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Joseph Brackett, Jr. (6 May 1797 – 4 July 1882) was an American Shaker Elder and songwriter, famous as the author of the song "Simple Gifts."
Simple Gifts (1848)
'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.
- Through the course of time these lines have often been altered into "'Tis a gift", rather than the original "'Tis the gift". The song was largely unknown outside of the Shaker community until Aaron Copland used the melody in his 1944 composition "Appalachian Spring". Many people have thought that the tune of "Simple Gifts" is a traditional celtic tune (as it is implied to be, as used in the theatrical play Lord of the Dance) but the music and original lyrics are actually the compositions of Joseph Brackett. The original lyrics to a song "Lord of the Dance", based upon the tune, were written by the Quaker poet Sydney Carter in 1963, and these were adapted (in ignorance of the actual origins) without authorization or acknowledgments in the play, but acknowledgement was eventually made, and some royalty payments arranged. Several other adaptations and parodies have since occurred. · Alison Krauss performance · Performance by the King's Singers - GMCLA performance · Arrangement by John Williams for the Inauguration of US President Barack Obama
Quotes about Brackett or "Simple Gifts"
- The man who wrote this claimed it came to him by divine inspiration, and I truly believe that might have been the case. This may be the perfect piece of music. I've sung it close to 15,000 times over the years, and I never get tired of it.
- Randy Folger, who sang the song each weekday for visitors at the "Shaker Village" in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.
- I don’t think he was musically trained, as far as I can tell from my research. There isn’t a lot of background material to find on this question, but I do believe that he picked up music as it was passed to him through the community. They felt it was a communal gift to be able to write music, a gift from God. They wrote about the experience as having inspirationally received a song.
- Roger Hall, in in Simple Living: Discover spiritual gifts of the Shakers.
- The Music Educators National Conference — the professional organization for American music teachers — named it among a handful of songs that every American should know. Teachers ranked it right up there with the "National Anthem," "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Home on the Range."
- Everyone agreed that this is a song all Americans should be able to sing. It was a hands-down favorite among teachers. And I've talked with kids in elementary and high schools about it, too. Any youngster can tell you what this song means: Simplicity is sometimes better than complexity, and we shouldn't take ourselves too seriously.
- Will Schmid, president of the 1996 Music Educators National Conference, as quoted in "From Lord of the Dance to Oldsmobile ads, the Shaker song 'Simple Gifts' can now be heard in all kinds of places" by David Crumm in Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (30 November 1998)
- Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village
- Simple Gifts at The Boston Camerata
- Joseph Brackett's Simple Gifts