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Shaker Music Discoveries -

Resources and Recordings

by Roger Lee Hall






 

 

Sampling of Shaker music discoveries:

No. 1: "Blended Together" - Elder Joseph Holden, Mt. Lebanon, New York

No. 2: "Gentle Words" - Sister Polly M. Rupe, Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

No. 3: "Father James's Song (In Yonder Valley) - Father James Whittaker, Enfield, Connecticut

No. 4: "Followers of the Lamb" - Sister Clarissa Jacobs, Mt. Lebanon, New York

No. 5: "Mount Zion" - Elder Issachar Bates, Union Village, Ohio

 

All the Shaker spirituals which follow were researched and written
by ethnomusicologist and singer, Roger Lee Hall.
For more about his Shaker music research -- click here

 

 

 

 

No. 1: "Blended Together"

Blended together as one we stand,
Naught shall ever divide us.
True to each other a happy band,
Spirit friends will guide us.
Here below we are forming a heaven,
A robe that the angels are wearing.
Unto God our strength shall be given
While this perfect love we are sharing.

 

A song composed by Elder Joseph Holden (1851-1919) about 1870 at Mt. Lebanon, New York.

I was able to make a taped recording in 1974 from the singing of two Shaker sisters from Sabbathday Lake: Sister Mildred Barker and Sister Frances Carr. They sang this song while they were in Shaker Heights, Ohio for a visit and teacher workshop. The song is included on several CDs.

Music Sources:
Manuscript music book, ca. 1870
Singing of Sister Mildred Barker and Sister Frances Carr, 1974

CD Recordings:

 

Blended Together: Interviews With The Shakers

 

 

 

 

 



Love is Little: A Sampling of Shaker Spirituals (Sampler Records)

 

 

 

 

No. 2: "Gentle Words"

What the dew is to the flower,
Gentle words are to the soul,
And a blessing to the giver,
And so dear to the receiver
We should never withhold.
Gentle words, kindly spoken,
Often soothe the troubled mind,
While links of love are broken
By words that are unkind.
Then O, thou gentle spirit,
My constant Guardian be,
"Do to others," be my motto,
"As I'd have them do to me."

 

Back in 1972 while working on my Ph.D at Case Western Reserve University, I was collecting research for my first music collection published in 1976. While at the Shaker Historical Society in Shaker Heights, Ohio, I discovered a beautiful humility song, "Gentle Words," in a manuscript music volume written in Shaker letteral music notation (using letters of the alphabet instead of notes). I was impressed with the song's poetic beauty, including the last two lines which are a paraphrase of the Golden Rule from the Bible (Matthew 7:12).

"Gentle Words" was composed by Sister Polly Rupe at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky about the year 1867.

It was included in a music manuscript volume collected by Alma McGill Stoll (1855-1940), who lived with the Shakers from 1858 to 1877.
Her manuscript music volume was titled:

"A Collection of Songs, Hymns and Anthems,
Selected and Written by Alma McGill, North Union, Ohio, April 21st 1872."

The North Union Shaker community was disbanded in 1889 and eventually became part of what is today the city of Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Alma McGill left the Shakers and married a man who had also lived with the North Union Shakers, Joseph Stoll (1857-1935).

In 1949, Alma McGill Stoll's daughter donated her mother's Shaker manuscript music book to the Shaker Historical Society where I discovered it.

In her music book it contains music from these Shaker communities:

North Union, Ohio
Pleasant Hill, Kentucky
Canterbury, New Hampshire
Union Village, Ohio
Alfred, Maine
Groveland, New York
New Lebanon, New York
White Water, Ohio
Enfield, New Hampshire
New Gloucester [Sabbathday Lake], Maine

"Gentle Words," along with another song found in Alma McGill's music book, "Slow March" by Ephraim Frost, was published in A Western Shaker Music Sampler in 1976 which has been reprinted -- click here.

"Gentle Words" was first performed at a Friends of the Shakers meeting at Sabbathday Lake, Maine in August of 1976. After that program, I was surprised and very pleased when Sister Mildred Barker told me she remembered that song from her youth when she lived at the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine. Another Sabbathday Day Lake member, Sister Marie Burgess, was so moved by the words that she recited them the next day in their Sunday meeting.

Also in 1976, I arranged "Gentle Words" for chorus (soprano-alto-tenor-bass) and it was recorded by the Plymouth Church Choir of Shaker Heights. That LP album is now out-of-print, but this song is the title of a CD (AMRC 016).

This humility song has been recorded by the Enfield Shaker Singers, directed by Mary Ann Haagen, and by Randy Folger, a past music interpreter at the Shaker Village, Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. In addition, it has been recorded on a popular CD titled, Gentle Words, performed by The Tudor Choir. It was my edition of "Gentle Words" that was used for Kevin Siegfried's arrangement on the Tudor Choir CD.

Since first discovered it back in 1974, "Gentle Words" has become a meaningful song to those who feel the impact of its message, and it joins a few other Shaker songs that continue to grow in popularity.

Music Sources:
Manuscript music book of Alma McGill, North Union, Ohio, ca. 1872
Manuscript music book compiled by Emma B. King, Canterbury, NH, 1912-1914

Recordings:



CD -- Gentle Words: A Shaker Music Sampler

 



DVD -- Give Good Gifts: Shaker Music in the 20th Century

 

 

 

No. 3: "Father James's Song (In Yonder Valley)"

In yonder valley there grows sweet union,
Let us arise and drink our fill.
The winter's past and the spring appears [appeareth]
The turtle dove is in our land.
In yonder valley there grows sweet union;
Let us arise and drink our fill.

This is believed to be the first complete Shaker song with words and music. It was composed by Father James Whittaker in 1787, the same year as his death.

When I was collecting research my music collection, The Happy Journey, I found a Harvard Shaker manuscript volume compiled by Elder Thomas Hammond with this Shaker song at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts.

This song is still sung with reverence for Father James Whittaker by the Shakers at Sabbathday Lake, Maine.

Music Source:

Manuscript music book compiled by Thomas Hammond, 1853

Recordings:

CD and songbook -- Love is Little: A Sampling of Shaker Spirituals

DVD -- The Humble Heart: A Forty Year Survey of Shaker Music

 

 

 

 

 

No. 4: "Followers of the Lamb"

O brethren ain't you happy,
O brethren ain't you happy,
O brethren ain't you happy,
Ye followers of the Lamb.

Chorus:
Sing on, dance on, followers of Emanuel
Sing on, dance on, Ye followers of the Lamb.

 

Above is the first verse of a popular revival hymn known to many by that first line of "O brethren ain't you happy." It was first published in the pioneering book by Edward Deming Andrews, The Gift to be Simple: Songs, Dances and Rituals of the American Shakers (J.J. Augustin, 1940). But the author of this Shaker hymn was not identified by Andrews.

After further research, I discovered the hymn in a Shaker music manuscript compiled by Clarissa Jacobs (1833-1905), at New Lebanon, New York. The title of her volume reads:

"A Collection of Sacred Songs used in our general worship. Written and transcribed by Clarissa Jacobs beginning August 1847."

In the E.D. Andrews book there are four verses of text. But he missed an additional verse on the next page of the manuscript which reads:

I love to attend to order
I love to attend to order,
I love to attend to order (sometimes)
Ye followers of the Lamb

Clarissa wrote down this Shaker hymn when she was only a teenager and she added the word of "sometimes" after the verse which begins "I love to attend to order." She was just being a typical rebellious teenager -- even in that early time of the 1840s.

I transcribed this hymn and prepared a new edition for the Shaker Song Series which was published in The Shaker Messenger magazine (Spring, 1985).

It was later published in a music collection and accompanying CD titled, Love is Little: A Sampling of Shaker Spirituals.

This hymn is still sung today by the Sabbathday Lake Shakers and is known by others because of its lively revival-style tempo and text. And there is also hand clapping on the Chorus:

Sing on, dance on,
Followers of Emanuel
Sing on, dance on
Ye followers of the Lamb

Source:
Manuscript music book compiled by Clarissa Jacobs, New Lebanon, New York, 1843-1884

Recordings:

CD -- Love is Little: A Sampling of Shaker Spirituals

DVD -- Give Good Gifts: Shaker Music in the 20th Century

 

 

No. 5: "Mount Zion"

One of the most prominent early anthems was "Mount Zion" by Issachar Bates (1758-1837), composed about 1815, as shown in this manuscript copy...

This anthem was popular among the Shakers and later included in their first published printed Shaker hymnal with music, A Sacred Repository of Anthems and Hymns, printed in 1852 at Canterbury, New Hampshire, compiled by Elder Henry C. Blinn.

It was included in my first collection, A Western Shaker Music Sampler, in 1976 and has been reprinted --
click here

This 1976 collection is also available on the DVD, "The Humble Heart" -- click here.

Source:
Manuscript music book, Canterbury, New Hampshire, 1815

Recordings:

CD -- Gentle Words: A Shaker Music Sampler

DVD -- The Humble Heart: A Forty Year Survey of Shaker Music

 

 

 

 

 

"Gentle Words," "In Yonder Valley" and "Love is Little"
are included on the CD,
Gentle Words - A Shaker Music Sampler
.

 

 

 


 

A CD collection of 36 Shaker spirituals, released by Sampler Records in 1992, representing all of the 18 major Shaker communities, performed by Roger Hall, Mitzie Collins and other soloists, and The Sampler Chorus. It is titled after the popular Shaker humility song from South Union, Kentucky.
To order this CD -- click here


 

 

 

 

 

 


A Shaker Music Miscellany

 

 


 

 


 

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