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 Hall, who is the foremost authority on this Shaker song and has prepared the information on this web page.
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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 song, "Simple Gifts":
'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.
Did you know that "Simple Gifts" is NOT a hymn and should not be classified as "Traditional"?
It was written as a dance song, what the Shakers called a "Quick Dance."
The Shaker leader who wrote both the words and the tune was Elder Joseph Brackett.
Now you can find out about this beautiful Shaker song in an illustrated book available as a Word document on DVD disc, written by Roger L. Hall, an ethnomusicologist and composer who is the foremost authority on this Shaker song.
He first wrote about the song in an article published in a national magazine in 1980. Later on, he wrote more in several publications and then an illustrated monograph on the song was published in 2006 with a 2nd edition in 2009. Now for this 3rd edition, he has further expanded it with bonus music examples and a video clip.
To order your copy of the multi-media DVD while supplies last, click this link:
Because of its message of simplicity and freedom and with its deep American religious roots, "Simple Gifts" has been used in the inaugurations of three U.S. Presidents:
Ronald Reagan in 1985
Bill Clinton in 1993 Barrack Obama's in 2009
This Shaker song was also performed at the funeral of Richard Nixon in 1994. So that's two Republicans and two Democrats who had this song included in their inauguration and funeral service.
Thus, "Simple Gifts" might rightly be called --
America's most inspiring folk spiritual.
A new piece by film composer John Williams titled, "Air and Simple Gifts," was premiered during the Inauguration Day ceremonies for U.S. President Barrack Obama on January 20, 2009.
Watch the performance of "Air and Simple Gifts" by John Williams
at the 2009 Inauguration ceremony by violinist Itzhak Perlman,
cellist Yo-Yo Ma, clarinetist Anthony McGill, and pianist Gabriela Montero, here on
What's in a Song: Simple Gifts Wikipedia -- article about "Simple Gifts." CAUTION: Much of the information is correct but under "Tune" the music example and text with it are not accurate and not based on Shaker sources.
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