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Joseph Brackett, Jr.
Gifts" is an 1848 Shaker
song by Elder Joseph Brackett. Brackett was born in Cumberland,
Maine, on May 6, 1797. He first joined the Shakers at Gorham,
Maine, when his father's farm helped to form the nucleus of a
new Shaker settlement. In 1819, Joseph moved with the other
Shakers to Poland Hill, Maine. He later served as first
minister of Maine Shaker societies, as well as Church Elder at
New Gloucester, Maine, now known as Sabbathday Lake, the last
remaining Shaker community. Elder Joseph Brackett died on July
Gifts" was written by Elder Joseph while he was at the Shaker
community in Alfred, Maine in 1848.
"Simple Gifts" is usually identified
either as a "Traditional Shaker Hymn" or as a "Work Song."
Actually, it's neither a hymn nor a work song. It was written
as a dance song. Shaker hymns
usually have two or more stanzas of text, and
Shaker songs have only one stanza.
Since "Simple Gifts" has only one stanza, it should be
classified as a song.
you look closely at the words, you'll notice the last two lines:
turn will be our delight
These words are dance instructions.
turning, turning we come round right.
The following arrangement is from Joseph Brackett’s original 1848 score
and not the more popular arrangement from Aaron Copland score for Martha
Graham's ballet, Appalachian Spring.
Lyrics by Joseph Brackett Jr.
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 gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight
'Till by turning, turning we come round right.