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Review:

AS IT IS IN HEAVEN

by Arlene Hutton

 

 

AS IT IS IN HEAVEN was first presented in New York City on September 13, 2001, right after the tragedies of 9//11. The play was again presented in January of 2002 at the ArcLight Theatre in New York City. It is dedicated to the memory of Randy Folger, the former music interpreter at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. The play was published by Dramatists Play Service Inc. in 2003.  

It is effectively written, though not always historically accurate. There are also some major flaws in the preface and credits of the published play.

The music books by Edward Andrews and Daniel Patterson are mentioned along with several non-music books. Yet other music collections used for the play are not mentioned in the "Source Materials." These music collections are: Joy of Angels, Love is Little, and A Guide to Shaker Music.

Looking at the list of Shaker spirituals -- they're not all "hymns" -- many were written after the year of the play's setting in 1838.  This can be excused as dramatic license, but it would have been helpful to list them anyway with their Shaker community and dates. It is a common belief that Shaker music was all anonymously written. Not true. Many tunes and texts are credited to a Shaker sister or brother.  

Also, the play's director Stephanie Sandberg statement that " Mother Ann died in 1783. By this time there were several established communities beginning to flourish."  

That is an incorrect and misleading statement. In fact, Mother Ann died one year later in 1784, and there was only one community founded at Niskeyuna (later Watervliet), New York and it was far from flourishing as yet.

Another error is that Pleasant Hill was organized in 1814.  According to most reliable sources, that Kentucky Shaker community was founded in 1805 or 1806.

It's unfortunate that these factual errors were not corrected before the play was published and also that the music titles were not listed.

For those who may be interested, below is a list of all the songs and hymns used in the play, listed by their appearance in the play, also the composers, Shaker communities, and the music collection number.

Shaker music quoted in AS IT IS IN HEAVEN

"Song: Welcome, welcome precious gospel kindred" -- Enfield, NH, 1869 [5]
"Song: Come life, Shaker life" -- Issachar Bates, New Lebanon, New York, 1835 [1]
"Song: I will bow and be simple" -- Mary Hazard, New Lebanon, 1840s [1]
"Song: Who will bow and bend like a willow" -- Enfield, New Hampshire, 1840s [1]
"Song: My carnal life I will lay down" -- South Union, Kentucky, 1838 [1]
"Song: Come the feast is ready" -- Canterbury, New Hampshire, 1870 [4]
"Hymn: Glory unto God we'll sing" -- Enfield, New Hampshire, December 25, 1852 [3]
"Song: Hop up and jump up"-- Shirley, Massachusetts, about 1847 [1]
"Hymn: O Sisters ain't you happy" -- Clarissa Jacobs, New Lebanon, 1840s [4]
"Hymn: Our Father who art in heaven" -- New Lebanon, New York, about 1845 [1]
"Hymn: If ye love not each other (More Love)" -- Canterbury, NH, 1870s [4]
"Song: I never did believe" -- Betsy Bates, New Lebanon, about 1829 [2]
"Song: Come to Zion" -- Paulina Bates, New Lebanon, 1864
[2]
"Song: Come dance and sing around the ring" -- New Lebanon, NY, 1838) [1]
"Song: 'Tis the gift to be simple" -- Joseph Brackett Jr., Alfred, Maine, 1848 [1 -5]

This Shaker music listed above are found in these collections:

[1] The Gift to be Simple: Songs, Dances and Rituals of the American Shakers. By Edward Deming Andrews, Dover Publications, paperback reprint, 1967.

[2] The Shaker Spiritual. By Daniel W. Patterson, New York: Dover Publications, paperback reprint, 2000.

[3] Joy of Angels: Shaker Spirituals for Christmas and the New Year. By Mitzie Collins, Colleen Liggett, Randy Folger, and Roger Hall (Rochester, NY: Sampler Records Ltd., 1995).

[4] Love is Little: A Sampling of Shaker Spirituals. By Roger Hall (Rochester, NY: Sampler Records Ltd, 2nd ed. 1996).

[5] A Guide to Shaker Music - With Music Supplement. By Roger Hall, Pine Tree Press, 6 editions: 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2006.

 

 

These music collections should be listed in the  play's program if the same music as quoted in the play is chosen. Then the audience will know where this beautiful Shaker music is available for reference or for performance.

Even the play's title comes from a Shaker hymn, "The Saviour's Universal Prayer (Our Father who art in heaven). This is actually a Shaker rendering of "The Lord's Prayer."

The play's title is a most appropriate one for a story about the Shakers,
who valued their life on earth...

AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.

 

-- Roger Hall, June 2008

 

For additional information see these links:

CD and DVD Releases

Joseph Brackett's 'Simple Gifts'

Shaker Books and Articles

Music Collections and Songbooks

Shaker Music in Our Time

 


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