“Simple Gifts”

Perhaps the best-known Shaker hymn of all is “Simple Gifts.” Elder Joseph Brackett composed it while at the Alfred Shaker Community in 1848. The composer Aaron Copland later made this melody famous in his the score of his ballet “Appalachian Spring.” “Simple Gifts” has been adapted and recorded many times; the most popular adaptation of the original melody is its 1963 use as the melody to “Lord of the Dance.”

The original version of the song had only one verse. Additional verses were added later.

‘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.

Attributed to Elder Joseph Brackett of the Alfred Shaker Ministry, June 28, 1848. Manuscript penned by Eldress Mary Hazzard of the New Lebanon Shaker Ministry.

Attributed to Elder Joseph Brackett of the Alfred Shaker Ministry, June 28, 1848. Manuscript penned by Eldress Mary Hazzard of the New Lebanon Shaker Ministry.

In 2015, the Town of Alfred voted to adopt “Simple Gifts” as its official Town Song.

Museum Hours:

Museum Hours: 1 PM – 4 PM on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and by appointment.

Closing for the season on November 15.

Admission: Free. Donations are gratefully accepted.

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