When my friend visited me from New York, one of the things she really wanted to do was to go to Shaker Village. Having been there once, I had no desire to hear the history of the silly religious sect again. The only thing I remember about them is that they were hot for celibacy, so they didn’t tend to breed much. Soon — big surprise! — they went extinct. Who says Darwin is inapplicable to Christianity?
In any case, on the morning of the day my we’d planned to head to Pleasant Hill (how pleasant could it be without sex?), we heard that the temperature was going to be 91 degrees. Even my friend had no interest in braving the sweltering heat just to watch people make chairs.
So we stayed home, and, to mollify her, I found a decent rendition of that ubiquitous Shaker tune. (Note: The tune is ubiquitous; the Shakers, as previously noted, not so much.) By the way, if you’re wondering what to get me for my next birthday, the jewel in the video is a simple gift I’d enjoy.
If you know me, you can probably guess the rest. I wound up with an earworm. And so did my friend. We spent a lot of the rest of the day asking one another to stop whistling.
The weirdest thing about “Simple Gifts,” however, is that it’s hardly ever performed simply. This sweet potato is trying to make her interpretation look easy, but she’s not fooling anyone, is she?
Here are a couple of Presbyterians, clearly working hard. Once or twice they get so close to one another that it’s a good question whether they’ll be able to remain celibate for long.
Some music directors are entirely wrong-headed. Is there anything simple about this version?
Occasionally, even a rendition that has aural simplicity still manages to look impossible. How did these siblings get their pianos on the sand?
A new set of lyrics was written in 1963 by Sydney Carter, who managed to combine Christ and dancing. Screw all those fundies who think that doing the jig is a sin. (In case you’re in too much of a religious rapture to notice, I should warn you that the input file has no video stream.)
Given Carter’s lyrics, you should have guessed that I’d include this unsimple performance, with its many encores. What says “simple” more than a fireworks display? In fact, the only thing remotely simple about this video, is the fact that the guy forgot to put on his shirt.
Are you bored of the dance yet?
If there is an afterlife, the ghosts of 19th-century Shakers are definitely shaking at their no longer recognizable song.
The moral of this post is: Keep it simple, stupid!