The most extensive recordings of the Shakers
singing and playing their own music
The spiritual music of the Shakers. as might be expected, is notable for its simplicity and straightforward nature...anyone with an interest in American religious music
will find the material both interesting and moving.
--Rick Anderson, All Music Guide
From LP to CD
LP Box Set: The Shaker Heritage (1960-1961)
The most important recorded legacy of the United Society of Believers (better known as The Shakers) began in 1960. According to Darryl Thompson, William (Bill) Randle was asked by museum curator, Charles (Bud) Thompson at Canterbury Shaker Village to supervise and record a series of public seminars given by the Shaker sisters at Canterbury about their heritage. The lectures had been taped the previous year by Cressy Goodwin and Carl Bell but were not of sufficient archival quality. So Bill Randle offered to tape all the lectures. One of the Shaker speakers in the lecture series was Bertha Lindsay (shown in picture at left with Nancy and Bud Thompson - from Let Zion Move CD set, Rounder Records, 1999)
Bill Randle was an influential Cleveland radio broadcaster who at one time was one of the top rated disc jockeys in the U.S.
In 1956, Randle introduced Elvis Presley for the first time on national television on "Stage Show," hosted by the Dorsey Brothers.
In 1961, Bill Randle produced the massive 10 LP box set titled The Shaker Heritage. The cover art for the LP set (shown above) was by Tom Wilson, later known for his Ziggy comic strip and also for adding (thanks to Bill Randle's suggestion) electric guitar, electric bass and drums to the Simon and Garfunkel hit, "Sounds of Silence." Randle was partially responsible for the success of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's recording of "Battle Hymn of the Republic," a Grammy Award winner for 1959.
This is the list of titles from the 1961 10 LP set, "The Shaker Heritage," featuring Shaker sisters from Canterbury, New Hampshire (CAN) and Sabbathday Lake, Maine (SDL):
Disc 1: Sides 1 and 2 - History of the Shaker People - Sister Aida Elam (CAN)
Side 3 - Industries and Inventions of the Shakers - Sister Bertha Lindsay/ Side 4 - Education and Entertainment - Sister Miriam Wall (CAN)
Disc 3: Sides 5 and 6 - Religion of the Shakers - Sister Marguerite Frost (CAN)
Disc 4: Side 7 - The Twelve Christian Virtues - Sister Mildred Barker,
Sister Frances Carr, Sister Della Haskell (SDL)/ Side 8 -
Shaker Cookery - Sister Bertha Lindsay (CAN)
Disc 5: Sides 9 and 10 - The Shaker Covenant - Sister Mildred Barker (SDL)
Disc 6: Sides 11 and 12 - Shaker Poetry - Sister Mildred Barker, Sister Frances Carr, Sister Della Haskell (SDL)
Disc 7: Sides 13 and 14 - Shaker Music -CAN and SDL Sisters
Disc 8: Sides 15 and 16 - Shaker Music - Sister Lillian Phelps, Sister Frances Carr, Sister Della Haskell, Sister Elsie McCool, Sister Ada Elam, Charles Thompson
Disc 9: Sides 17 and 18 - Shaker Lives - Elder Delmer Wilson (SDL)
Disc 10: Side 19 - Shaker Lives - Sister Mildred Barker (SDL)/
Side 20 - Eldress Emma King (CAN)
This important 10 record set was never released commercially and the 250 copies were distributed to libraries and museums for their archives.
The Shaker Heritage LP set has been out-of-print for many years and has become a collector's item of great value.
Now all the music from the LP set (sides 13-16) plus the interview with Sister Mildred Barker (side 19) have been re-issued on...
2 CD Set: Let Zion Move: Music of the Shakers (1999)
This 2 CD collection, released by Rounder Records, includes 40 Shaker spirituals sung and played on the organ by Shaker sisters from Canterbury, New Hampshire and Sabbathday Lake, Maine. Also featured are a few Shaker songs and hymns sung by Charles Thompson, then museum curator at Canterbury Shaker Village. The second CD has a history of Shaker music narrated by Sister Mildred Barker and Sister Lillian Phelps. The interviews and music were gathered over a twenty year period.
The first interviews were done in 1960-61 by Bill Randle for The Shaker Heritage LP set.
Additional interviews were conducted in 1972 and 1980 by Roger Hall.
with Eldress Bertha Lindsay and Sister Lillian Phelps in Canterbury, New Hampshire. And in 1980 an interview with Sister Mildred Barker at Sabbathday Lake, Maine. All of this material was compiled by Shaker music scholar, Roger Hall, who edited and wrote the background notes for the Let Zion Move CD set.
These are a few of Shaker spirituals included on the CD set:
"Let Zion Move"
"Let My Name Be Recorded"
"I See The Light Before Me"
"Precious Gospel Kindred"
(all five titles by Mary Ann Gillespie)
"Abiding Care" (Dorothy Durgin)
"O Tarry Not" (words: Dorothea Cochran/ music: Lillian Phelps)
"Star of Purity" (words: Susanna Brady/ music: Ezra T. Leggett)
"Lead Me On To Greater Victory" (Otis Sawyer)
"Prayer Universal" (Dorothy Durgin) -- solo by Charles Thompson
There are also piano and organ duets played by Sister Ada Elam and Sister Lillian Phelp as shown here --
The CD set includes an attractive 72 page illustrated booklet designed by Susan Marsh, with examples of Shaker music and the words to all 40 Shaker spirituals,
plus a bibliography and discography, all compiled by Roger Hall.
If available, you can order this CD set from Amazon.com at this link:
Let Zion Move: Music of the Shakers
To inquire about the availability of this 2 CD set
from PineTree Productions, write to:
Let Zion Move
See also these links for memorial tributes to departed Shaker sisters:
Sister R. Mildred Barker
Sister Marie Burgess
Eldress Bertha Lindsay
Sister Lillian Phelps
Many of the hymns on Let Zion Move CD set are
from the last printed Shaker hymnal of 1908.
at this link:
Shaker Music History - 20th Century
Meeting The Shakers
In his multimedia collection of songs, poems and stories titled, "Dream World," composer and Shaker music scholar, Roger Hall, tells the story how he first met several Shaker sisters during the 1970s that led to his extensive research and publications of Shaker music.
In 1972, he interviewed two Shakers from Canterbury, New Hampshire about their music heritage:
Eldress Bertha Lindsay (1897-1990) , and Sister Lillian Phelps (1876-1973)
Also discussed in the "Dream World" collection is the first and only meeting of several Shakers with the distinguished composer, Aaron Copland in 1974, known for his memorable arrangements of "Simple Gifts" in Appalachian Spring
and Old American Songs. One of the Shakers who met Copland was Sister Mildred Barker, the best known Shaker singer of the past half century.
An informative illustrated book of historical material and lyrics to 25 of the best known Shaker spirituals, and also Shaker music examples are available on a multimedia CD. The book is dedicated to the memory of Sister Mildred Barker and is titled,
Shaker Music in the 20th Century
Listen to the Shakers speaking about and singing their music
on these two CDs:
Blended Together: Interview with the Shakers
Gentle Words: A Shaker Music Sampler
If you are looking for Shaker music to perform
or to include
in an article or a book,
see the 56 Shaker songs and hymns listed at the
Shaker Music Series
Lectures and Workshops
Are you interested in scheduling an entertaining music program
for your school, college, church, historical society, museum
or other organization?
For more information, click on this link:
Shaker Music Lectures and Workshops
Books and articles
CD and DVD Releases
CD: Celestial Praises - A Celebration of Shaker Spirituals
Joseph Brackett's 'Simple Gifts'
Shaker Music History
Shaker music in our time
If you have any questions or comments,
Music of the Shakers
Return to top of the page