This is the largest and most accurate online site about music of the United Society of Believers (better known as The Shakers), America's oldest religious communal society. The Shakers produced an amazing number of songs, hymns and anthems, estimated to be over 10,000 separate tunes and texts.
Musicians, researchers, teachers and students beware!
You should be careful when collecting research about Shaker music due to the amount of errors on some websites and in some books and articles focusing on Shaker history. Often the mention of Shaker music is misleading or incorrect. For example, classifying all Shaker music as "songs." There are actually three main types of Shaker music (songs, hymns, anthems).
It has been common to list "Simple Gifts" with the wrong title, such as:
"The Gift to be Simple" or "Tis a Gift to be Simple," or classify it as "an anonymous Shaker hymn."
Two of the best known Shaker songs were written as quick dance songs by prominent Shaker church leaders: Elder Joseph Brackett ("Simple Gifts") and Elder Issachar Bates ("Come Life, Shaker Life").
Giving Credit Where It Is Due
Many writers and musicians and even online schools teaching music history have failed to give proper credit to the editors of Shaker music. Also, they have not looked much beyond the best known Shaker song, "Simple Gifts." The Shakers produced thousands of tunes and many of them would be suitable for performance, providing they have been edited properly. There's enough material available that online universities could spend a whole semester on Shaker music, or even do a multi-night performance without repeating any songs!
Without such editors as Joel Cohen, Mitzie Collins, Harold Cook, Christian Goodwillie, Mary Ann Haagen, Roger Lee Hall, Carol Medlicott, Daniel W. Patterson and others, these Shaker spirituals would remain buried in manuscript music books in a box or storage chest somewhere. Without these editors, the music would likely stay lost.
Often it is just the arranger who gets the credit, not the editor who first discovered it and made it available in a performing edition.
Please give proper credit to the editors of Shaker music!
American Music Preservation.com is an informational site which receives no funding from outside foundations.
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Contrary to what many writers have written, Shaker music is not all anonymous or "traditional." In fact, a large number of their songs, hymns and anthems are credited to Shaker poets and composers. Many Shaker spirituals were written by a Shaker sister or brother, who wrote the words and/or the music.
Shaker music scholar, Roger Lee Hall, introduced
the distinguished American composer, Aaron Copland (1900-1990),
to three Shakers
from Sabbathday Lake, Maine for the first and only time.
Read more in a new book on multimedia computer disc:
Read the article by Roger Lee Hall about the evolution of Shaker music
from the time
of the early leaders:
Mother Ann Lee, Father William Lee, and Father James Whittaker,
the present day at this link: