Shaker music history
Books and articles



Joseph Brackett's "Simple Gifts"






Portrait of Elder Joseph Brackett Jr,

The Aletheia:Spirit of Truth

by Aurelia G. Mace.
Farmington, Maine:
Press of the Knowlton & McLeary Co., 1907



Read about this Shaker song by clicking on these links:

Message to Internet Readers:

Should you use any of the information on this page on your web site, CD, in a publication, or a performance, please give proper credit to Roger Lee Hall, who is the foremost authority on this Shaker song. He has compiled the information on this web page
and has written a new book on the subject, "Simple Gifts": Great American Folk Song.





New England Song Series No. 4:

Simple Words for a Simple Song

"Simple Gifts" has become one of the most popular American folk spirituals.

It has been performed in schools, churches, concert halls and elsewhere all across the USA and in other countries as well.

Yet, unfortunately there have been so many errors associated with "Simple Gifts" that it is time "we come round right."

For example, this online page which has no indication of that the added verses are NOT part of the original Shaker song.

These are the complete original words to the one verse Shaker dance song (which is not a hymn) by Elder Joseph Brackett:

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight
'Till by turning, turning we come round right.




Now available at a discount price!

The foremost authority on this Shaker dance song is Roger Lee Hall, an ethnomusicologist and composer. He was written extensively about the song and published several pamphlets and a monograph titled, The Story of 'Simple Gifts,' first published in 2006 with two later editions in 2009 and 2010. All three editions are now OUT-OF-PRINT.

A new greatly expanded book (available in PDF or Portable Document Format) with much more information has been published and titled,

"Simple Gifts": Great American Folk Song.

It is available on a multimedia DVD disc with bonus picture gallery, audio and video files.

Included are exclusive audio in-person interviews with Sister R. Mildred Barker (1897-1990) of the Sabbathday Lake Shakers and the distinguished composer, Aaron Copland (1900-1990). Also a taped segment from Eldress Bertha Lindsay's 90th birthday party at Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire in 1987.

It is now available for a limited time at a special discount price.
For more information, go to

Simple Gifts book with bonus features




Simple Gifts
edited by Roger Lee Hall
©PineTree Music

An attractive broadside (8 1/2 X 11)
with the words and music to the Shaker song
on heavy cover stock
is available for display or gift-giving.
To order this colorful broadside, go to the

AMP Store





This specially produced non-commercial CD, SIMPLE GIFTS OF SHAKER MUSIC, with over one hour of music contains 30 tracks of Shaker music recorded in live concerts and from Public Radio programs between 1976 and 2002. It was compiled by Shaker music scholar, Roger Hall.

It includes six different versions of the best known Shaker song, "Simple Gifts" (aka: 'Tis the gift to be simple). Also many other beautiful Shaker spirituals.

To receive a copy, make a donation of $25 or more to help keep this music preservation site online. Make your donation by credit card payable to PineTree Productions, through safe and secure PayPal.

Click on this button to



After you have made your donation,
lease send your mailing address to:

Simple Gifts of Shaker Music CD





Joseph Brackett Day




Sponsored by The Tune Lovers Society, each year there is a birthday commemoration of the religious leader who composed the words and music to "Simple Gifts."

Elder Joseph Brackett Jr. was born on May 6, 1797 in Cumberland, Maine. He died on July 4, 1882 in New Gloucester, Maine.

Listeners and musicians are urged to play or perform "Simple Gifts" on May 6 to honor Elder Joseph Brackett's popular Shaker dance song.

There are a list of good and not so good recordings at
Simple Gifts CDs.

For more information about Joseph Brackett Day,
look under "May 6" in this well-respected annual directory:

Chase's Calendar of Events 2014





"Simple Gifts" on CDs


Original Shaker melody on these CDs...

Early Shaker Spirituals -
Sung by the Sabbathday Lake Shakers



"Simple Gifts" song and a portion of the interview
with Aaron Copland
are included on this CD,

Gentle Words: A Shaker Music Sampler

See also this accompanying monograph,

Gentle Words: Shaker Music in the 20th Century


Shaker Spirituals For Christmas and The New Year

The Sampler Chorus


Love is Little:
A Sampling of Shaker Spirituals

The Sampler Chorus


Arrangements of "Simple Gifts"

CD: Celestial Praises - A Celebration of Shaker Spirituals
("Simple Gifts" arranged by Roger Lee Hall)

See also,

Shaker music arrangements (sheet music)




Arrangement by Aaron Copland of "Simple Gifts" for voice and piano
with William Warfield, baritone, and Aaron Copland, piano,
on this CD,

A Copland Celebration Vol. 2

Orchestral arrangement of "Simple Gifts" on this CD,

A Copland Celebration Vol. 3




"Simple Gifts" is sensitively performed by cellist Yo-Yo Ma
with vocalist, Allison Krauss, on

The Essential Yo-Yo Ma (2 CDs)





For some Good and Not So Good arrangements
of "Simple Gifts"

Click here




"Simple Gifts" On Film


A new story treatment by Roger Lee Hall
is available about Elder Joseph Brackett's famous song
and how it was written.

For inquiries by documentary or feature film producers,
write to:

Simple Gifts film story treatment


Did you know the "Simple Gifts" melody was used in a British comedy starring Peter Sellers? The Shaker melody was arranged by film composer Richard Rodney Bennett and is available from


Heavens Above!

starring Peter Sellers


Do you know of any other films that uses the "Simple Gifts" melody?
Send the information to:

Simple Gifts On Film






Related Links


Read the -- David Crumm speaks with author Roger Hall about "Simple Gifts."

Shaker Books and Articles -- books and articles about Shaker music.

Shaker Music History -- highlights from 18th to 21st centuries.

Shaker Music Lectures and Workshops -- programs available for any audience

Simple Gifts - a list of CDs both recommended and not recommended.

Society for American Music Bulletin (Fall, 1997) -- article about Joseph Brackett and "Simple Gifts."

Wikipedia -- article about "Simple Gifts."
CAUTION: The information in this entry under "Tune," both the music example and text with it are not accurate and not based on Shaker sources.



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