Mother Ann's song

Music: Sheena Phillips. Words:
performance time approx 1m 30s (sung once through)
Shaker song
arranged by Sheena Phillips
for soprano, alto and tenor(and/or bass) unaccompanied chorus
Price code: A
Complexity: *

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This song, dating from the New Lebanon community of 1844, is one of many Shaker songs written using the syllables 'vum, vi, ve, vo'. As well as being strong syllables to sing, they are close to words about life (Latin 'vivo', 'vita' etc and the old incantation 'Fe fi fo fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman..'). The song has a driving energy and works well sung twice through, once at a moderate pace, the second time much faster.

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, a sequence of Shaker tunes can work well in concert. Other harmonised Shaker tunes published by Canasg include Lay me low, Simple gifts, Star of purity and Turning shuffle tune.


Vum vive vum vive vum vum vo,
Ve vum vive vum vive vum vum vo,
Vum vive vum vive vum vum vo,
Ve vum vive vo ve vum vum vo,
Vum vive vum vive vum vum vo,
Vive vive vive vive vum vum vo,
Vum vive vum vive vum vum vo,
Ve vum vive vum ve vum vum vo.

Shaker song 'learned of Mother Ann', September 1844.

Ann Lee was a leader of the Shaker movement and was given the title Mother. 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

Purchase – 5005: Mother Ann's song

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