Viewing: Music Releases - View all posts

Today is a special day. 

Good beautiful morning!

This is a special day!

The Battlescapes EP is now released on most digital platforms! Pick your pleasure to listen:




YOUTUBE (this is a playlist on the VR channel; the videos themselves were not created by Vandalia River)

Thank you so much for following this journey so far. I hope the music finds a good place in your life. And now for a little fun…


I’m expecting a delivery tomorrow of 16x12 posters of the unique map rendering that was made just for the Battlescapes CD. I’m giving away five posters! Share the news about the Battlescapes release, and you’ll be entered into a drawing. This can be by e-mailing a friend, sharing on Facebook, or sharing on Instagram. Just make sure I somehow know you did it so I can include your name (like, send me a screenshot or tag @vandaliariver. Privacy settings on Facebook often keep me from knowing).


The final design for the Battlescapes CD was submitted to CD Baby this week. They will probably be ready in early December. You can still order one for $10 here. All CD orders include a download of the album (in WAV files).

That’s all for now! No deep thoughts for today. Have a good weekend and keep in touch.


Once upon a time, not so long ago, free spirits could walk to the edge of the cotton factory ruins on the Shenandoah River. These are square-cornered stone walls two or three feet wide with a drop of, oh, ten feet or more into the shallow water. These walls once begged to be walked, but today a spit rail fence is in the way.

The fence wasn’t there in 2007 when I followed Jacob to the edge of the wall. We sat down, our legs dangling over the river. “It’s like a river glorious, Rebekah,” he said. He was happy in his resolve to ask me in a few minutes to marry him. He did ask, I did whisper “yes,” and we did get giddy. 

Then we walked up the steep steps past Jefferson Rock to almost the highest part of the town of Harpers Ferry. We sat down with the sunset behind us and the mountain view in front. At our feet, a cemetery cascaded downhill. What is better, I thought, than to consider a graveyard after you’ve pledged your life to someone? 

We were happy but conscious of the secrets of the future, conscious that no one makes it out alive, no one makes it through untroubled. What would our troubles be? 

One of Wendell Berry’s characters says, “The mercy of the world is you don’t know what’s going to happen.” That’s a mercy indeed that should be quietly accepted. Since the day we got engaged we have experienced much good, but also enough bad that one could consider the words of the hymn Jacob quoted and get cynical. 

“Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace.” 

And it would be right to be cynical if the “peace” preached by the hymn was a mere inner zenlike tranquility. But God’s peace isn’t just an inner peace; it’s an outer peace with God. It’s an objective reality that happens when we are brought into his family through the work of Christ. It’s an increasing wholeness as our lives align with what is good and right. 

The Lord promised - promised - that in this world we would have trouble. But, “take heart,” he said, “I have overcome the world.” The mercy of the world is one thing. God's mercy is so much more.

Twelve years ago, that giddy young couple sat near the confluence of two rivers as they began the confluence of their two lives. And ever since then they have been learning to hope in the confluence of God’s sovereign and good way with the troubled waters of life. 

These thoughts are behind a piano composition called “The Confluence,” which uses a theme from “Like a River Glorious.” Though it is instrumental on the record, one of the highlights of my year was to hear Chris and Jenna Badeker from Wild Harbors bring a lyrical version of mine to life. It was a message for that young, inexperienced couple that sat on the stones twelve years ago; and it was a word for the older, weathered couple that lives today.

Come now, let us test the waters: let us feel the cold; let us feel the cold and the rushing strength... Let us take the life we can't choose to make.

I would like to share a video of that rendition, as well as video of the five other pieces, as a thank you for pre-saving the album on Spotify (or pre-ordering the CD). Pre-saving tells Spotify that the music matters to you. Of course, not all music is for everyone - I get that - but if you like what you are hearing, this is for you. 

Thanks for reading today.

The most expensive piece 

The biggest disappointment from my first trip to the studio was that one of my pieces wasn't ready. It was, technically and compositionally, the most difficult piece. I wondered if I would have to hack it to bits before coming back to record. 

I sat on it, practiced it, hand-wrung about it, made some changes, and booked the studio for a September Sunday evening. 

"Wow," said the engineer after I played it twice.

Phew. It was going to work.

It had to work. How could an album commemorating Harpers Ferry be complete without a tribute to "The Heights?" 

Besides lower town, Maryland Heights is probably the most visited part of the park. It gives you this view. 

Across from Maryland Heights is Loudoun Heights. And some of my favorite pictures are taken from Bolivar Heights:

This piece is dedicated to the Harpers Ferry Ultra Running Team. For why that is and more of the backstory, this video is for you. 


That video was filmed at a get-together we had last Sunday evening, which was the twelfth anniversary of the day Jake and I sat down in Harpers Ferry and got engaged. It was very special to share not only the music but also the thoughts and stories behind the music. (If you tried to livestream, I'm so sorry the audio quality failed. It's better in the videos!)

The final piece of the album is named for the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. Though it is instrumental on the record, Chris and Jenna Badeker from the band Wild Harbors were present to sing, for the first time ever in public, a lyrical version of the song. That performance was a highlight of my entire year.

You can now pre-save or pre-order the entire Battlescapes album. If you do, I'd love to thank you by sharing videos of the live performances of all six pieces from Sunday.

Pre-save on Spotify:




Seedheads (and news!) 

At the end of the summer the grasses unsheathe their seedheads, spraying the field with a million points of light. It's as if they are finally acknowledging the sun's work all season long by reflecting its brilliance. 

I guess an album cover can be like one of those seedheads. This one, coming at the end of a long season of preparation, gives away the inspiration for the whole Battlescapes project: the area I call home, as viewed from Bolivar Heights.

Pleased to announce that the piano tracks have been sent to the distributor and they will be released online on Nov. 8! 

I miss how easy it used to be to get or give a CD. So I've been designing one. If there is enough interest to cover the cost of duplication, I'll order a batch. If you think you would like one for yourself or as a gift, you can pre-order here at the site for $10/CD, including delivery to you. If I get 45 pre-orders I'll be able to make CDs.

Meanwhile, here's a new Spotify playlist. This mostly instrumental mix favors the harmonic strains of Appalachia and nineteenth-century hymnody, with some fresh interpretations by modern composers. Often plaintive, sometimes dancing, always beautiful. It includes numbers from 

  • Edgar Meyer 
  • Doris Johnson 
  • Jay Ungar and Molly Mason 
  • Mark O'Connor 
  • Yo-Yo Ma 
  • George Winston 
  • Laura Leon 
  • Fernando Ortega 
  • Pa's Fiddle Band 
  • Julyo 

(and one modest piece by yours truly). 



Letting Art Adorn 

Parallel principles exist between disciplines. What is true for, say, writing is often true for music. I recently subscribed to the Habit Weekly, a writing advice resource by Jonathan Rogers. This week he brought his readers to an observation of Stephen King's: "Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around."

We live first - we love our families and our neighbors - we let that life inspire art - and we let our art adorn that life. Not that the craft can't be serious and time-consuming (and often must be), but if it becomes too much so it may exhaust itself and become pointless. 

That sentiment and this picture capture the genesis of a piano piece released today.

You see the shadow of a man, husband, and dad who is taking his son for a walk by neighboring fields. So much is pleasant: the openness, the accessibility, the beauty of the hillside. So much is right: this man loving his son with a simple act. But this field had been a scene of war, and to this day a shovel would find lead artifacts from that era. This man is pushing his son because a mysterious disorder has robbed the boy of most of the abilities the rest of us enjoy. 

When playing these piano pieces, all these things come to mind. We are living, literally and metaphorically, in battlescapes.

"Schoolhouse Ridge" is a solo piano piece named for a series of fields in which Stonewall Jackson based maneuvers ahead of Antietam, maneuvers which led to the largest capture of federal troops during the Civil War. Today, we walk our dogs and take our children to Schoolhouse Ridge. And it was because the dad in this picture developed a running hobby - for his son's sake - and ran the Schoolhouse Ridge trails that the idea for this piano piece formed.

It's now available for stream or download in most places. 







Digging for Heaven 

It seems like the people who have the most heavenly stories are the one who've dug deepest into the earth. 

Corrie ten Boom lived a war, provided a hiding place, survived a concentration camp, and forgave. 

Gladys Aylward boarded a train to go through Europe to China. When it stopped at the edge of a warzone in Russia, she started walking. Both the regularity of her ordinary service to the Chinese and the spectacularity of events that arose from it qualify her story. 

Similarly, the most creative people are the ones getting their hands dirty with real stuff. The early Disney animators didn't get their inspiration from watching cartoons (there weren't any!). They had been boys in the early 20th century, and, I wager, that gave them the imaginative kindling they needed to animate their cleverness. Much more recently, Garrett Taylor tells one reason he was hired as an artist for Pixar: "To my amazement, the man that chose me for the position said he particularly liked that I had a knowledge of carpentry, and could see that understanding in my portfolio." Carpentry had been his back-up job and the only thing on his resume - but it was this physical craft that made his illustration rise above that of others. 

This all reminds me of that writing advice to live first, write next. Douglas Wilson ("love him or hate him") writes in Wordsmithy, "Live an actual life out there, a full life, the kind that will generate a surplus of stories.... Picture your writing corpus as the mouth of a great river, and all the life you have experienced as the various tributaries that feed the river." 

And, indeed, modest though they be, the projects that appear here at Vandalia River were inspired by real, regular life. This weekend is the anniversary weekend of releasing Heaven and Earth: Scripture Songs for the Old and New. These songs came about because I had kids; I was going to church with kids; I was living life with folks in church; and I was reading Scripture. I was living life, and life gave me something to write about. 

On Sep. 20 - next Friday - another bit of music will be released that was borne out of non-musical living. This track inspired the whole Battlescapes album I've been working on. Jacob runs. He runs because he likes it, but he really runs because he loves his son, and it's one of the few things they can do together. We know this town, this park, and this community all the better for his running pursuit. One day, as a service to my daughter's cross country team, he took video of a trail route on Schoolhouse Ridge, a series of fields that are part of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. He set an early draft of a piece I was creating to the video.

Years later, remembering that video and that piece, I realized it needed to be finished and named "Schoolhouse Ridge." And it needed to be accompanied by other pieces commemorating places linked to our home and story. 

Schoolhouse Ridge. Murphy Farm. Lower Town. The Heights. Virginius Island. The Confluence. I look forward to unfolding what these places mean to me in music. 

 If you haven't yet, pre-save "Schoolhouse Ridge" on Spotify. 

If you like the style of these piano pieces so far, let me know if you'd be interested in a Battlescapes CD. If I get enough pre-orders, I'll be able to print a small batch.

Singing Belongs to You - and Some News 

This summer a little dream came true. 

A handful of acquaintances got together in someone's house and learned an a cappella song together. We were college girls, working mothers, empty nesters, and due this fall (well, one of us). Some of us could read music; others not so much. Some of us were known to be gifted vocalists; others were not known to be so (and in my case, was certainly not). We got together once a month three times - the first time to figure out our parts and suggest songs to learn; the other times to come together and sing what we practiced. We couldn't all show up every time, but when we did, we were smiling.

To learn our parts, we had a notated arrangement as well as the parts recorded singly for those who didn't read music. I recorded the tracks and shared them on Soundcloud, but for a lot of arrangements you should be able to buy pre-recorded tracks. 

This was a way to be together and bring music home. This was a way to use the voices we all had regardless of gifting. We didn't produce any record-worthy performances, of course. But that's not why we sing. 

We just might do this again.


And Some News!

A few weeks ago I sat down during an evening storm and played a piece from the forthcoming Battlescapes set. It's called "Schoolhouse Ridge" and is named for a series of fields nearby that saw action during the Civil War. Schoolhouse Ridge is preserved today as part of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

And "Schoolhouse Ridge" has been preserved in studio. It's coming out as a single on Sep. 20! 

If you like it, you can now pre-save the piece on Spotify. 

"Lower Town" Goes Public  

"Lower Town" is now out where you can get it!

"Lower Town" is an instrumental piano piece named for the most visited part of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park: a cluster of old buildings, ruins, shops, and residences hugged by the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. Visitors who approach it from either Maryland or Virginia are impressed by the sight of this point of land, with its spires and stoneworks, descending into the confluence of two great channels.


This piece captures the energy and pleasantness I felt when first meeting Harpers Ferry, while pausing at points just like I paused to reflect on the somber aspects of this war town's history.


Choose your link of choice to listen. If you like it, please share. 






The weather was good, we had the time, and my dad liked cycling, so in 2003 we took an excursion from our lodging place in northern Virginia to "thehistoricaltownofHarpersFerry." Unfortunately I was usually rather passive on these excursions, but, as we turned left on Route 340 and approached West Virginia, I was moved despite myself by the view of the Shenandoah River through the trees. It was a wide, shallow, rocky expanse of dappled white-and-gunmetal. We did what most first-time visitors do: walk about the old town, stand on the riverbanks, take pictures. We even carried our bikes down the spiraling staircase to try the C&O canal towpath. Or did we give up when we saw the stairs?

Still, Harpers Ferry never became special to me until Jacob took me there in 2006 and sat us down on a stone ruin atop the river. To my astonishment, he proposed. Then our giddy selves hiked up past Jefferson Rock and sat down with our backs to the setting sun and our faces toward the confluence of the rivers between the heights. Below our feet was a descending hill of gravestones. I can't think of a better thing to do than consider a graveyard after you've pledged your life to someone. We sat, cried, smiled, and wondered what legacy we would have by the time we had our own stones.

We didn't then think we would one day live in Harpers Ferry, but this November will mark our sixth year here. The place is now linked to the themes and events of our lives. But, just like our lives, it's fraught with memories of conflict. John Brown's would-be insurrection was here. The town changed hands at least seven times between North and South during the Civil War. We've dug up heavy white lead bullets from our own backyard.

Every day, literally and figuratively, we see battlescapes. So much beauty, so much battle, neither ever completely safe from the other.

Last Saturday, we spent several hours at a studio tracking six piano pieces commemorating Harpers Ferry. This collection is called Battlescapes, and I can't wait to share it. Quite soon, I will announce the release of a single from this little album. I wish I could give you hard dates, but there's a bit of back-end prep to do first. Rest assured the site and social will be updated when there's more to tell.

Thanks for following this journey.


A few weeks ago there were no plans to distribute "Pensée No. 1." 


Plans have changed. 

It's now on Apple Music, Amazon, YouTube, Spotify, and a number of other platforms. This means you can now follow Vandalia River on Spotify, too. 

Hear on Spotify. 

Get on Apple Music/iTunes. 

Hear on Amazon. 

YouTube (please note, this video is not under Vandalia River's YouTube page, so if you subscribe you won't be subscribing to me):