Sunday, June 10, 2012

Simple gifts

Well, what better way to begin a Sunday morning than with "Simple Gifts," a Shaker dance song now sometimes classified as a hymn, performed here grace-fully by the Gay Mens Chorus of Los Angeles --- one variety of popularly perceived misfit embracing the music of another.

Like many others my age I heard the tune first --- as the principal theme in Aaron Copland's 1945 orchestral suite adapted from his 1944 score for the Martha Graham ballet serendipitously named "Appalachian Spring" although it really had nothing to do with Appalachia and we're free to debate whether "spring" refers to the season or to a source of living water.

Then I tracked the melody back to the song, composed in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett during a time when he was a member of the Shaker community at Alfred, Maine.

 Although his words preach, most likely more effectively than many sermons church-goers will hear today, it seems to have been created merely for dance. Although Shakers, among the many gloriously creative American religious expressions of the first half of the 19th century, were big on integrating faith and life, including dance.

Finding this reminded me of another GMCLA "sermon," this one for the It Gets Better Project, posted somewhere earlier here --- "True Colors," a Billy Steinberg/Tom Kelly song for Cyndi Lauper.

It's been interesting --- and moving --- to watch It Get's Better develop, musically and otherwise. Here's the latest musical offering (nothing to do with GMCLA) rushing headlong around the Web this week, a countrified one performed and presented by a guy named Richard Hefner.

You just never know where you're going to run into a little sermon; chances are that at least 90 percent of the best ones won't be in church and, in part because of that, are likely to be a heck of a lot more entertaining.

No comments: