Shaker Music Scholar and Singer
Celebrating His 40th Anniversary!
Roger Lee Hall
"You will always be in our hearts and thoughts in Gospel Love"
--Sister Mildred Barker, Sabbathday Lake, Maine
Shaker Music Research
Most of the Shaker music pages on this website were compiled and written by Roger Lee Hall, an ASCAP composer, singer, ethnomusicologist, and one of the leading authorities on Shaker music, having researched it for forty years. He is a Charter Member of the Friends of the Shakers at Sabbathday Lake, Maine, the last remaining active Shaker community, which he has studied and discussed in his lectures and publications.
Mr. Hall has studied the entire Shaker music repertory from the West (Ohio and Kentucky) and the East (New York State, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine), from the 18th century to the 20th century.
His first research project was a Master's Thesis titled, The Shaker Letteral System: A Practical Approach to Music Notation (Binghamton University, 1972).
Some of his research was later included in A Guide To Shaker Music (6 editions, 1996-2006) and Love is Little: A Sampling of Shaker Spirituals (2 editions, 1992, 1996).
In the 1990s he met with Joel Cohen of the Boston Camerata to discuss Shaker music and as a result there were two best-selling CDs released with the Boston Camerata and Sabbathday Lake Shakers, "Simple Gifts" and "The Golden Harvest."
Recently, for his 40th anniversary, Mr. Hall has compiled ten of his books and music collections with over 200 music examples for a Deluxe Edition DVD titled,
A Shaker Music Miscellany
On 17 January 1973, Mr. Hall presented his first Shaker music program, announced in a newspaper column by Bill Randle, the man who introduced Elvis Presley on national television and who Mr. Hall worked for at Case Western Reserve University. His first program was titled: "Songs and Dances of the Shakers."
During the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Hall interviewed several Shaker sisters at Canterbury, New Hampshire and Sabbathday Lake, Maine and transcripts of the interviews are available in his pamphlet: Blended Together: Discoveries Along The Shaker Music Trail, and also Gentle Words - Shaker Music in the 20th Century.
His editions have been used on CDs, including Love is Little and Joy of Angels from Sampler Records, and the best-selling recording by the Boston Camerata and Sabbathday Lake Shakers titled, Simple Gifts. Also by The New England Voices, The River of Love, and for Kevin Siegfried's arrangements recorded by The Tudor Choir on Gentle Words.
Mr. Hall has edited or arranged hundreds of Shaker tunes, written over 700 pages on the subject in various music books and collections, and has presented over 100 lectures and workshops on Shaker music.
In 1974, he had the pleasure of introducing the distinguished composer, Aaron Copland to the Shakers for the first and only time in Shaker Heights, Ohio.
Six years later, he interviewed Copland which is now available in the multi-media DVD titled, THE STORY OF 'SIMPLE GIFTS'
Between 1981 and 1996, he compiled and edited 56 Shaker tunes for a magazine devoted to Shaker culture. The titles of the Shaker songs and hymns he edited are listed in the Shaker Music Series.
As a respected scholar, Mr. Hall has taught music for many years in various schools and colleges, and produced numerous programs on radio and cable television, and he has performed in concerts.
In addition, he has presented scholarly papers on Shaker music. One of them was titled: "Issachar Bates: Colonial Fifer and Shaker Tunesmith," presented at the Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife in 1996.
His latest publication is "May We Ever Be United" - Music of the North Union, Ohio Shakers (PineTree Press, 2012), and contains the most extensive information about this former Shaker community (1822-1889) now known as Shaker Heights, Ohio.
Also, Mr. Hall is one of the foremost authorities on earlier American choral music and has compiled numerous music collections and CDs and is currently director of several music archives.
For his many distinguished achievements in music, Mr. Hall has been listed in Who's Who in America and Who's Who in the World.
2013 Music Presentation
Spring Shaker Forum
April 26-28, 2013
Saturday, April 27
“Break Forth into Singing”:
Evolution of an Enfield Shaker Anthem,
Roger Lee Hall
Roger’s presentation will take us on a musical journey through the evolution of the popular Shaker anthem, "Millennial Praise," composed by
Enfield Shaker, James G. Russell (1843-1888).
This anthem is available on the CD,
Gentle Words - A Shaker Music Sampler
2012 Music Programs
Lecture: "Celestial Praises"
Music of the New Hampshire Shakers
Date: June 7, 2012
Time: 12:10 p.m.
Bach's Lunch Series, Concord Community Music School,
23 Wall Street, Concord, New Hampshire
Speaker: Roger Lee Hall
The Shakers are America’s oldest religious communal society and they were also the most musically prolific of any American communal sect, with over 10,000 tunes composed between the 18th and 20th centuries.
It includes a selection of Shaker spirituals from the two communities in New Hampshire -- at Enfield and at Canterbury. Several songs will be heard as sung by Shaker sisters and also several arrangements by Roger Lee Hall.
Many of the Shaker hymnals were compiled and published by the Canterbury Shakers. One of the hymns was “received” in 1841 and titled, “Celestial Praises.” It is an example of the gift of receiving music from the spirit world.
Below are pictures of Roger Lee Hall and the display of his many music publications:
Among Roger's music publications are: “Blended Together” and "Gentle Words"
which also have accompanying CDs.
Concert: "Sweet Communion"
A Celebration of Shaker Life and Music
Date: June 14, 2012
Time: 12:10 p.m.
Bach's Lunch Series, Concord Community Music School,
23 Wall Street, Concord, New Hampshire
The Canterbury Shaker Village Singers,
Kathy Southworth, song leader
A portion of the concert music was prepared by Roger Lee Hall:
"Welcome Song" -- Rosetta Cummings, Enfield, NH, 1869
"My Shaker Home" -- Sister Lillian Phelps, Canterbury, NH, 1959
"Celestial Praises" -- Canterbury
, NH, 1841
"The Humble Heart"
Music of the Harvard Shakers
Date: April 12, 2012
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Harvard Historical Society, 215 Still River Road,
Presented and performed by Roger Lee Hall
This program takes you on a musical journey through several centuries with the Shakers in Harvard, from the songs of their first spiritual leaders in the 1780s, to arrangements of Shaker tunes.
Harvard has a unique place in Shaker history because it was where Mother Ann Lee (1736-1784) spent time on her missionary journey through New England in the 1780s. A good deal of music was composed or collected at Harvard from the 1780s onward.
The program is titled after the hymn which Roger considers the best to come from the Harvard Shakers and demonstrates the sharing of creative ideas among the sexes -- a Shaker sister (Eunice Wyeth, 1756-1830) wrote the words to the hymn and a Shaker brother (Thomas Hammond Jr., 1791-1880) wrote the Shaker tune. Since the Shakers believed strongly in being humble, this hymn is titled appropriately, “The Humble Heart.”
Another hymn was first published in 1991 in an edition by Roger for the 200th anniversary of the Harvard Shaker Community. This hymn is titled, "Good Believer's Life."
A sing-along with the audience of a few Shaker songs is at the end of this musical journey through Harvard’s Shaker history.
In the above picture, Roger Lee Hall presents his gift of Harvard maps, a sheet of color slides of Harvard Shaker sites, a pamphlet (Blended Together), and Gentle Words (music book and CD) to Denis Wagner, President of the Harvard Historical Society.
The Humble Heart - Twenty-four Shaker Spirituals
Arranged and Composed by Roger Lee Hall
Shaker Music Editions and Arrangements
Among the over 200 Shaker tunes Roger has edited are these titles:
Song: "All at home"- first line: What shall be the theme of the passing hour?
Hymn: "Almighty Savior" - f.l.: Almighty Savior, hear my prayer
Song: "Blended Together" - f.l. Blended together as one we stand
Song: "Come Life, Shaker Life" - f.l.: Come life, Shaker life, come life eternal
Song: "Doxology" - f.l.: Come let us chant the melody sweet
Hymn:"Followers of the Lamb" - f.l: O brethren ain't you happy
Song: "Gentle Words" - f.l: What the dew is to the flower
Song: "Slow March" - f.l.: How beautiful do the Heavens ring
Hymn:"The Humble Heart" - f.l: Whence comes this bright celestial light
Song: "In Yonder Valley" - f.l.: In yonder valley there grows sweet union
Song: "Living Souls Let's Be Marching" - f.l. Living souls let's be marching
Song: "Love is little" - f.l: Love is little, love is low
Song: "May I Softly Walk" - f.l.: May I softly walk and wisely speak"
Hymn: "Mother" - At Manchester in England this blessed fire began
Song: "Mother Ann's Song (wordless)
Anthem: "Mount Zion" - f.l.: Come let us arise and go up to the top of Mt. Zion
Hymn: "Ode to Contentment" - f.l.: Come contentment lovely guest
Hymn: "On the Landing of Mother Ann in America"
Hymn: "A Prayer for the Captive" - f.l.: Dark is the cloud that rests over the nation Hymn: "Rights of Conscience" - f.l.: Rights of conscience in these days
Hymn: "The Shakers"- f.l.: When the Lord in ancient days
Song: "Simple Gifts" - f.l: 'Tis the gift to be simple 'tis the gift to be free
Song: "Slow March" - f.l.: The angels of heaven are marching around
Song: "Welcome Song" - f.l.: Welcome, welcome precious Gospel kindred
Song: "Farewell Song" - f.l.: We will all go home with you
Roger has prepared editions of Shaker music in these publications:
- A Western Shaker Music Sampler - Western Reserve Historical Society,
Cleveland, Ohio, 1976
- The Happy Journey: Thirty-Five Shaker Spirituals - Fruitlands Museums,
Harvard, Massachusetts, 1982
- Love is Little: A Sampling of Shaker Spirituals - The World of Shaker, 1992
- Joy of Angels: Shaker Spirituals for Christmas and The New Year -
Sampler Records Ltd, 1995
- Come Life, Shaker Life: The Life and Music of Elder Issachar Bates -
PineTree Press, 2004
- "The Best Choice": A Sampling of American Communal Hymns -
PineTree Music, 2004/ 2nd edition, 2006
- A GUIDE TO SHAKER MUSIC - With Music Supplement -
6 editions, 1996 - 2006
- How Happy Are They: Twelve Shaker Spirituals from Kentucky and Ohio -
PineTree Music, 2007
- "May We Ever Be United" - Music of the North Union, Ohio Shakers,
PineTree Press, 2012
Roger's music editions and research have been used on these CDs:
- All at Home (Singers of Lower Shaker Village, 1995)
- Blended Together: Interviews with The Shakers (2008)
- Gentle Words: A Shaker Music Sampler (2009)
- Gentle Words (The Tudor Choir, 2001)
- The Humble Heart: Twenty-four Shaker Spirituals (2010)
- Joy of Angels: Shaker Spirituals for Christmas and The New Year (1995)
- Love is Little: A Sampling of Shaker Spirituals (1992)
- Music of Angels: Songs of the Shaker West (The Pleasant Hill Singers, 1999)
- Music On The Mountain (William Coulter, Barry Phillips and other musicians, 1996)
- The River of Love: Music of the Shakers and Music Based On Shaker Themes (2007)
- Simple Gifts: Shaker Chants and Spirituals (Boston Camerata)
- Verdant Groves: A musical journey through four New England Shaker Villages (
Roger has also arranged many Shaker tunes. Three of them were dedicated in memory of Sister R. Mildred Barker and premiered by the Portland String Quartet in 1990 and 1991 at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village. These songs are Op. 23:
1. "Mother Has Come With Her Beautiful Song" (Alfred, Maine, 1887)
2. "Love is Little" (South Union, Kentucky,1834)
3. "We Will All Go Home With You" (Canterbury, New Hampshire, 1862)
These are fifteen other Shaker tunes with arrangemnts by Roger Lee Hall:
- "Almighty Savior"
- "Celestial Choir"
- "Celestial Praises"
- "The Earthquake"
- "Gentle Words"
- "The Humble Heart"
- "Introduction To Zion"
- "Love is Little"
- "May I Softly Walk"
- "Mother" [Ballad of Mother Ann Lee]
- "The Prince of Peace"
- "Rights of Conscience"
- "The Savior's Universal Prayer" [Lord's Prayer]
- "Simple Gifts"
- "Welcome, Welcome"
- "We Will All Go Home With You"
Shaker Music Publications
Blended Together: Discoveries Along The Shaker Music Trail
Read more about "Blended Together" and "Gentle Words" at
Shaker Books and Articles
This multimedia DVD with book,
and video clip is available at
Shaker Books and Articles
Read the interview by David Crumm speaking
with The Story of Simple Gifts author, Roger Hall, at
Read the Spirit.com
SIMPLE GIFTS OF SHAKER MUSIC
Shaker Music Scholar
Named to Who's Who Directory
Roger Lee Hall, one of the world's leading authorities on Shaker music, has received the high honor of being listed in this directory: Who's Who in the World.
He is a music preservationist, composer, and singer who has researched, arranged and performed Shaker music for forty years.
His popular reference book, A Guide to Shaker Music, is the only one of its kind.
In addition to that book and many articles, he has served as singer and consultant for two Sampler CDs:
Joy of Angels: Shaker Spirituals for Christmas and the New Year - The Sampler Chorus (38 spirituals)
Love is Little: A Sampling of Shaker Spirituals - The Sampler Chorus (36 spirituals)
Also, he edited a 2 CD set featuring music and commentary by the Shakers from Canterbury, New Hampshire and Sabbathday Lake, Maine:
Let Zion Move: Music of the Shakers (40 Shaker spirituals)
He produced a CD of his own music which includes arrangements of six Shaker tunes and is titled:
Come, Gentle Peace
A list of his published music is available at this link:
To read more about his background, go to
A Contemporary Adventure Into the Past
by Gwyneth Walker
The following article is reprinted from
The New England Organist
In 1992 I responded to a call-for-scores announcement in the newsletter of the Vermont Composers's Consortium. This was a request by the Constitution Brass Quintet of Vermont for music written by Vermont composers. Since I had previously composed several short works for brass, and was eager to collaborate with the Constitution Brass Quintet, I submitted scores and tapes.
Almost immediately, I was contacted by Ben Edwards, trombonist in the ensemble, initiating discussion of a commission -- fee, duration of work, date of completion, exclusive performance rights by the players, etc. Once these terms were settled, the Quintet applied for and received funding from the Vermont Community Foundation (commission fee), the Vermont Music Teachers' Association (additional commission and performance assistance) and the Vermont Council on the Arts (Artist Development Grant -- audio recording fee). And I began to consider the nature of the work I would be creating.
I decided upon a suite of movements based on songs of the Shakers -- the religious sect which thrived in the Northeastern United States during the 18th and 19th centuries. These were colorful, beautiful and even humorous songs which ought to lend themselves well to contemporary adaptations. I had done similar 'updating' of Baptist hymns in my Braintree Quintet for woodwinds (with audience singing) which had proven very popular. Thus I was encouraged in my Shaker 'venture'.
Although I was familiar with a few Shaker melodies such as "Simple Gifts" and "I Will Bow and Be Simple", I knew that research into the wider body of Shaker tunes was my next step. And thus I contacted the staff of the Shaker Museum in Enfield, New Hampshire. Song books and cassettes were ordered and received. Help was also provided by a Norwich, Vermont choral director specializing in Shaker music, Mary Ann Wilde. Ms. Wilde sent me handwritten copies of several of the melodies not found in the song books.
I listened to and read through many Shaker tunes in order to select five songs which offered a variety of moods and sentiments. Since I am a composer who values energy, beauty, humor, spirituality, and familiarity of the music, I selected the following tunes: "Welcome, Welcome Precious Gospel Kindred" (energy); "I Will Bow and Be Simple" (beauty); "Followers of the Lamb" (humor); "I Never Did Believe" (spirituality); and "Simple Gifts" (familiarity).
I should emphasize that the Constitution Brass Quintet placed no restrictions upon the content of the newly-commissioned work. They had liked my previous brass writing, and simply let me create what I felt would be a good work for them. My suggestion of the Shaker Tunes led to a positive response from the players, perhaps mixed with some bafflement as to what exactly I would be writing! And indeed, they would need to wait for nearly a year until the total concept was brought to reality. This project evolved into a long-term work-in-progress, a collaboration of composer, brass players, singers, choir directors and Shaker music scholars.
Most composers work from the general to the specific. And this was the case in my writing. I planned the overall suite -- the ordering of the songs, the tonalities involved, general style of each movement, continuity as well as variety of the tunes, durations of each movement, duration of the whole -- before beginning to place notes on the page. Once I had the broad concept formed, I began my writing.
Since I had several other commissions ongoing (a string quartet, two choral works), the brass music would be done in installments. And this would allow for ample time to confer with the players and to incorporate their suggestions (mostly technical and idiomatic) into the score.
I began with the "Welcome" song which I composed in June, 1993. The premiere was given in early July, and although I was not able to attend the actual performance (the string quartet was also premiered the same week in a distant locale!), I worked with the players in several rehearsals. Audience reaction to the new music was very enthusiastic, and the players were pleased with the first 'installment' of their commission. This encouraged me to work on the Shaker Tunes as much as possible. And there was not much time to wait, since we were scheduled to present the first three movements at the Quad-State Music Teachers' Association Conference in Plymouth, NH in October, 1993.
I explained to the Constitution Brass Quintet that my concept for the Shaker Tunes included audience (or choir) singing of the original Shaker melodies preceding each of the brass variations. This would not only involve the audience in the performance, and be enjoyable for anyone who likes to sing (!), but would also lend some historical authenticity to the process of combining the past with the present.
Thus, I copied out the melodies and distributed them to the music teachers at the Conference. The premiere of the first three movements involved audience singing of each song -- "Welcome", "I Will Bow and Be Simple", and "Followers of the Lamb" -- followed by my contemporary brass settings.
This 'second installment' premiere worked beautifully and showed the players and the composer that the singing integrated well with the brass music. The music teachers were enthusiastic singers (!), and their joy 'infected' the playing. Moreover, the one humorous movement, "Followers of the Lamb", (complete with tuba cadenza) was met with unanimous laughter. Only live concert experience will serve as a test of this element of music!
The first three movements were completed. In response to audience questions about the background of the individual Shaker songs, I located a scholar of Shaker music, Roger Hall. Roger has compiled, transcribed and researched Shaker melodies, and published numerous books and articles about this music. Anyone doing research into Shaker music, or even attempting to create contemporary arrangements, would find him an invaluable resource. With Roger's help, I was able to provide dates and locations of the origins of the melodies I had selected for my suite. And I have continued to contact Roger with additional questions concerning the background of my material.
Movements IV and V, "I Never Did Believe" and "Simple Gifts", were completed during the Winter of 1993-4 in preparation for an April 1994 premiere of the entire set of Shaker Tunes in Warren, VT. Several rehearsals were spent fine-tuning the music. Once again, I listened to the suggestions of the players and incorporated their ideas (articulation, refinements of tempi) into the score.
The location of the concert would be the Warren United Church, a lovely historic site, ideal for Shaker music! Thus, I asked the choir director, Virginia Roth, if her choir might be available to sing each of the Shaker melodies before the playing of the brass adaptations. She responded with enthusiasm and was able to assemble and rehearse a group of 8 singers. With considerable care, I created simple SATB a cappella arrangements of the melodies. The goal was sparse-yet-graceful choral settings that would introduce the songs with beauty while not detracting from the far more adventurous brass adaptations to follow.
The premiere of all five movements, with singing, was extremely successful. The small choir was able to master the SATB arrangements in one rehearsal, and performed with confidence and fine singing. The audience was encouraged to sing along with the choir on the refrains of the songs, which they did easily. And the ensuing brass music followed immediately on the closing notes of each song.
The creation of the Shaker Tunes for brass quintet spanned a year. At several stages, revisions were made according to live performance evaluations. Attention was given not only to the brass writing, but also to refining the choral arrangements to the point where they could be performed comfortably by a small choir of average singers.
The completed work adds up to about 1/2 hour of music, with 20 minutes of brass music and 10 minutes of singing. This has been used often as the second half of a concert program. The intended audience spans all ages and all levels of musical sophistication.
The reaction of many of the choir directors has been that this music can and has been used with a worship service. Certainly, the choir can sing the a cappella arrangements as they wish. However, the singing followed by the brass playing is also suited to sacred use. The "Welcome" song makes a lively prelude, while "I Will Bow and Be Simple" and "I Never Did Believe" can be performed as anthem and offertory. And "Simple Gifts", with congregation singing followed by the rousing brass adaptation, might be a festive postlude. This is music from the American sacred tradition. The tunes are rough-hewn and direct. The brass music is lively and clean.
I have enjoyed my year spent creating the Shaker Tunes for brass quintet. What started out as a 'generic' commission for brass quintet led to a project which incorporated singing and Shaker music. It provided music which is equally suited to concert hall and church presentations. And although brass quintets are often brought into churches for special occasions, they do not usually perform American music from the 'folk' tradition, as the Shaker music is often considered. Thus, the Shaker Tunes are somewhat unique to the repertoire.
Read the original article online at Gwyneth Walker's web site
Shaker Music Lectures and Workshops
Related links on this site
Aaron Copland Meets The Shakers -- the first and only meeting.
American Music Recordings Archive -- recordings of Shaker singing.
Canterbury Shaker Village -- music series and related arts programs.
CD and DVD Releases -- list of original and arranged Shaker tunes.
Joseph Brackett's 'Simple Gifts' -- about the best known Shaker song.
Shaker Music Archive -- list of Shaker sheet music editions and CDs.
Shaker Music Arrangements -- for piano and soloists or chorus.
Shaker and Non-Shaker Tunes -- a comparison of selected titles.
Shaker Music Books and Articles -- a list of books and scholarly articles.
Shaker Music History -- highlights from 18th to 21st century.
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