Simple Gifts, A Shaker Dance Song

Much of my vocal style developed while I was a music student at the University of Kentucky. During that time, I studied vocal music and conducting, and sang with the University Chorus and Choristers. Although I have been influenced by many singers over the years, the experience at U.K. taught me fundamental vocal techniques and exposed me to a wide variety of music.

I’ve written a little about this before, but one of the truly formative experiences at Kentucky was the opportunity to travel with the Choristers in 1979 to the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, a short distance down U.S. 68 from Lexington. There we re-enacted a Shaker worship service with Music of the Shakers, arranged by Salli Terri. Sara Holroyd directed the Choristers at the time, and that performance began an annual tradition at Pleasant Hill that would continue for several years.

About a year ago, Renee Collins, a later member of the Choristers contacted me, having found an earlier video of a performance of Simple Gifts on this site. She had saved a VHS recording of a performance of Music of the Shakers by the first cast that had been aired on Kentucky Educational Television.

Having the opportunity to relive those memories has given me a great deal of gratitude for that experience that shaped me, both as a musician and as a person of faith. I continue to keep Simple Gifts in my performance repertoire to honor the music and the faith of the Shakers as well as the friendships made and renewed.

This video clip is from a performance at Stella’s Coffee House in Denver in February 2015.

Dean’s recording of Simple Gifts is available on his third CD, Give Us a Song, and on iTunes.