Shaker music history
Books and articles
CD Reviews


The largest online source
for music of the American Shakers

Let all the new creation
Their sweet hosannas sound,
Celestial praises flow around,
Celestial praises flow around,
Celestial praises flow around,
In one perpetual song.

Read more, click this link:

Celestial Praises - A Celebration of Shaker Spirituals


Click on these links to go to the various topics -





A Few Notes 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 Shakers produced an amazing number of songs, hymns and anthems, estimated to be over 10,000 separate tunes and texts.

Musicians, scholars, 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, including those by academics. 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, and anthems. Because of their highly inspirational nature, they are best termed together as "spirituals."

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.

The dance song 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 song.

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.



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 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.

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.








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Read about Shaker "letteral" music notation and more at --

The Simplicity of Shaker Music




Latest News


New edition now available on CD-ROM
with music album and a video clip

Blended Together -
Discoveries Along The Shaker Music Trail




"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
collected from 40 years of music research...

Deluxe DVD:
A Shaker Music Miscellany




"Simple Gifts"
(first line: 'Tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free)


Find out more about the best known Shaker song,
click on this link to read about

Joseph Brackett's "Simple Gifts"


A new book (PDF) with bonus music and video features
on a multimedia DVD disc for any computer


"Simple Gifts" - Great American Folk Song




A Sampling of Shaker Music


Music Broadsides

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" (Joseph Brackett Jr., Alfred, Maine, 1848)
[First line: 'Tis the gift to be simple 'tis the gift to be free]

No. 2: "Blended Together" (Joseph Holden, New Lebanon, NY, 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" (New 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





Original Shaker Music on CDs

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 CDs



"Celestial Praises" - A Celebration of Shaker Spirituals
Arrangements by Roger Lee Hall and Conrad Held
New CD with 25 Premiere Recordings!
The Canterbury Singers,
Kathryn Southworth
, Director





"Gentle Words" - A Shaker Music Sampler


"Blended Together" - Interviews with The Shakers




Read about the extensive research and recordings of
Shaker music scholar and composer, Roger Lee Hall.

Click here




Aaron Copland Meets The Shakers

© photograph by Gail Hall

In 1974, 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:

"Simple Gifts" - Great American Folk Song





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 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, to the present day at this link:

Shaker Music History


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



Shaker songbooks



Shaker Music In Our Time


Memorial to Sister R. Mildred Barker

Memorial to Sister Marie Burgess

Memorial to Eldress Bertha Lindsay

Gentle Words: A Shaker Song Discovery

Let Zion Move - Music of the Shakers (2 CD set)

Shaker Music Archive

Shaker Music News





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.

Write to:

Shaker Story Treatment



Read a review of the play by Arlene Hutton
about nine Shaker sisters at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky
at this link:





Book and CD Reviews


Book Reviews




CD Reviews




Copies of the out-of-print magazine,
THE SHAKER MESSENGER may still be available at





Related Links


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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