Joel Cohen spent countless days in the library at the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake, Maine, transcribing dozens of tunes from among thousands of archived chants and spirituals. Many more of these wonderful tunes were... more » recalled from memory by the community's few resident Shakers--and Cohen and his ensemble, joined by several Shaker singers, made this recording, which deserves to be heard by everyone who loves songs and singing. --David Vernier« less
Joel Cohen spent countless days in the library at the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake, Maine, transcribing dozens of tunes from among thousands of archived chants and spirituals. Many more of these wonderful tunes were recalled from memory by the community's few resident Shakers--and Cohen and his ensemble, joined by several Shaker singers, made this recording, which deserves to be heard by everyone who loves songs and singing. --David Vernier
"It's funny how we often draw the wrong conclusions about people of the past, by looking at evidence of their physical lives. Shaker furniture and room design often convey ascetic austerity, and repressed emotions. And then... there is the music! Here one realizes that Shakers were deeply spiritual people and found great joy in their music and dance. The Boston Camerata really succeeds in recreating the atmosphere of a Shaker meeting hall, with music that captures the power of communal gatherings. There are reflective melodies here, but also energetic "hand-clapping, foot stomping" chants. The result is that, in listening to this CD, you are likely to "see" the Shakers in a new light. If you like early American historical music, or just appreciate the power of shared hymns, you will truly appreciate this wonderful performance."
A gentle introduction to Shaker music
M. J. Smith | Seattle, WA USA | 07/06/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album is sung by professional singers with some Shaker community participation. This contrasts with the folk recordings of Shakers alone - or of music groups retaining the Shaker tradition. Just as the Boston Camarata recordings of Billings, Dear etc. helped revive an interest in early American music of what became the shaped note tradition, so this album should revive interest in the American Shaker tradition.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."
Powerful and Simple Gifts by a cappella chorus
Mire Uno | 01/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Simple Gifts from Copland's Appalachian Spring is my favorites. I bought this CD since I wanted to listen to the original Simple Gifts, Shaker Hymn. Wow, I love this Simple Gifts, too! Powerful and simple a cappella chorus. I never thought original has lyrics. I love the lyrics. Other songs are also beautiful. 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."
Shaken *and* stirred
Jean E. Pouliot | Newburyport, MA United States | 04/27/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My interest in seeking Shaker music was professional - I wanted something to use for my church choir's next big performance. What I found in this collection of Shaker music was that, but much more.
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."