Music has always been an essential part of Shakers’ experience. Especially in worship, music provided a way to gain greater understanding of the principles of the Shaker faith.
From the arrival of the Shakers in America in 1774 through 1790, worship often featured vocal music similar to chanting traditions found in many other world religions. As the number of villages expanded between 1790 and 1810, Shakers sought conformity by creating lyrical hymns for their religious services. The Shakers’ first hymnal, Millennial Praises, contained 140 songs and was published in 1812.
From 1812 to the present, music has remained an integral part of Shaker life both spiritually and temporally. Below are just a few examples of the thousands of songs composed by the Shakers over the course of their history.