Event | Concerts and Performances Homegrown: Shaker Spirituals in Maine

Date and Location

  • When: Wednesday, August 25, 2021

    12:00 pm - 12:30 pm EDT

  • This presentation will premiere on both Facebook External and YouTube External. The presentation will be available for viewing afterwards at those sites and in the Library's Event Videos collection.

  • Where: Online Only

Part of Homegrown Concert Series

Request ADA accommodations five business days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or ADA@loc.gov.

The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, more commonly known as the Shakers, was founded circa 1747 in England. The Shakers emigrated from England and settled in Revolutionary colonial America, with an initial settlement at Watervliet, New York (present-day Colonie) in 1774. Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, a Shaker village near New Gloucester and Poland, Maine, is the last active Shaker community in the United States, with three active members. The Shaker settlement at Sabbathday Lake was established by a group of Shaker missionaries in 1782 at the height of the Shaker movement in the United States. The community grew to over two hundred members in less than a year. Now, in 2021, Brother Arnold Hadd, is the last Shaker to actively carry on the 200-plus-year tradition of singing Shaker songs, though he is working hard to pass on his knowledge to others.

From their inception, the Shakers composed thousands of songs which were an important part of the Shaker worship services. Shakers' earliest hymns were shared by word of mouth and letters circulated among their villages. Many Believers wrote out the lyrics in their own manuscript hymnals. In 1813, they published Millennial Praises, a hymnal containing only lyrics. The Music division has manuscripts in its collections with such transcriptions. The surviving Shakers sing songs drawn from both the earlier repertoire and the four-part songbooks. They perform all of these unaccompanied, in single-line unison singing. Harmonized arrangements of older Shaker songs for choirs mark a departure from traditional Shaker practice. However, Brother Arnold has been working with American composer Kevin Siegfried as Siegfried creates spare arrangements for choir that are performed by modern vocal ensembles. With Brother Arnold’s guidance, these pieces serve to bring the music to a wider audience, while staying true to the essential nature of the original songs, in hope of preserving the rich bounty of music from this spiritual movement that is as old as the United States.

This concert will focus on the transmission, history, and meaning of Shaker song, and Brother Arnold’s work with American composer Kevin Siegfried. The concert will feature Brother Arnold demonstrating the songs as he sings them, and Kevin’s related compositions, sung by Radiance Choir, a Seattle, Washington choral ensemble. Brother Arnold has been a member of the Shaker Community since 1978, his knowledge has shaped his vocation in immeasurable ways, and it has also resulted in his incredibly valuable role at Shaker Village. Inspiring all around him to appreciate, honor, and respect Shaker life, and its philosophies, values, mission, and vision. From individuals living around the world to those who work with him every day, people look to him to set the standards and be the guidepost that marks a way forward. In this way, Brother Arnold represents and embodies the living cultural practices and philosophies of a Church that began more than 200 years ago. He has dedicated his life in service to his calling to the Gospel and the Christlife, and he sets the standards for Shaker Village, not by expectation or insistence, but rather by example.

Kevin Siegfried is actively involved in the research and performance of early American music and his arrangements of Shaker music have been performed and recorded by choirs across the globe. The Tudor Choir’s “Gentle Words” CD, the premiere recording of Siegfried’s Shaker arrangements, received wide acclaim and was praised as “a stunning addition to the repertoire” by Fanfare Magazine. In recent years, Siegfried has performed at the Maine Festival of American Music, where he has presented concerts in collaboration with Brother Arnold Hadd at the only active Shaker community located in Sabbathday Lake, Maine. Siegfried teaches at The Boston Conservatory at Berklee, where he teaches songwriting, theory, and piano in the Theater Division. Siegfried graduated from The New England Conservatory with a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition. He studied additionally in Paris, through the European American Musical Alliance, and in India, having received a Stanley Fellowship to study South Indian classical music with performing artist Sriram Parasuram. His previous teaching experience includes Harvard University, The New England Conservatory, and The University of Iowa.

Radiance, Artistic Director Markdavin Obenza is Seattle-based professional vocal ensemble specializing in the performance of American choral music. The group primarily focuses on performing contemporary works by living composers, including local Pacific Northwest composers. Radiance also performs music from the shapenote and Shaker traditions to celebrate and connect the roots of American choral music to contemporary works.