Shaker music history
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From the Center for American Music Preservation


The most extensive Online source
for music of the American Shakers


Shaker song in alphabet music notation -- click here




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Latest music publications


The 20th publication by Shaker music scholar,
Roger Lee Hall, containing a summary of his forty years of research,
with 4 sheet music collections, many music examples,
7 video clips including concert highlights,
all included on a computer DVD. For more information,

click here





Shaker Music in the 20th Century
by Roger Lee Hall

(PineTree Productions, 2015)

Click here




Great American Folk Song
by Roger Lee Hall
(PineTree Press, 2014)


Click here






Introductory Notes

Too many people know too little about music of the Shakers.

Many people know and like the best known Shaker song titled "Simple Gifts" (or its first line: "'Tis the gift to be simple").

But few have bothered to investiagte further any other Shaker music, which numbers in the thousands of original tunes.

The last remaining Shaker community is located at Sabbathday Lake, Maine which has a museum and an extensive research library, includes music publications and material from other Shaker communities and related communal societies.

The Shaker music information on American Music was written by Roger Lee Hall, an ethnomusicologist, composer and singer. He is one of the foremost authorities on Shaker music, having researched it and performed it for over 40 years. Read about his extensive work with Shaker music -- click here.

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 harmonized tunes in ther printed hymnals.

One of the most glaring errors made by researchers is classifying all Shaker music as "songs."

There are actually three main types of Shaker music:
one verse songs
multi-verse hymns
prose anthems.

There are also many sub-categories within these types, such as: gift songs, dance songs, inspirational hymns, gospel hymns, ceremonial and harmonized anthems.

Often the discussion of Shaker music is misleading or incomplete in books and articles, including those published by university presses, who continually fail to list available recordings and also fail to list the latest Shaker music publications.

Because of their highly inspirational nature, like the Afro-American singing tradition, Shaker tunes are in the Anglo-American singing tradition and best classified together as "Shaker spirituals."

Becuase it is religious folk music, Shaker tunes are often thought to be by unknown Shaker composers. Not true!
Many of the Shaker spirituals are credited to Shaker brethren and sisters and sometimes both are credited for a Shaker spiritual.

One example is the Shaker hymn, "The Humble Heart, with words by Eunice Wyeth (or Wyethe) and music by Thomas Hammond Jr., both from the Harvard Shaker community in Massachusetts

Another is the song, "Come Life, Shaker Life". It was composed by Elder Issachar Bates in the 1830s. His song, shown below in Shaker alphabet music notation, was used as a "quick dance" song by the Shakers. In the late 1960s this Shaker song was arranged as a folk-rock song, "Run, Shaker Life" by Richie Havens, without credit given to the original Shaker dance song or to its composer, Issachar Bates.


"Come Life, Shaker Life" song from a Shaker manuscript volume
(Courtesy: Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio)



The same lack of credit for the composer is also true for "Simple Gifts," composed by Elder Joseph Brackett Jr. It has been common to list this song with incorrect titles such as: "The Gift to be Simple" or "Tis a Gift to be Simple."

There have been numerous recorded arrangements of "Simple Gifts."

For example, Judy Collins, Aaron Copland, Roger Lee Hall, Kevin Siegfried, John Williams and others.

There was also a new song, "Lord of the Dance," by Sydney Carter which is based on the "Simple Gifts" tune.

These resources about Shaker music on American Music are revised and updated versions of an earlier site known as AMERICAN SHAKER MUSIC available online between 1998 and 2005 and known as "The Music Buffs Web Pages"© and links to it are still available at Shaker Pedia.


Giving Credit Where It Is Due

Many writers and musicians have failed to give proper credit to the those who have worked on 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 and seldom give proper credit to editions of Shaker tunes.

Some arrangements, such as those by Kevin Siegfried, fail to list the editor (Roger Lee Hall) of the Shaker music who have made modern editions from original Shaker manuscripts in alphabet notation.

These have been the most active editors of Shaker tunes:

Anne Azema, Vicki Bell, Joel Cohen, Mitzie Collins, Harold Cook, Randy Folger, Christian Goodwillie, Mary Ann Haagen, Roger Lee Hall, Conrad Held, Colleen Liggett, Carol Medlicott, Daniel Patterson, and Donna Phillips.

The Shakers produced thousands of tunes and many of them would be suitable for performance, providing they have been edited or arranged properly. There's enough material available that colleges or universities could spend a whole semester discussing Shaker music.

Since most of the early Shaker music was in alphabet music notation, which the Shakers called "the letteral system," it is necessary to transcribe their tunes and make them readable in conventional music notation. That is the work of a music editor, who also finds the appropriate credit for the author of the words and/or the composer of the tune.

Often it is just the music arranger who gets credit, not the music editor who first discovered it and made it available in a performing edition. Note to researchers, singers, composers and arrangers:

Please give proper credit, when available, to the editors of Shaker music and the book or manuscript where it is found.








"Blended Together" (song)
"Gentle Words" (song)
"In Yonder Valley" (song)
"Followers of the Lamb" (hymn)
"Mount Zion" (anthem)
"My Shaker Home" (song)

Read about these tunes at

Shaker music discoveries













Joseph Brackett's "Simple Gifts"


Read the interview from
January 20, 2011
with Roger Hall about his previous book,
The Story of 'Simple Gifts'

Click here


"A Prayer for the Captive"
A Civil War era hymn
sung in memory of
President Abraham Lincoln




Early Shaker Anthem: "Mount Zion"



Read about the anniversaries of
"The Earthquake"
"Come Life, Shaker Life"
"On the Landing of Mother Ann in America"
"I will bow and be simple"


Shaker music news









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" (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 authors 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



Shaker Music Series CDs


"Celestial Praises" - A Celebration of Shaker Spirituals
Arrangements by Roger Lee Hall and Conrad Held

25 Premiere Recordings!

Performed by The Canterbury Singers and Guest Soloists,
Kathryn Southworth
, Director

You can order a download of the music arrangements by
Roger Lee Hall from this CD at this link:

CD Baby





"Gentle Words" - A Shaker Music Sampler
Compiled by Roger Lee Hall





"Blended Together" - Interviews with The Shakers
Compiled by Roger Lee Hall



Shaker Music Scholar and Singer




Roger Lee Hall has been named to the several prestigious volumes, Who's Who in the World, and Who's Who in America.
To read more about his extensive music research, go to this link:

Shaker music scholar and singer

See also his music lectures and workshops -- Click here







Shaker vs. Non-Shaker Tunes










Shaker Music History


Read the informative article by Roger Lee Hall about the evolution of Shaker music
from the time of the early leaders in the 18th century
to the 20th century on a multi-media computer DVD:

"The Humble Heart" - A Forty Year Survey of Shaker Music







Shaker Music Preservation


Deluxe DVD: A Shaker Music Miscellany






Shaker Music For Concerts, Recordings, and Films

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 series

Attention film makers and documentary producers!

Shaker music can make an ideal accompaniment for your film

Write to:

Shaker Music for Film



Shaker Music Scholar Named to Who's Who Volumes

Roger Lee Hall, distinguished American music preservationist and one of the leading authorities on Shaker music, has received the high honor of being listed in these two distinquished directories: Who's Who in the World and Who's Who in America.

Read about his many Shaker music accomplishments --




Checklist of Most Recorded Shaker Tunes

The list of the Most Recorded Shaker Tunes
is on the computer DVD:

"The Humble Heart" - A Forty Year Survey of Shaker Music








Book and CD Reviews


Book Reviews




CD Reviews







Related Links on this site


Shaker music books and articles

Shaker and Non-Shaker Tunes

Shaker lectures and workshops

Shaker music arrangements

Shaker music in our time

Shaker music news

Shaker music on CDs and DVDs

Shaker song discoveries

Simplicity of Shaker music

"Simple Gifts" (book about the best-known Shaker song)









Please help support the educational mission of this website.

Order music books, CDs or DVDs at the

AMP Store




Please remember to credit this website

When using any of the information found on these pages
please give credit to

American Music


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