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What is the most famous Shaker hymn?

The Shakers are a religious sect that is known for their unique way of worship, their skilled craftsmanship, and their beautiful music. They were founded in the United States in the late 1700s by Mother Ann Lee and her followers, who believed in a simpler and more spiritual way of life. One of the most well-known aspects of Shaker culture is their music, and one particular hymn stands out above all others: “Simple Gifts.” In this blog post, we will explore the history and significance of this famous Shaker hymn.

The Origins of “Simple Gifts”

“Simple Gifts” was composed by Elder Joseph Brackett in 1848, while he was serving in the Alfred Shaker Community in Maine. According to Shaker tradition, Brackett received the melody and lyrics of the hymn directly from the Spirit while he was working in the fields. The hymn was originally titled “The Gift to be Simple,” and it quickly became a beloved part of the Shaker repertoire.

The lyrics of “Simple Gifts” are deceptively simple, yet they reflect the core values of the Shaker tradition. Here are the opening verses:

‘Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free
‘Tis a 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.

The message of the hymn is clear: simplicity and humility are virtues that can bring joy and peace to our lives. Throughout Shaker history, the community has embraced this message wholeheartedly, seeking to live out their faith in practical and tangible ways.

“Simple Gifts” Goes Mainstream

While “Simple Gifts” was a beloved hymn within the Shaker community, it took on a life of its own in the wider world thanks to its simple beauty and uplifting message. In the early 1900s, the hymn began to be adapted by other musicians and composers, and it appeared in a variety of settings, including classical concerts, Broadway shows, and Hollywood films.

One of the most famous adaptations of “Simple Gifts” came in 1944, when the American composer Aaron Copland used the melody in his ballet score “Appalachian Spring.” The ballet was a celebration of American pioneer life, and Copland’s use of “Simple Gifts” as a recurring motif helped to reinforce the idea of simplicity and freedom as American values. The ballet was a critical and commercial success, and it helped to cement “Simple Gifts” as one of the most beloved and recognizable hymns in American culture.

The Legacy of “Simple Gifts”

Today, “Simple Gifts” remains a beloved hymn that is still sung by many different groups and in many different settings. Its message of simplicity and humility continues to resonate with people of all faiths and backgrounds, and its melody remains instantly recognizable to millions of people.

However, there is something particularly special about “Simple Gifts” when it is performed in the context of Shaker worship. Shaker music is often performed a cappella, with multiple parts and harmonies that create a sense of depth and resonance. When “Simple Gifts” is sung in this way, it takes on a meditative quality that is both peaceful and uplifting. The lyrics, which might seem trite in another context, take on a deeper meaning when they are sung with intention and sincerity.


“Simple Gifts” is not just a hymn, but a symbol of the Shaker tradition and its timeless values. It reminds us of the power of simplicity, the beauty of humility, and the joy of community. While its legacy has been shaped by its use in other forms of music and media, it remains a hymn that speaks to the soul and uplifts the spirit.


Which popular hymn is sung to a melody called Simple Gifts?

The melody Simple Gifts was originally a Shaker song, and was not widely known until it was used by the American composer Aaron Copland in his composition of Appalachian Spring. The song became popular after Copland’s ballet premiered in 1944, and since then it has remained an enduring piece of American music.

However, some people may not know that the melody of Simple Gifts has also been used in a popular hymn. The hymn is called “Lord of the Dance,” and was written by Sydney Carter in the 1960s. Carter was inspired by the melody of Simple Gifts, which he heard while attending a Shaker meeting in the United States. He decided to use the tune for his new hymn, which he intended to be a celebration of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

Today, Lord of the Dance is a widely sung hymn in many Christian denominations, and its use of the Simple Gifts tune has helped to keep the melody alive and well-known. The hymn’s lyrics, which speak of Christ’s passion and resurrection, are set to a joyful and buoyant tune, making it an uplifting addition to any church service or gathering.

The melody called Simple Gifts has become famous for its use in Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, but it has also been adopted by the Christian hymn Lord of the Dance. Its popularity in both realms is a testament to the power of music to inspire and move people across different cultures and traditions.

Are Shakers and Quakers the same?

Shakers and Quakers are two distinct religious movements with some similarities, but also significant differences. The two groups emerged during the same era, in the wake of the English Reformation and the upheavals of the seventeenth century, as dissenting communities seeking to reform and renew Christianity. Both groups emphasize simple living, pacifism, and social justice, and share a belief in the value of individual spiritual experience.

However, there are also significant differences between Shakers and Quakers. The Shakers, officially known as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, emerged in mid-eighteenth century in England. They were led by a woman named Ann Lee, who claimed to be the embodiment of the Second Coming of Christ. The Shakers were known for their ecstatic worship services, in which they would shake and dance as a way of communing with the divine. They were also notable for their celibacy, communalism, and use of communal property.

Quakers, on the other hand, emerged in England in the mid-seventeenth century, as a group of dissident Protestants who rejected traditional forms of worship, such as church hierarchies, liturgy, and sacraments. Instead, they believed that divine inspiration could come directly to individuals, without the need for priests or clergy. Quaker worship was characterized by silent meditation, during which members might be moved to speak by the Holy Spirit. Quakers not only reject the use of violence, but also work tirelessly for peace and social justice. They have also been known to work toward the abolition of slavery and other forms of oppression.

While Shakers and Quakers share some similarities, such as a commitment to pacifism and social justice, the differences between the two groups are significant. Shakers are known for their radical communalism, celibacy, and ecstatic worship practices, while Quakers reject formal worship practices altogether in favor of silent worship and direct divine inspiration. Although Shakers and Quakers have greatly influenced the religious landscape of America, these two groups are ultimately quite distinct from one another.

What is the meaning of the poem The Gift to Sing?

“The Gift to Sing” is a poem written by James Weldon Johnson, an American author, diplomat, and civil rights leader. The poem reflects on the role of music in our lives and how it can have a powerful impact on us. The poem begins with the lines, “Sometimes the mist overhangs my path, / And blackening clouds about me cling,” which suggest that the speaker of the poem is feeling downcast and dejected. However, he reveals that he has a gift that helps him through these feelings: the gift of song.

The primary message of this poem is that music has the power to transform our mood and to uplift and strengthen us. In the poem, the speaker compares the gift of song to other gifts that people might possess, such as wealth or fame. He asserts that these gifts are temporary and fleeting, while the ability to sing is a permanent and lasting gift. The lines “And so I sing, and sing again, / And feel that I am grea’er than kings” demonstrate the transformative power of music.

The poet also explores the idea that the ability to sing is not solely a personal gift but rather a gift meant to be shared with others. He describes how his singing not only uplifts him but also has the power to spread joy and happiness to others. Through lines like “And men shall hear the words I say, / Who never heard my song before,” the speaker emphasizes the universality of music and its power to bring people together.

Furthermore, the poem can be seen as a celebration of the African American cultural tradition of spirituals, blues, and gospel music. Johnson’s work often reflected his struggle to reconcile his African American heritage with his education and experiences as a member of the middle class. By celebrating the gift of song, Johnson honors a key part of his cultural heritage and recognizes the power that this tradition has to lift up and empower those who participate in it.

“The Gift to Sing” is a powerful meditation on the transformative power of music and its ability to uplift and empower us. By celebrating the gift of song and recognizing its role in the African American cultural tradition, Johnson offers a message of hope and resilience. The poem teaches us that even in the darkest moments, we can find joy and strength through the gift of music.

What does it mean to have the gift of song?

Having the gift of song is a special ability given by the Holy Spirit to certain individuals within the Christian community. This gift enables those who possess it to use their voices to praise and honor God in a unique and powerful way that can enhance the worship experience of others. The gift of song is not limited to those who are professional musicians or trained singers, but it can be found in anyone who is inspired to use their voice to glorify God.

The gift of song can manifest in a variety of ways. Some people may have an exceptional ability to sing in a particular style or genre, while others may be gifted with the ability to write songs, compose music, or play an instrument. Whatever the unique expression of the gift may be, the key is that it is used to bring praise and honor to God.

When someone with the gift of song releases their voice in worship, there is often a profound sense of the presence of God that can be felt by those who are present. The words of the songs and the music itself seem to take on a life of their own as they become a conduit for the Holy Spirit to move in the hearts of the worshippers. This can lead to powerful experiences of healing, deliverance, and renewal, as people are drawn closer to God through the medium of song.

The gift of song is not given for the glory of the individual, but for the edification of the whole community of believers. Those who possess this gift have a responsibility to use it in service to others and to use it in a way that is pleasing to God. They must guard against the temptation to use it for their own benefit or to show off their abilities, but instead, they must seek to use it humbly and with the heart of a servant.

Having the gift of song is a special calling that is given to some members of the Christian community. Those who are blessed with this ability have an important role to play in leading others into the presence of God through the power of their voice. They must use this gift wisely and with humility, seeking to bring glory to God and to build up the body of Christ through their unique expression of worship.