Joseph Brackett's "Simple Gifts"
Portrait of Elder Joseph Brackett Jr,
The Aletheia:Spirit of Truth
by Aurelia G. Mace.
Press of the Knowlton & McLeary Co.,
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, in a research paper, publication, or a performance, kindly give proper credit to
Roger Lee Hall, who is the foremost authority on this Shaker song and has prepared the information on this web page.
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."
These are the complete original words to the one verse Shaker dance song:
'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.
New Book about "Simple Gifts"
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 book 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 expanded book (available in PDF) with much more information is titled,
"Simple Gifts": Great American Folk Song.
It is available on a multimedia computer disc with bonus picture gallery, audio and video examples. Included are exclusive audio 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.
For more information, go to
Simple Gifts book with bonus features
edited by Roger Lee Hall
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
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 $20 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,
please 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 few recommended recordings listed at CD and DVD Releases.
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
JOY OF ANGELS:
Shaker Spirituals For Christmas and The New Year
The Sampler Chorus
Love is Little:
A Sampling of Shaker Spirituals
The Sampler Chorus
"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,
Simple Gifts film story treatment
Did you know the "Simple Gifts" melody was used
in a British comedy
starring Peter Sellars?
The Shaker melody was arranged
by film composer Richard Rodney Bennett and is available from Amazon.com...
DVD: HEAVENS ABOVE! (1963)
Do you know of any other films that uses the "Simple Gifts" melody?
Send the information to:
Simple Gifts On Film
Singing New Englanders:
From The Pilgrims to The Shakers
Read the Spirit.com -- 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 by Roger Hall 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.