Simple gifts

Music: Sheena Phillips, Words: Anon

Voicing: SAB

Performance time approx: 0m 30s (sung once through)

Shaker song
arranged by Sheena Phillips
for soprano, alto and tenor(and/or bass) unaccompanied chorus

Price code: A


This is one of the most famous Shaker songs, written by Joseph Brackett in 1848 as a dance song. The tune and words appear in many different Shaker song collections of the time. Traditionally nearly all the Shaker songs were sung in unison but they come alive in a different way when harmonised.

As with Gaelic mouth music (also written for dancing), a sequence of Shaker tunes can work well in concert. Other harmonised Shaker tunes published by Canasg include Lay me low, Mother Ann’s song, Star of purity and Turning shuffle tune.

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight
'Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Shaker dance song by Joseph Brackett, 1848

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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Simple gifts

Sheena Phillips


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