Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

Simple Gifts, A Singable Picture Book

Posted on: December 10, 2010

I’m not sure when I learned this song, but SIMPLE GIFTS feels like one of those songs that I was born with in my head.

Today, I had the pleasure to tour the newly refurbished Arena Stage facility with a group of friends.  When we first arrived, my friend Ann said that she has been enjoying simplifying her holiday celebrations this year.  Our conversation reminded me of this beautiful, profound song.


Simple Gifts (A Shaker Hymn)
Words and Music by Elder Joseph Brackett
Illustrated by Chris Rashka

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Simple Gifts (the shaker song)
Words and Music by Elder Joseph Bracket
Illustrated with Photographs by Solomon M. Skolnick

 

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I’ve been thinking about that very subject with all the holiday rush and pressure swirling around and pressing down on me.  What is really important?  It’s not easy to alter the progress of the holiday parade while the brass band is playing and the drummers are drumming, but the conversation is a good one, and maybe some changes can be made for next year.

My dad always told me, “Keep it simple,”  and any good performance coach will remind you, “Less is more.”  It’s all good advice.  And it really is a GIFT TO BE SIMPLE, because being simple sets you free from the earthly “too much-ness” of modern life…too much stuff, too much weight, too much activity…

“Simple Gifts” (and its good advice) has inspired a number of musical compositions from theme songs for TV shows to grand orchestrations by Aaron Copeland.

The best use of the song is to sing it, simply with just the human voice, sitting side by side with child.  The tune is easy to learn.

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Addendum 7/26/2014

Simple Gifts is one of my favorite songs.

With the help of my guitar teacher, I figured out some simple chords for accompanying myself.

Here’s a song sheet, so you can sing along, too:

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Simple Gifts ELEG for SBWE
Simple Gifts Song Sheet with Guitar Chords for SBWE
Words and Music by Elder Joseph Brackett
Guitar Chords and Arrangement by ELEG for SBWE
To view or print this song sheet, click here:
Simple Gifts ELEG for SBWE

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SBWE SBS Simple Gifts w chords
Simple Gifts Song Sheet with Chords for SBWE Songbook Series
Words and Music by Elder Joseph Brackett
Guitar Chords and Arrangement by ELEG for SBWE
To view or print this song sheet, click here:
SBS Simple Gifts w chords

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SBWE SBS Simple Gifts no chords
Simple Gifts Song Sheet for SBWE Songbook Series (no chords)
Words and Music by Elder Joseph Brackett
Guitar Chords and Arrangement by ELEG for SBWE
Page Coordinated by ELEG for SBWE Songbook Series
To view or print this song sheet, click here:
SBWE SBS Simple Gifts no chords

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Here are a few YouTubes to help you get the tune in your head:

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www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOFQ_YvxcAg

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www.youtube.com/watch?v=aa0iYxfKcKI

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www.youtube.com/user/KASMusicMusic#p/a/u/2/ecYW-QdaeJs

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Simple Gifts
Words and Music by Elder Joseph Brackett

‘Tis the gift to be simple,
’tis the gift to be free,
’tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will 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,
‘Til by turning, turning we come round right

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We often sing and think of “Simple Gifts” as a rather serious ballady song to teach us a good lesson, but it was written to express joy and to be danced with.  I’m not sure the dancers in this following video are filled with joy, but  you can get the idea.  A dance for “Simple Gifts,”

www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbFDEKbZ1uE

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For singing along with an instrumental track, I love the “Simple Gifts” from,

New England Yuletide
(Unique instrumental arrangements beautifully performed on vintage folk instruments)
This really is a terrific album.  You can hear “Simple Gifts” on Track 11.

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SIMPLE GIFTS song history, here:
http://www.americanmusicpreservation.com/SimpleGiftsmultimedia.htm

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An interesting wiki article with “Simple Gifts” song history, here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simple_Gifts

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More info and additional lyrics, here:
http://www2.gol.com/users/quakers/simple_gifts.htm

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A little more info, here:
http://www.contemplator.com/america/simple.html

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Library of Congress exhibit webpage for “A Ballet for Martha” (Appalachian Spring) into which Aaron Copland wove the song SIMPLE GIFTS (and which was first performed on the stage at the Library of Congress:
http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/tri009.html

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NPR’s Milestones tribute to “Appalachian Spring,” (with link to the audio)
http://www.npr.org/programs/specials/milestones/991027.motm.apspring.html

The written piece includes this statement about SIMPLE GIFTS:

An emotional highpoint of the score is a melody based on a traditional Shaker song, “Simple Gifts.” We hear a chorus sing the original hymn that provided Copland his inspiration, then listen to Copland’s beautiful solo vocal and instrumental adaptations. Throughout the work, Copland brilliantly weaves melodies that evoke simplicity and the “earnest but good-natured piety” of Shaker culture. Composer John Adams discusses the Shaker influence on American culture and how Copland allowed that to shape the piece.

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Jane Yolen wrote a book in 1976 called,

Simple Gifts, Story of the Shakers
Text by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Betty Fraser
ISBN: 0-670-64584-2

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Loved recordings of the song, “Simple Gifts”


http://www.amazon.com/Simple-Gifts/dp/B00136RL6Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dmusic&qid=1295289958&sr=8-1
This track features Y0-Yo Ma on cello with Alison Krauss’ vocals.

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http://www.amazon.com/Simple-Gifts/dp/B000QLQEVW/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&s=dmusic&qid=1295290236&sr=1-10
I love this simple 47 second track of “Simple Gifts” beautifully played on dulcimer by Kevin Roth

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Aaron Copland’s use of “Simple Gifts” in Appalachian Spring, his composition for ballet and orchestral suite

Aaron Copland, in the mid 1940’s gave “Simple Gifts” tremendous stature in his fabulously inspiring work “Appalachian Spring,” using the song as the “backbone” of the ballet (written for Martha Graham’s choreographed piece in 1944) and orchestral suite (first conducted in 1945 by Artur Rodzinski with the New York Philharmonic).

I love Aaron Copland’s music, which frequently plays on my iPod.  I’d enjoyed listening to his music the same Sunday morning (Sunday, January 16, 2011) a new picture book featuring his Appalachian Spring collaboration with Martha Graham was featured in the New York Times Book Review:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/16/books/review/McDonald-t.html, about the book,

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Ballet for Martha (Making of Appalachian Spring)
Text by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
Illustrated by Brian Floca

Boston Symphony offers a YouTube video with some historical information about the piece written for the work choreographed by Martha Graham (in 1944) and the re-arranged orchestral suite (first played in 1945):

www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRxDSiVELKk

The Dance on Film YouTube Page offers video of the complete work (presented on video in 4 parts)

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Appalachian Spring (Part 1/4)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmgaKGSxQVw

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Appalachian Spring (Part 2/4)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTdyDOWtE2Q

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Appalachian Spring (Part 3/4)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=91y-NEdTj-g

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Appalachian Spring (Part 4/4)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KIn6xHbSZg

Two recordings of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring Suite (“Simple Gifts” is in the Seventh Part):

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http://www.amazon.com/Bernstein-Conducts-Copland/dp/B00138KGPM/ref=tmm_other_title_0

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http://www.amazon.com/Copland-Conducts-Expanded-Appalachian-American/dp/B00138D16I/ref=sr_shvl_album_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1295289400&sr=301-1

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Appalachian Spring (and Simple Gifts) on STUDIO 360’S AMERICAN ICONS series podcast:

http://www.studio360.org/2006/jan/07/appalachian-spring/

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“Simple Gifts” is the theme of 2010 White House Holiday Decorations

In December 2010, my whole family gang got to see the holiday decorations at the White House.

It was a delight to discover that this year’s theme is “Simple Gifts” which happens to be the title of one of my favorite songs and Singable Picture Books.

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Simple Gifts
Program for Holidays at the White House 2010

I am not a good photographer so my picture of the tree and decorations in the Vermiel Room of the White House, which hosted “The Gift of Music,” is blurry…but here is a scan of the page from the program with information about the Vermeil Room decorations celebrating music,

A video of Michelle Obama presenting a preview of the White House Holiday Decorations for 2010,

www.youtube.com/watch?v=jT9NlybyByA

In this video, you can see them creating the “Simple Gifts” holiday decorations,

www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgPFI564yYk

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A page for the Sing Books with Emily SINGABLE ADVENT CALENDAR

SIMPLE GIFTS
This song seems simple, but it is rich with profound ideas.  And you can sing it fast and you can sing it slow.  You can sing it in a round and you can sing it solo.  You can sing it a-capella or you with another fella…this song is simply a wonderful thing…

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SBWE Advent Calendar simple gifts
Simple Gifts (The Shaker Hymn)
Words and Music by Elder Joseph Brackett
To view or print the SBWE Singable Advent Calendar sheet for “Simple Gifts,” click here:
SBWE Advent Calendar simple gifts

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SBWE SBS Simple Gifts w chords
Simple Gifts Song Sheet with Chords for SBWE Songbook Series
Words and Music by Elder Joseph Brackett
Guitar Chords and Arrangement by ELEG for SBWE
Page Coordinated by ELEG for SBWE Songbook Series
To view or print this song sheet, click here:
SBS Simple Gifts w chords SBWE

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Related Posts

Other Posts featuring SIMPLE GIFTS

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ILLUSTRATED SHAKER SONGS
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2015/02/08/illustrated-shakers-songs/

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In the Bleak Midwinter, The February Blizzard of 2010, A Singable Poem, A Simple Gift

https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/02/07/in-the-bleak-midwinter/

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In the Bleak Midwinter, A Singable Poem, A Simple Gift

https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/12/26/in-the-bleak-midwinter-a-singable-poem-a-simple-gift/

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The Little Drummer Boy, A Singable Picture Book, A Simple Gift

https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/the-little-drummer-boy-a-singable-picture-book-a-simple-gift/

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Simple Gifts at the White House:

https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/simple-gifts-at-the-white-house/

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Simple Gifts, a Singable Picture Book:

https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/simple-gifts-a-singable-picture-book/

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WINTER

Singable Picture Books for Winter
Some of these are sung at Christmastime, but this is a list of songs about Winter that you can sing all season long!
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/singable-picture-books-for-winter/

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SING BOOKS WITH EMILY SINGABLE ADVENT CALENDAR
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/the-sing-books-with-emily-singable-advent-calendar/

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SIMPLE GIFTS, Continuing to Captivate and part of Wooster Group’s Staging of Shaker Spirituals
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/simple-gifts-continuing-to-captivate-and-part-of-wooster-groups-staging-of-shaker-spirituals/

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A Simple Gifts Song Sheet with Guitar Chords by ELEG for SBWE
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2014/07/26/a-simple-gifts-song-sheet-with-guitar-chords-by-eleg-for-sbwe/

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Sing Books with Emily Songbook Series: Lullabies

https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/sing-books-with-emily-songbook-series-lullabies/

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