Sunday, January 25, 2009

simple gifts

'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 gained,
bow and to bend
we shall not be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,'
Till by turning, turning
we come round right

'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.
When true simplicity is gained,
bow and to bend
we shall not be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,'
Till by turning, turning
we come round right

This is a beautiful hymn written by Joseph Brackett an Elder in the Shaker community of Alfred, Maine. When I heard it played during the inauguration, I automatically thought it was Lord of the Dance, one of my favourite chapel songs, because they both have the same tune. A friend of mine who came over to watch the ceremony with us explained that it is the hymn she sings at the end of every Quaker meeting on Sundays....Simple Gifts.
Today, I heard another version of this beautiful hymn which left me almost breathless. It was like the air all of a sudden turned thin with magic as time vacated leaving a scent of fresh pine and spring water. At the time when it was played, I was in a mad rush and was surrounded by mad disarraying thoughts. It brought me to a full stop appreciation of the empowerment of a hymn....

The hymns which touch a chord in us that hasn't been plucked in a while offer us a simple gift of our lives affirmed. They have the ability to make our dry eyes well up in fountains of tears. They soften even the hardest of outer shells. Hymns open our eyes to see the beauty in a moment of reflection which often is tucked in the middle of chaos. They can halt the immediacy of a crisis, can tear down the defences of an enemy, can hold out it's harmony in trucefull honesty, can express the indescribable, can bring people into a gathering place of peace Hymns can make you believe in the unbelievable.

No matter wherever you are or however busy you happen to be, please take a moment to enjoy this meditatively brilliant version of Simple Gifts. I think you'll agree with me. It's a gem.


Tabitha Chooses Bliss said...

Thank You So Much...This was deeply beautiful.

BreadBox said...

That is indeed beautiful. But it obscures the fact that a hymn as beautiful as Lord Of The Dance is never played in the US, because of the dominance of Tis A Gift To Be Simple.
I grew up with Lord Of The Dance, and to this day, as a dedicated non-follower of fashion (or religion, for that) still think that "it's hard to dance with the devil on your back" is one of the greatest lyrics ever written. And the US misses out on it!

A minor point, for me, is that Copeland's version of the tune has a different note -- and it bugs me every time I hear it --- although I've just spent ten minutes listening to various versions and I can't pin down exactly which note varies!

Here's to bringing back the Lord Of The Dance!


Awareness said...

Tabitha...I'm glad you enjoyed the song. It really hit me with its own simplicity. very haunting.

N. Maybe because I had never heard the lyrics of Simple Gifts I was taken with them too. But, I do have to admit, Lord of the Dance is one of my all time favourites.

I danced in the morning when the world had begun. I danced with the moon and the stars and the sun.....

I watched a Youtube video of John Allen Cameron singing it the other day and was thrown right into nostalgia.

Simple Gifts and Lord of the Dance have such different feelings to them, eh?

Awareness said...

oh, N! I heard a folk singer on CBC Radio 2 yesterday morning I really liked. David Francey. He's originally from Scotland but grew up in S. Ontario. Check out his myspace site....there are four songs to listen to there. The one I originally heard on the radio was entitled Skating Rink. Some of the lines are pure poetry describing a Canadian winter night. His voice reminded me of the lead singer of the Pogues.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Oh Yes Indeed...It is a GEM in every way....The pictures along with the sound of that Cello and the voice....WOW!
BEAUTIFUL beyond words!
Thank You, My Dear....! That was Lovely.

Romany Angel said...

When ever I hear stringed instruments I am struck by their beauty of sound. They lend a sense of melancholy that is hauntingly beautiful. That was lovely Dana.

bobbie said...

A beautiful post on a beautiful hymn. Perhaps inspired by the music played at the inauguration? Your photos are perfect.

Awareness said...

Naomi and's a breathtaking version isn't it? I had to stop the car when it came on and have a good listen...good thing I wasn't on the highway. lol.

bobbie...the radio show I was listening to is a Sunday afternoon program on CBC called Tapestry. If you googled it, you'd find the podcast of the interview of an author who wrote a book entitled Simple Gifts about hymns. They began the show with this song. I believe it was taped before the inauguration, so it was a serendipitous topic thats for sure and wasn't lost on me when I heard the title of the segment. I loved the version played at the inauguration (albeit taped for us to hear and not played live except for the folks around them.)
I knew the song as Lord of the Dance, and it has always been one of my favourites....the hymn often finds me during my travels and plays in my head