Recording Simple Gifts

In looking for music for my butterfly documentary film I heard a very beautiful folk version of “Simple Gifts,” then found the John William’s recording, “Air and Simple Gifts,”  with YoYo Ma and Itzhak Perlman created for Obama’s inauguration, which led to discovering Aaron Copland’s score for Martha Graham’s Applachian Spring (1944). The melody is perfect for my film. I then fortuitously ran into Kathleen Adams, the music director of the Annisquam Village Church, and Liv’s former teacher and mentor, at a cocktail party, and asked her advice. Kathleen graciously volunteered to share her talents and offered she and the church to record “Simple Gifts.” While Liv was home over spring break she very sweetly offered to sing.

Finding copyright free music is difficult and costly. I am eternally grateful for Kathleen and Liv’s gifts and generosity. Kathleen recommended Phil Davis, who is an expert in recording classical music and artist in his own right.

Kathleen Adams and Liv standing next to the gorgeous organ that Jeremy Adams, Kathleen’s husband, built for the Annisquam Village Church

I can’t wait for you to hear Liv and Kathleen’s rendition,  played as written and with their beautiful improvising!

Although many people think that the tune of ‘Simple Gifts” is a traditional Celtic song, “Simple Gifts” was an American Shaker dance song written in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett. The song has been widely adapted. Perhaps the best known example is “Lord of the Dance,” published in 1963, which was then used without coyright permission for Michale Flatley’s dance musical Lord of the Dance.

‘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.

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