Lay me low

Music: Sheena Phillips, Words: Anon

Voicing: SATB

Performance time approx: 0m 45s (sung once through)

Shaker song
arranged by Sheena Phillips
for soprano, alto, tenor and bass unaccompanied chorus

Price code: A


This beautiful melody comes from the 19th century Shaker community of New Lebanon in New York state. Frequently, Shakers felt their songs to be not the creations of individual people but, in essence, gifts from the spiritual world; this song is a ‘gift song’ received by Addah Z Potter in 1838.

Traditionally nearly all the Shaker songs were sung in unison but they come alive in a different way when harmonised. ‘Lay me low’ works well sung first by a quartet of soloists and then by a larger group. Sequences of different Shaker tunes can also work well in performance. Other harmonised Shaker tunes published by Canasg include Mother Ann’s song, Simple gifts, Star of purity and Turning shuffle tune.

Lay me low,
Lay me low,
Lay me low, low
Where Mother can find me,
Where Mother can own me,
Where Mother can bless me.

Shaker song received by Addah Z Potter

The 'Mother' referred to in the song is Ann Lee who was a leader of the Shaker movement. She was viewed virtually as a female deity and many Shaker songs are attributed to her inspiration or refer warmly to her.

Our transcription of these words and the tune is taken from Edward Deming Andrews' book The Gift to be Simple: songs, dances and rituals of the American Shakers published by Dover Publications, New York (and on the web at www.doverpublications.com).

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