Musical Tapestries of Connection and Reflection

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Jun 20, 2022 / 0 comments

Music can help create connections; it can also help remember them. Music can recall times of kindness, of grace, of patience. A lot to ask of a song or a tune? Not necessarily.

Here are several pieces of music to go along with these ideas.

Musical Tapestries of Connection and Reflection

When Sarah McQuaid was small, she'd often fall asleep to the sound of her mother playing guitar in the next room. Sometimes, she'd call out requests. This memory was the spark for Sarah to write Last Song. You will find it recorded on her album the Saint Buryan Sessions. The album, and the video, were recorded in a historic church near where McQuaid lives in Cornwall in the southwest of England.

Maria Dunn's Ontario Song is about connection, to both people and place. It's a gentle reflective story of journey, in this case from Ontario across Michigan and to points west in Canada. Dunn herself is based in Edmonton, in Alberta.

You will find the song recorded on Dunn's album Joyful Banner Blazing. She was recently recognized with a Juno award for best traditional folk album for that album. Shannon Johnston produced it. She and her brothers Jeremiah and Solon McDade, whose work you've met before in this series, sit in on the album.

Cherry blossoms: they were the inspiration for Seonaid Aitken when composing music for her album Chasing Sakura. Cherry blossoms in two different parts of the world, in fact.  

Seonaid had lived for a time in Japan. While there, she had seen varied ways in which people in Japan celebrate and appreciate the blossoming of cherries. Seonaid is Scottish, and is now based in Glasgow. There are cherry trees in Glasgow as well, something Seonaid had the chance to appreciate especially when, as part of her recovery from a serious riding accident, she did a lot of walking around the city.

Aitken draws on on folk, jazz, and classical elements in her work, and has won a number of jazz awards. All these elements come in to play in the music on Chasing Sakura, which she recorded with her musical friends in the Seonaid Aitken Ensemble. She herself plays violin, as does Katrina Lee. Alice Allen is on cello, Patsy Reid plays viola, Emma Smith is on bass, and Helena Kay adds in tenor sax and flute. This piece is called Beauty & Wonder.

Another artist who draws on many genres to create tapestries of connection and reflection is Alison Brown. Based in Nashville, Brown most often draws from Celtic, jazz, and bluegrass traditions. Her main instrument is the banjo, and she's won all sorts of awards for this, as well as for her work in music business as founder of Compass Records. Here she is with her quartet with The Road West, from the album The Company You Keep.

The title of Kim Carnie's album And So We Gather brings in ideas of connection, as does the music.

There's also the fact that even though the music was recorded at distance during lockdown, many of Scotland's top musicians joined in.

Carnie is known for her singing in both Gaelic and English. You've met her work with the band Staran in this series earlier, and she's also in the band Manran. And So We Gather is her first  full length solo album, on which she offers a mix of original songs in Gaelic and English and songs drawn from tradition. This reflective piece is called Laoidh Na H-Oidhche/Night Hymn, in which Kim added words and wrote music to go along with older texts. Julie Fowlis (you've met her work in this series also) adds subtle backing vocals.

Indiana-based Carrie Newcomer's work is always about seeking and seeing connection, seeing beyond the surface, and "finding the sacred in the everyday," she has said.

In her song Lean In Toward the Light, she offers that sort perspective on seasons, change, landscape, and other subjects with an economy of poetic verses. Part of that perspective includes knowing things are always easy or upbeat. One of the lines Newcomer sings includes, "when forgiveness is hard to me at least to be kind." You will find the song recorded on Carrie Newcomer's album The Beautiful Not Yet, and also on her album Live at the Buskirk Chumley Theater.

Many journeys to explore in this music. May the work of these musicians help you connect and reflect in these sometimes unsettling 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 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.