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Commissioned by the West Virginia Vocal Music Association and premiered by the West Virginia All-State Chorus on March 5, 2022 in Charleston, West Virginia, Dr. Scott Glysson, conductor
The Gift to Be Free is an updated revisiting of the well-known Shaker song Simple Gifts. The original song expresses Shaker values of simplicity and humility ("to bow and to bend we will not be ashamed"). Reference is made to the Shaker love of dancing ("by turning, turning, we come 'round right"). This is a joyous song, either in the original Shaker a cappella form or with lively piano or brass accompaniment.
A new verse is added, based on Shaker values: "to sing out right, with a voice of harmony, love and light." We are then reminded of our gifts--to be simple, and (very American), to be free!
Notes by the composer