music inspired by home

Lamplight

Vandalia River

"Lamplight" has a felted piano tone with some atmospheric resonance and a calm, meandering quality.

My husband turned to me one winter evening and said, “Have you ever thought about writing mellow piano music? It’s nice.”

Truth be told, I’m rarely in the mood for mellow music. I actively listen for a sense of build or story. But I considered the difference between a typical day in my life and a typical day in his.

While I’m reading and drinking coffee by lamplight early in the morning, he might be outside throwing punches at his boxing bag.

By the time I’m getting out a frying pan for breakfast, he might be getting back from a run up and down Maryland Heights.

While I’m making decisions like, should I pick up library books today or tomorrow, he’s facing clients who hold his bread-winning capacity in their hands. While he's focusing on the high-stakes tasks that serve them, he turns on the music.

Then, he leaves that world in the evening to be with the family for whom he wins the bread.

Maybe the man likes more mellow in his music because he lives more drama in his day.

Whatever the case, here you are, Jake. This one’s for you.

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September (Instrumental)

Vandalia River

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September (Instrumental)

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Nine years ago, we finally got a home big enough for a piano. It meant kicking the dining table out of the dining room, but we had a piano again. It was also a time of introducing the world to our toddler and, along the way, re-discovering it for ourselves. We went apple-picking for the first time. We made a color book of fallen leaves. We found poetry for the season. One such poem was “September” by John Updike: “The breezes taste / Of apple peel. / The air is full / Of smells to feel.” 

That poem found its way into a simple melody on the piano. It only used three chords, but its thick resonance hooked us. This bit of music came out again every year with fast and slow variations, and sometimes Jacob would take a seat with his cello and work something out to go with the piano. 

Meanwhile, our toddler became less littler by the minute. Autumn would come around again and find her in a bigger size of rubber boots, sailing walnut rind boats in the short-lived creeks of a gentle fall rain. 

We love every season, but none cuts through the memories so sharply as the sensations of autumn—its crispness, its woodsmoke, its harvest. “September” became a perennial soundtrack for the sights, sounds, and smells of fall. 

This year, it was time to share “September” with you. 

This recording is a blend of old and new, organic and atmospheric. You hear the tones of the same piano that took over our dining room all those years ago. Today, it sits more comfortably in our living room, where it was recorded in the summer of 2020.

Jay Arrington from Greenbriar Studio played cello. I told Jay, “I want this song to be a soundtrack for the magic light of autumn.” Anyone who listens to the final record will know he got the point. The cello is magical.

Maryland-based mixing engineer Daniel Busche glued all the pieces together and enhanced the whole. Without a good mix, you can’t hear a good performance, much less a good song. Daniel made sure “September” shined. 

You can listen to and download “September” right here or get it on your preferred streaming service.

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Latest Music

The Chinook Is Blowing

Vandalia River

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The Chinook Is Blowing

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There is a moment in late winter when the wind brings warmth, and you know that this time the weather isn’t teasing. The trees are still skeletal, but the new grass glows beneath. The cold is still bitter, but it beats retreat. 

In a favorite children's book, back-to-back blizzards force settlers in a South Dakota town to stay mostly housebound from October to April. School is closed, company is scarce, and supplies are scarcer. After months of being shut in an uninsulated house with a small fire, the protagonist wakes one night to the sound of wind - and another sound she cannot recognize. When she realizes it is water dripping as the snow melts, she jumps out of bed and cries, “The Chinook is blowing!” 

Her father teases her later. “Waking us all from a sound sleep to tell us the wind was blowing! As if the wind hadn’t blown for months!” 

“I said the Chinook,” she replies. “That makes all the difference.” 

This is the moment the new single from Vandalia River is about. But it’s not just about the weather. It’s about the moment you know your hope is not in vain. 

It’s about the moment the miles are behind you and the finish line in sight - the moment the paper is turned in and you know it’s good - the moment the family van pauses at Grandmother’s gate after 15 hours on the road - the moment the baby is born but she’s not in your arms yet - the moment the groom sees the bride but the vows must still be said. The fatigue is still in your bones, but the sight of rest comforts your heart. 

Many of us are longing for a moment like that to come. 

At least we’re no longer waiting for spring. At least it is here now, with all its light and bloom to cheer us along our course. 

“The Chinook Is Blowing” is now available just about anywhere you listen to music. 

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Battlescapes

Vandalia River

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Battlescapes

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Using folklike themes with subtle drama, this collection of six solo piano pieces evokes the natural beauty of historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, while respecting the somber aspects of its Civil War history. Listen to Battlescapes on iTunes/Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, and other streaming services. 

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    Schoolhouse Ridge

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    Murphy Farm

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    Lower Town

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    The Heights

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    Virginius Island

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    The Confluence (Like a River Glorious)

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"Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around." - Stephen King

My first impression of Harpers Ferry was similar to that of many others: I was struck by the beauty of the landscape. The confluence of two shapely and storied rivers - the Potomac and Shenandoah - nestled between the upward thrusting land creates a panorama unique to the Blue Ridge Mountains. The scene was enough to give Thomas Jefferson and George Washington something to write home about, and every year thousands visit Harpers Ferry when the weather is nice. 

But once here, visitors encounter invitations for somber reflection as they see the battlefields, the wax figure of John Brown, and numerous flood level markers painted on a lower town building, explaining why old town Harpers Ferry is not what it used to be. 

To this day, a resident might unearth white leaden bullets when digging a new garden bed. A young couple might get engaged yards away from where a bridge was destroyed in war. Parents walk their children by soldier-dug trenches and take family pictures on former encampments. 

So much beauty, so much battle - neither ever completely safe from the other. 

This place has been the landscape of my family’s life for seven years. Interacting with it has brought life-enriching memories, opportunities, and friendships. It's been the backdrop to some really hard stuff, too. Every time my hands spread over the piano keys, the fields and hills looked in through the windows, giving me themes that have shown up in the music. 

The music is now shared in a collection of six pieces named for areas of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. You can hear and download it below or anywhere else you stream or download music. A limited supply of CDs is also available.

Pensée No. 1

Vandalia River

Pensée No. 1 is a brief instrumental piano piece with an ounce of pretty and a dash of suspense.

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    Pensée No. 1

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Heaven and Earth: Scripture Songs for the Old and New

R. Hall, featuring Kellan Gash

Acoustic, catchy, and mostly not annoying: these songs are the home-grown product of a church Scripture memory program.

​Now these songs are a gift to you. Listen, use, and share for free. A PDF of chord sheets is included in the album download. Also available on streaming platforms, including Spotify and YouTube! Find it under the artist name R. Hall.

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Lyrics are derived from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 

Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™ 

Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB), Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation 
Used by permission. www.Lockman.org