Tuesday, May 01, 2018

A simple version of "Simple Gifts"

It's more complicated than you might think to find a simple performance of the old Shaker hymn/dance tune, "Simple Gifts," both written and composed by Elder Joseph Brackett back in 1848 when he was a member of the Shaker community at Alfred, Maine.

Aaron Copland was largely responsible for its rise from lovely obscurity, using it as he did as the melodic theme for the orchestral suite backing Martha Graham's 1944 ballet, Appalachian Spring.

Now it's everywhere, but there's something faintly peculiar about fully orchestrated Mormon Tabernacle Choir versions and their variants.

So here's a simple version, performed by Yo-Yo Ma and Allison Krause. And here are the words:

'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 gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.

The photos are taken from the Historic American Buildings Survey of the Shaker village at Sabbathday Lake, Maine, and show the meeting house.

In in case you're wondering how the last of the Shakers are doing at Sabbathday Lake, Sister Frances Carr died at age 89 in January of 2017, but Elder Arnold Hadd, in his early 60s, and Sister, June Carpenter, pushing 80, persevere.

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