Gentle Words - Shaker Songs / Doug Fullington, Tudor Choir

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This was a nice idea: take a selection of songs–28 in all–from the rich and vast repertoire of Shaker music, and, while preserving as much of their original character as possible, arrange them for choral ensemble. Preserving their original character meant keeping the tunes and texts intact while honoring the music’s traditional, defining performance format: voices singing in unison. Siegfried accomplishes this with either complete settings in unison (the first and fourth tracks, “I will bow & be simple”, “O Lord make me pure”), or interspersing sections of harmony with unison passages (the second, third, and fifth tracks, “In yonder valley”, “All is summer”, “Love is little”), all sung with great sensitivity and care by the 13 voices of the Seattle-based The Tudor Choir.

And so goes the rest of the program, dotted with several completely harmonized songs, such as the gorgeous “Lay me low”, “Prayer for the captive”, “Gentle words”, and “Almighty Savior”; Siegfried has a real affinity for the stylistic and contextual uniqueness–the rhythms and language–of these songs, and he captures their essence with an artful touch guided by an obvious sincere respect for the quality of the music and its unique and important cultural significance. The sound is accordingly fine.

I have only one question for Mr. Siegfried: For someone who has spent so much time getting to know this music and exploring its origin and who appreciates the efforts of those who have devoted considerable time, effort, and resources to bringing this largely unknown repertoire to light and making it available to modern listeners, why did you not mention, in your acknowledgments, the pioneering work of Joel Cohen, whose extensive work in the mid-1990s at the library at Sabbathday Lake, Maine, resulted in the transcription and recording of many previously unheard Shaker songs?

His determined and meticulous dedication to this project preceded any of the individuals you cite, and his recording with The Boston Camerata and The Schola Cantorum of Boston, Simple Gifts–Shaker Chants and Spirituals (Erato), which even included among the singers real members of the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community, is a reference. Indeed, it contains several of the songs you arranged for this disc–and interestingly, even the cover of that CD has an uncanny resemblance to yours. That aside, choral directors everywhere will be looking for some of these arrangements, of which many are available in published editions. Not to mention that interested listeners will be moved, charmed, and satisfied. Strongly recommended.

-- David Vernier,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: LRCD-1041

  • UPC: 617145104120

  • Label: Loft Recordings

  • Composer: Addah Z. Potter, Anonymous, Cecelia Devyr, Clarissa Jacobs, Elder Issachar Bates, Ephraim Frost, Father James Whittaker, John Lockwood, John Whitbey, Mildred Barker, Paulina Bates, Polly M. Rupe, Traditional

  • Conductor: Doug Fullington

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Tudor Choir

  • Performer: Ann Glusker, David Stutz, Linda Sabee, Lisa Cardwell Pontén, Penni Ferraris