Joseph Brackett Day
annually on May 6th (since 1997)
Joseph Brackett Day is a birthday commemoration for Joseph Brackett and also honors his song "Simple Gifts." It is sponsored by the American Tune Lovers Society, an online group "designed to help preserve and protect American tunes from the past through research information, recordings and other information." PineTree Productions, of which the American Tune Lovers Society is a part, is the founder of the day.
Joseph Brackett was born as Elisha Brackett on May 6, 1797, in Cumberland, Maine. At the age of ten, his name was changed to Joseph, the same name as his father, and around the same time that his family joined a Shaker community in Gorham, Maine. Shakers are members of The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing. In 1819, Brackett's group moved to Poland Hill, Maine, and he eventually became the head of the society in Maine, after which his official title became Elder Joseph Brackett.
Not only was Brackett a religious leader, but he was an author and songwriter. He composed the words and music for "Simple Gifts" in 1848, while he was at the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine. Also known as "Tis the Gift to be Simple," the Shaker dance song became his best-known composition and is still often performed and adapted today. It gained worldwide fame in 1944 when Aaron Copland used it in the score for his ballet Appalachian Spring. Joseph Brackett died in the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester, Maine, on July 4, 1882.
How to Observe Joseph Brackett Day
Those participating in the day are invited to listen to or perform "Simple Gifts." Some of the most noteworthy arrangements to listen to can be found listed online. Copland's Appalachian Spring, which contains the song and helped spread its popularity, could also be listened to. For those who wish to perform the song, free scores can also be found online. Some other ideas on how to celebrate the day include reading the book "Simple Gifts": Great American Folk Song by Roger Lee Hall; watching Simple Gifts: The Chamber Music Society at Shaker Village; visiting the Alfred Shaker Museum, which is located in the town where Brackett wrote his famous song; visiting Brackett's grave in the Shaker Village Cemetery; and visiting the nearby Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, the village where he died.