Music by Dennis Livingston
Set to a Shaker text by Polly Ann Reed


Performers: Christina Connors &
Kenneth Gartman
Guitarist: Matt Scharfglass

The Stories In My Mind:
Metropolitan Club, NYC 2011


Jinny Sagorin
Demo singer: Jinny Sagorin
Demo pianist: Doug Hammer



Length of song: Vocal-Piano: 2:27, A cappella: 1:55

Song style/genre: Hymn-like

Key(s): G major

Note range (Low/High): D above middle C to D in next octave above middle C

About the song: I copied the words to this song directly from a "spirit" or "gift" drawing done by Polly Ann Reed about 1850. Reed was an elder of the Shaker community in New Lebanon, NY, in a period when a spiritual revival led some members to create writings, drawings and songs inspired by messages and visions ascribed to heavenly sources.

The melody is original, not an arrangement as far as I know, these words were never set to music by the Shakers and while I try to echo the style of Shaker tunes, they would never have used accompaniment. Thus, it would be truest to Shaker practice to sing the song a capella. As an accompanied song, the piano could be replaced by guitar or other instruments and the solo voice expanded to an SATB chorus. The song could also be done as a duet, as in the video above.

The first line of the text "The path to my kingdom is pleasant and sure" gives the song a palpable Christian, even a Christmas, context, since who else could be saying these words to what might be one of his flock but Jesus or God? I have no objection if one wishes to present the song this way. My own preference, however, is to think of the song as a lullaby offered by a parent to a child. The "kingdom" referred to then becomes that state within us of love and mutual care which we hope any child, with the guidance of all who cherish it, will grow into. Such an interpretation would not be far, in fact, from Shaker belief, which looked to God's presence within each individual, manifested in the daily life of the community. And so, a song for all seasons and all singers.

Gender point of view: Irrelevant

For a brief account of Shaker theology and culture, see this essay written for the Shaker Historic Trail:

National Park Service


  CONTACT DENNIS  to request sheet music and/or a CD or MP3 for this song. The message should include your name, address, phone (optional), e-mail and your website, if any.


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