Songs of the Shakers: A workshop on 19th-century songs about love and community

Who are the Shakers? What about their beliefs made them live in separate communities throughout the eastern U.S. and along the edges of Appalachia? Where are they now? Long associated with furniture, celibacy, and dance, the Shakers of the last 260-plus years are so much more, including prolific songwriters who have contributed much to the American repertoire. In this workshop, we will explore historic Shaker culture by learning 19th-century Shaker songs with their themes of love, humility, and community. Our songs will reflect the diverse songwriters of the Shaker villages, including African-American women and first and second generation European immigrants. Through these songs we will also explore how Shaker men and women enjoyed equal rights and governance privileges, and how African-American members enjoyed these same privileges even before the Civil War. All levels of singing experience are welcome. We will teach several melodies, play with “layering” song parts on top of each other to create interesting polyphonies, and might get in time for some nice harmonies as well.