Yes, like everyone today, I was glued to my television watching the first African-American take the oath of office as 44th President of the United States. What reduced me to tears (okay, so I cry at the drop of a hat) was the musical arrangement played right before President Obama took the oath. World renowned cellist Yo-yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, clarinetist Anthony McGill, and pianist Gabriella Montero played an arrangement by John Williams. It started with an Air before they segued into Simple Gifts, a Shaker song, that I discovered a while back and fell in love with for its simplicity.

For anyone watching, and unfamiliar with the tune, there are lyrics to go with it, and how appropriate they are for everyone, especially in today’s world of strife:

‘Tis the gift to be simple,’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we will not be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.
Later, the following verses were added, but while some think it doesn’t fit, I think they are absolutely appropriate for today:

‘Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return
‘Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
And when we expect of others what we try to live each day
Then we’ll all live together and we’ll all learn to say,
Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,
‘Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of “me”,
And when we hear what others really think and really feel,
Then we’ll all live together with a love that is real.

This is the esteemed Yo-Yo Ma providing the accompaniment on his beautifully plaintive cello, and the lyrics are sung by Allison Krauss, though unfortunately she doesn’t sing those last two verses.

And to tie it in to writing, for anyone who has read Patricia Brigg’s Cry Wolf, this is the song Bran, Charles and Samuel sing at Doc Wallace’s funeral.

Here’s today’s performance (Simple Gifts starts at 1:11):

Tis a gift …
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2 thoughts on “Tis a gift …

  • January 20, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Like you I was in tears – well – during the entire inauguration. We could all benefit from simpler times, simpler tastes. I sang this recently with just the guitar and somehow the song itself brings peace.

  • January 20, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Beautiful song. Allison Krauss has a wonderful voice to accompany the music. It takes you to a whole different world almost.

    Thank you for sharing.

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