Simple Gifts: Four Shaker Songs
1. In Yonder Valley - 2:20
2. Dance - 1:35
3. Here Take This Lovely Flower - 2:10
4. Simple Gifts - 3:30
Flute I-II (Piccolo doubles flute I)
Bb Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
Bb Bass Clarinet
Eb Alto Saxophone I-II
Bb Tenor Saxophone
Eb Baritone Saxophone
Bb Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F
Euphonium (Bass Clef & Treble Clef)
(percussion detail desired)
None discovered thus far.
The Shakers were a religious sect who splintered from a Quaker community in the mid-1700s in Manchester, England. Known then derisively as "Shaking Quakers" because of the passionate shaking that would occur during their religious services, they were viewed as radicals, and their members were sometimes harassed and even imprisoned by the English. One of those imprisoned, Ann Lee, was named official leader of the church upon her release in 1772. Two years later, driven by her vision of a holy sanctuary in the New World, she led a small group of followers to the shores of America where they founded a colony in rural New York.
The Shakers were pacifists who kept a very low profile, and their membership increased only modestly during the decades following their arrival. At their peak in the 1830s, there were some 6,000 members in nineteen communities interspersed between Maine and Kentucky. Soon after the Civil War their membership declined dramatically. Their practice of intense simplicity and celibacy accounts for much of their decline.
Today there is only one active Shaker community remaining, the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester, Maine. They maintain a Shaker library, a Shaker museum, and a website at www.shaker.lib.me.us.
The Shakers were known for their architecture, crafts, furniture, and perhaps most notably, their songs. Shaker songs were traditionally sung in unison without instrumental accompaniment. Singing and dancing were vital components of Shaker worship and everyday life. Over 8,000 songs in some 800 songbooks were created, most of them during the 1830s to 1860s in Shaker communities throughout New England.
THE CREATION OF SIMPLE GIFTS: FOUR SHAKER SONGS
My work is built from four Shaker melodies -- a sensuous nature song, a lively dance tune, a tender lullaby, and most famously, Simple Gifts, the hymn that celebrates the Shaker's love of simplicity and humility. In setting these songs, I sought subtle ways to preserve their simple, straightforward beauty. Melodic freshness and interest were achieved primarily through variations of harmony, of texture, and especially of orchestration.
The first movement is a setting of In Yonder Valley, generally regarded to be the oldest surviving Shaker song with text. This simple hymn in praise of nature is attributed to Father James Whittaker (1751-1787), a member of the small group of Shakers who emigrated to America in 1774. My setting enhances the image of spring by turning the first three notes of the tune into a birdcall motive.
The second movement, Dance, makes use of a tune from an 1830s Shaker manuscript. Dancing was an important part of Shaker worship, and tunes such as this were often sung by a small group of singers while the rest of the congregation danced. One interesting feature in my setting occurs near the end of the movement, when the brasses state the tune at one-quarter speed, in counterpoint against the woodwinds who state it at normal speed.
The third movement is based on a Shaker lullaby Here Take This Lovely Flower, found in Dorothy Berliner Commin's extraordinary collection, Lullabies of the World and in Daniel W. Patterson's monumental collection The Shaker Spiritual. This song is an example of the phenomenon of the gift song, music received from spirits by Shaker mediums while in trance. Although the Shakers practiced celibacy, there were many children in their communities, including the children of recent converts as well as orphans whom they took in. Like many Shaker songs, this lullaby embodies the Shakers' ideal of childlike simplicity.
The finale is a setting of the Shakers' most famous song, Simple Gifts, sometimes attributed to Elder Joseph Bracket (1797-1882) of the Alfred, Maine, community, and also said (in Lebanon, New York, manuscript) as having been received from a Negro spirit at Canterbury, New Hampshire, making Simple Gifts possibly a visionary gift song. It has been used in hundreds of settings, most notably by Aaron Copland in the brilliant set of variations which conclude his Appalachian Spring. Without ever quoting him, my setting begins at Copland's doorstep, and quickly departs. Throughout its little journey, the tune is never abandoned, rarely altered, always exalted.
- Program Note by composer
Commissioned by the Tapp Middle School Band, Powder Springs, Georgia, Erin Cole, conductor.
- Program Note from score
- Audio: Reference recording. University of Southern California Thornton Wind Ensemble (Frank Ticheli, conductor)
- Florida: III
- Georgia: V
- Indiana: ISSMA SENIOR BAND GROUP III
- Kansas: IV
- Louisiana: III
- Maryland: IV
- Michigan: Senior High B
- Minnesota: III
- North Carolina: V
- Oklahoma: III-A
- South Carolina: IV
- Texas: III. Complete
- West Virginia: II
To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project
- Southwest Civic Winds (Durango, Colo.) (Thomas O'Neal, conductor) – 10 November 2019
- University of Dubuque (Iowa) Wind Ensemble (Cassandra Blanchard, conductor) – 2 November 2019
- North Carolina Governor's School of the Arts and Humanities Wind Ensemble – 22 October 2019
- Sacramento (Calif.) Symphonic Winds (Tim Smith conductor) – 13 October 2019
- Northeastern Wisconsin (Marinette) Concert Band (Glen Reinke, conductor) – 5 May 2019
- Whitman College (Walla Walla, Wash.) Wind Ensemble (Nathan Krebs, conductor) – 21 April 2019
- Indiana University (Bloomington) All-Campus Band (Alex Baczewski and Jeff Osarczuk, conductors) – 16 April 2019
- Greensboro (N.C.) College Wind Ensemble (Jane McKinney, conductor) – 11 April 2019
- Austin (Tx.) Symphonic Band (Richard Floyd, conductor) – 31 March 2019
- Valencia (Calif.) High School Concert Band (Mark Judd, conductor)– 17 March 2019 (Carnegie Hall, New York)
- Bowling Green (Ohio) State University University Band (Allison Davis, conductor) – 11 March 2019
- Andrews University (Berrien Springs, Mich.) Band (Byron Graves, conductor) – 2 March 2019
- The Ohio State University (Columbus) University Band (Brent Levine, conductor) – 28 February 2019
- University of California, Los Angeles, Symphonic Band (Janet Kim, conductor) – 7 December 2018
- Syracuse (N.Y.) University Wind Ensemble (Bradley P. Ethington, conductor) – 13 November 2018
- Brevard (N.C.) College Wind Ensemble (Eric Peterson, conductor) – 9 November 2018
- Rowan University (Glassboro, N.J.) Concert Band (Joseph Higgins, conductor) – 25 October 2018
- North Dakota State University (Fargo) University Band (Warren Olfert, conductor) – 15 October 2018
- Graceland University (Lamoni, Iowa) Symphonic Band (Chee Weng Yim, conductor) - 11 October 2018
- University of Illinois (Champaign) Hindsley Symphonic Band (Anthony Messina, conductor) – 5 October 2018
- Golden Gate Park Band (San Francisco, Calif.) (Robert Calonico, conductor) - 13 May 2018
Works for Winds by this Composer
- Abracadabra (2005)
- Acadiana (2016)
- Amazing Grace (1994)
- Amen! (2009)
- An American Elegy (2000)
- Angels in the Architecture (2009)
- Ave Maria (as arranger) (1825/2004)
- Blue Shades (1996)
- Boundless River (2020)
- Cajun Folk Songs, Part One (1990)
- Cajun Folk Songs, Part Two (1997)
- Concertino for Trombone (1987/2007)
- Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble (2014)
- Concerto for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble (2010)
- Dancing on Water (2015)
- December Snow (2015)
- Earth Song for Band (2012)
- First Light (2013)
- Fortress (1988)
- Gaian Visions (1990)
- Ghost Tale (2020)
- Joy (2005)
- Joy Revisited (2005)
- Korean Folksongs from Jeju Island (2013)
- Loch Lomond
- Midnight (2019)
- Midnight in Nairobi (2019)
- Music for Winds and Percussion (withdrawn)
- Nitro (2006)
- Pacific Fanfare
- Portrait of a Clown
- Postcard (1991)
- Rest (2011)
- San Antonio Dances (2010)
- Sanctuary (2006)
- Serenade for Kristin (2018)
- Shaker Gift Song, A (2004)
- Shenandoah (1999)
- Silver Lining (2017)
- Simple Gifts: Four Shaker Songs (2002)
- Songs of Love and Life (2012)
- Sun Dance (1997)
- Symphony No. 1 (tr. Green)
- Symphony No. 2 (2004)
- The Tyger (2008)
- Under the Big Top (2019)
- Vesuvius (1997)
- Wild Nights!
- Gillis, Glen. "Simple Gifts." In Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 10, Compiled and edited by Richard Miles, 300-313. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2015.
- Ticheli, F. (2002). Simple Gifts: Four Shaker Songs: For Concert Band [score]. Manhattan Beach Music: Brooklyn, N.Y.