well worth your time.

Wisdom, hope, kindness, community, fresh perspective: those are several of the things to be found in the time you will spend with the creativity of these artists. May all this serve you well as times continue to shift.



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.