Simple Gifts: Shaker Chants and Spirituals
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Top Customer Reviews
The music is folksy - simple and direct - and by its style directly reflects the Shaker philosophy of life. The pieces are short - a disadvantage for those tunes you love. Simple Gifts is the best known work - but you are apt to find other pieces you like as much. Come Life, Shaker Life is one of my favorites.
This album is a must for anyone interested in Shakers, early American music, or American folk music. It will whet your appetite for the albums put out by Shaker musuems - but the professional performance is a better starting point for most people.
The CD comes with thick program notes of 63 pages, which outlined short history of the Shakers and lyrics of whole 34 songs in English, French and German.
This music is rather simple, yet it has tremendous beauty. From the wordless songs to the famous "Simple Gifts", it is a recording to be treasured.
For those with an interest in early American music, I recommend this recording highly.
Without their music, the Shakers can seem quaint and faintly silly - the odd maiden aunts and uncles with peculiar hobbies (making chairs and living without modern conveniences) and -- nutty bears, indeed! -- living in celibate, and therefore non-regenerative communities.
But their music is something else --earnest, longing, full of commitment and a sense of their own story. And tuneful! You don't have to be a Shaker to appreciate the visual poetry of "Virgins cloth'd in a clean white garment," or hear the deep commitment to resist sin in "I will fight, fight, and never slack until I overcome the enemy," or the desperate longing for eternal life evoked by "In yonder valley there flows sweet union." These are songs written for and performed by people who lived a most austere form of spirituality.
There are those who criticize Joel Cohen for having embellished some pieces by adding, for instance, a drone that is not attested in the literature. By I certainly praise Cohen and the Boston Camarata for having brought these wonderful pieces to my attention. It is icing on the cake that a few of the remaining Shakers of the Sabbathday Lake, Maine community chose to join their voices to this effort. To sing is to pray twice, and this CD certainly delivers on that promise, plus providing insights into an obscure but enduring corner of the American religious landscape.
Shakers remain not only celibate, but ascetic. Though not to the level of the Amish or the Luddites. Sabbathday Lake has a website, a car, telephones, and internet connections. They also don't hermit themselves from society. They play an active role in it. So throw away any notions of Puritanical witch hunters. Shakers laugh, socialize, read, dance, and, as this CD aptly demonstrates, they sing their ascetic hearts out.
The music, largely resembling English folk music, rhapsodizes about Shaker values, history, and vows. All songs but one get performed a capella. Some emphasize the lyrics with stomping and clapping. Permeating the set is the figure of "Mother," or Ann Lee. She helped found the Shakers in the eighteenth century and all faithful remain her spiritual heir (after Jesus Christ, of course). Early followers faced persecution, but found faith in Mother's actions and example.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Clear, simple and beautiful (very much like a Shaker village). Not for everyone but if you like early music this will talk to you.Published 23 months ago by EllPee
Not what I was expecting, but then I'm not sure what I was expecting.Published 23 months ago by Amazon Customer
This was a real find. The songs are sung by a mix of professional vocalists and authentic Shakers. The amateur singers do their best, but the songs really shine when sung by the... Read morePublished on June 20, 2014 by Jim Stouffer
The quality of the recoding is quite acceptable. I play it flying down the Interstate. Good motivational upbeat music to the Lord.Published on June 3, 2013 by Robert Crouse
Wonderful product and well packaged. What more can I say? What more can I say? What more can I say?Published on February 1, 2013 by Bill and Paulene Carleton
This is a gorgeous album of melodies so strong and simple that you could build bridges on them.
The issue of the theology is irrelevent unless you believe that... Read more
I read the reviews of this CD and feel some people are not understanding the lyrics. One cautioned that Shakers refer to God as "she. Read morePublished on January 27, 2005 by S. Hochstedler