Based on four Shaker melodies - a sensuous nature song; a lively dance tune; a tender lullaby; and most famously, Simple Gifts, the hymn that celebrates the Shaker's love of simplicity and humility. While subtly preserving their simple, straightforward beauty, melodic freshness and interest are achieved in each, primarily through variations of harmony, texture, and orchestration.
The first movement, In Yonder Valley
, is a simple hymn in praise of nature. It enhances the image of spring by turning the first three notes of the tune into a birdcall motive.
The second movement, Dance, makes use of a tune from an 1830's Shaker manuscript. Dancing was an important part of Shaker worship. This setting, near the end of the movement, features the brass stating the tune at one-quarter speed in counterpoint against the woodwinds who state it at normal speed.
The third movement, based on the Shaker lullaby Here Take This Lovely Flower, embodies the Shakers' ideal of childlike simplicity.
The finale is a setting of the famous Simple Gifts, which has been used in hundreds of settings and variations. This version, in a quick nod to Aaron Copland, states the tune in all its glory.