Hymn Story: Simple Gifts
Simple Gifts is attributed to Joseph Brackett, a member of the Alfred Shaker Village. It was composed in 1848, and relatively unknown until Aaron Copeland used the melody in the score of Martha Graham’s ballet Appalachian Spring, first performed in 1944. Copeland used the song a second time “in 1950 in his first set of Old American Songs.”
Several Shaker manuscripts indicate the tune was a dancing song. The melody are also compositions of Brackett’s and versions have been used in both the song and Irish dance show “Lord of the Dance”.
There are alternative and additional verses, not of Shaker origin, which have also been added.