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Flutopedia Symposium

Simple Gifts - Sheet Music for Native American Flute

Simple Gifts was written in 1848 by Joseph Brackett, Jr. (1797 – 1882), as a dance song for The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing (“The Shakers”). The melody was largely unknown outside of Shaker communities until Aaron Copland used it in his 1944 composition Appalachian Spring.

Transcription and Performance Notes

Two versions of the melody are transcribed below:

  • The original melody taken from a manuscript of Mary Hazzard of the New Lebanon Shaker community provided by Christopher A. Meacham, combined with the original lyrics of Joseph Brackett, Jr. as reproduced in [Anderson-JM 1950]. Note that the note values of the original version have been doubled in the transcriptions below.
  • A variation of the original melody, in the style of popular arrangements that I have heard.

The melody divides into two halves, noted at Citation A and Citation A in the transcriptions below. Each of the halves of the melody can be seen as applying to alternate verses of the lyrics.

The Lyrics

In addition to the original lyrics shown in the first transcription below, here are two additional, later, non-Shaker verses for the song. The first is from [Johnson-AL 2008]:

'Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
  'Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
  Then we'll all live together and we'll all learn to say.

'Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,
  'Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of “me”,
And when we hear what others really think and really feel,
  Then we'll all live together with a love that is real.

This version of the lyrics is from the Simple Gifts track of the album Drenched ([Mockingbird 2005]):

The Earth is our mother and the fullness thereof,
  Her streets, her slums, as well as stars above.
Salvation is here where we laugh, where we cry,
  Where we seek and love, where we live and die.

When true liberty is found,
  By fear and by hate we will no more be bound.
In love and in light we will find our new birth
  And in peace and freedom, redeem the Earth.

Sheet Music - Original Version - Six-hole Pentatonic Minor Tuned Flutes

Simple Gifts - Original Version - six-hole Pentatonic Minor

Simple Gifts - Original Version - Six-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning Larger image

Sheet Music - Original Version - Five-hole Pentatonic Minor Tuned Flutes

Simple Gifts - Original Version - five-hole Pentatonic Minor

Simple Gifts - Original Version - Five-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning Larger image

Sheet Music - Popular Arrangement - Six-hole Pentatonic Minor Tuned Flutes

Simple Gifts - Popular Arrangement - six-hole Pentatonic Minor

Simple Gifts - Popular Arrangement - Six-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning Larger image

Sheet Music - Popular Arrangement - Five-hole Pentatonic Minor Tuned Flutes

Simple Gifts - Popular Arrangement - five-hole Pentatonic Minor

Simple Gifts - Popular Arrangement - Five-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning Larger image

 
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