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for music of the American Shakers
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SIMPLE GIFTS OF SHAKER MUSIC
A few words of introduction
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 last Shaker community is located at Sabbathday Lake, Maine.
Most of the information on these Shaker pages of American Music Preservation.com were written by Roger Lee Hall, an ethnomusicologist, composer and singer. He is one of the foremost authorities on Shaker music, having studied it and performed it for over 40 years.
For over two centuries, the Shakers produced an amazing amount of music estimated to be well over 10,000 separate tunes and texts in manuscripts and over 2,000 of them in printed hymnals.
Musicians, scholars, teachers and students beware!
Researchers should be careful when collecting information about Shaker music due to the amount of errors on some websites and in some books and articles focusing on Shaker history. Often the discussion 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, and anthems. Because of their highly inspirational nature, they are best termed together as "spirituals." Or saying that most or all Shaker music is "anonymous." That is not correct.
The lack of accurate information is especially true with two of the best known Shaker songs, both written to accompany Shaker dances:
"Come Life, Shaker Life" by Elder Issachar Bates Sen.
"Simple Gifts" by Elder Joseph Brakett Jr.
"Come Life, Shaker Life" by Issachar Bates was used as the basis for a folk-rock song, "Run, Shaker Life" by Richie Havens, without credit given to the original Shaker dance song or composer.
The same lack of credit for the composer is true for "Simple Gifts," and it has been common to list it with titles such as:
"The Gift to be Simple" or "Tis a Gift to be Simple." Both of these titles are incorrect and were not found in the original Shaker manuscripts.
There have been numerous arrangements of "Simple Gifts." For example, Sydney Carter (Lord of the Dance), Judy Collins, Aaron Copland, Roger Lee Hall,
Kevin Siegfried, John Williams and many others.
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," and seldom mention any of the Shaker spirituals available on recordings.
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 editors and researchers such as: Vicki Bell, Donald Christenson, Joel Cohen, Mitzie Collins, Harold Cook, Randy Folger, Christian Goodwillie, Mary Ann Haagen, Roger Lee Hall, Colleen Liggett, Carol Medlicott, Daniel Patterson, Donna Phillips, Robert and Viola Updahl, these Shaker spirituals would remain buried in manuscript music books in a box or storage chest somewhere. Without this valuable research, the music would likely remain lost.
Some CDs, such as Gentle Words (The Tudor Choir), give a list of editor's names but not which tunes they edited. The appropriate way is to list each editor's tune contributions in the CD booklet, as done on Simple Gifts (The Boston Camerata).
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 for a book or music collection.
Note to scholars, musicians and composers:
Please give proper credit to the editors of Shaker music.
Historic Meeting - 40th Anniversary
© photograph by Gail Hall, 1974
Roger Lee Hall, introduced
the distinguished American composer,
Aaron Copland to
from Sabbathday Lake, Maine for the first and only time in 1974.
Read about it at this link:
Aaron Copland Meets The Shakers
"Gentle Words" - A Shaker Song Discovery
The Simplicity of Shaker Music
Joseph Brackett's "Simple Gifts"
A Sampling of Shaker Music
Blended Together -
Discoveries Along The Shaker Music Trail
by Roger Lee Hall
"May We Ever Be United" -
Music of the North Union, Ohio Shakers
This music collection is available here.
The largest amouint of recorded Shaker music anywhere
40 years of music research...
A Shaker Music Miscellany
A series of attractive 8 1/2 X 11 broadsides in full color.
This series includes
the words and/or music to selected Shaker songs,
edited by Roger Hall,
with colorful art design by Gail Hall.
They make ideal gifts and are suitable for framing.
There are currently six Shaker song titles in this series:
No. 1: "Simple Gifts" (Elder Joseph Brackett Jr., Alfred, Maine, 1848)
[First line: 'Tis the gift to be simple 'tis the gift to be free]
No. 2: "Blended Together" (Elder Jospeh Holden, Mt. Lebanon, New York, ca. 1870)
[First line: Blended together as one we stand]
No. 3: "Love is Little" (South Union, Kentucky, ca. 1834)
[First line: Love is little, love is low ]
No. 4: "May I Softly Walk" (Mt. Lebanon, New York, 1869)
[First line: May I softly walk and wisely speak]
No. 5: "Welcome, Welcome" (Enfield, New Hampshire, 1869)
[First line: Welcome, welcome precious gospel kindred]
No. 6: "We Will All Go Home With You" (Canterbury, New Hampshire, 1862)
[First line: We will all go home with you, home to worlds of glory]
To order any of these colorful broadsides,
go to the
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.
For example these Shaker spirituals...
"Let Zion Move" by Eldress Mary Ann Gillespie
CD: Let Zion Move
"Blended Together" by Elder Joseph Holden
CD: Blended Together
Two of the most important CD releases are on Rounder Records with 40 spirituals each, sung by the Shakers, with background notes by two authorities on the subject:
Early Shaker Spirituals: The United Society of Shakers,Sabbathday Lake Maine,
with CD notes by Daniel W. Patterson
Let Zion Move: Music of the Shakers
2 CD set and illustrated booklet,
with CD notes by Roger L. Hall
Many of the harmonized hymns performed on this CD set are from the last printed Shaker hymnal published in 1908 by the Canterbury Shakersl.
Shaker Music Series
"Celestial Praises" - A Celebration of Shaker Spirituals
Arrangements by Roger Lee Hall and Conrad Held
A New CD with 25 Premiere Recordings!
The Canterbury Singers,
Kathryn Southworth, Director
You can order a download of the music arrangements by
Roger Lee Hall from this CD at this link to:
"Gentle Words" - A Shaker Music Sampler
Compiled by Roger Lee Hall
"Blended Together" - Interviews with The Shakers
Field recordings by Roger Lee Hall
Read about the extensive research and numerous recordings of
Shaker music scholar and composer, Roger Lee Hall.
Non-Shaker and Shaker Tunes
Read about the anniversaries of
"The Earthquake" (1811),
"Come Life, Shaker Life" (1835),
"On the Landing of Mother Ann in America" (1860),
"A Prayer for the Captive" (1862)
Shaker music news
Shaker Music History
Read the article 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:
Shaker Music History
Shaker Music In Our Time
"Mother Has Come With Her Beautiful Song" -
Memorial to Sister R. Mildred Barker
"Gentle Words" - Memorial to Sister Marie Burgess
"I Want To Be Like The Lily" - Memorial to Eldress Bertha Lindsay
"My Shaker Home" - Memorial to Sister Lillian Phelps
"The Humble Heart" - In Remembrance of Randy Folger
A Shaker Song Discovery
Let Zion Move - Music of the Shakers (2 CD set)
Shaker Music Archive
Shaker Music News
"Simple Gifts" arrangements on CDs
Shaker Music For Concerts or Recordings
If you are looking for one or more Shaker spirituals to perform in a concert
or to include on a recording, see these links:
Shaker music arrangements
Shaker music collections and songbooks
Shaker music series
Checklist of Printed Shaker Hymnals
Music Collections and Songbooks
Shaker music collections
Attention film makers and documentary producers!
A story treatment
about the early struggles by
the Shakers in America
and with suggested music is available by request.
Shaker Story Treatment
Read a review of the play by Arlene Hutton
about nine Shaker sisters
at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky
at this link:
AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
Book and CD Reviews
Copies of the out-of-print magazine,
THE SHAKER MESSENGER may still be available at
Shaker music books and articles
Checklist of Printed Shaker Hymnals
Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village
Shaker and Non-Shaker Tunes
Shaker Lectures and Workshops
Shaker Music Arrangements
Shaker Music News
Shaker Music on CDs and DVDs
Shaker Workshops - Who are the Shakers?
Simple Gifts of Shaker Music
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please give credit to
American Music Preservation.com
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