Photography by Sarah Altendorf  at Pleasant Hill Shaker village. Pleasant Hill, KY.

Photography by Sarah Altendorf at Pleasant Hill Shaker village. Pleasant Hill, KY.

In preparation for my upcoming class “Shaker Music & More” I decided to go on an adventure early this summer to explore several Shaker Villages located in New England.

My first stop was Albany, NY.  I rented a car and trekked to Shaker Village, Sabbathday Lake.  It was a rainy afternoon in northern Maine, but my spirit was soon lifted by conversations with Michael S. Graham, director of the Sabbathday Lake Village Museum for The United Society of Shakers in Gloucester.  It was a special treat to meet Brother Michael, one of three remaining practicing Shakers.  I collected several enlightening resources from their gift shop and Brother Michael presented me with a cassette recording (remember those from the past century?) of Sister R. Mildred Barker sharing “Early Shaker Spirituals.”

My next stop was a great visit with Lesley Herzberg, curator of the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts .  I had the great fortune to experience their terrific music presentation filled with song and dance and, yes, I even danced in their meeting house to an almost frenzy!

Hancock Shaker Village, Berkshires, Western Massachusetts, USA.  Photography by Richard Taylor

Hancock Shaker Village, Western Massachusetts. Photography by Richard Taylor

Other stops included meeting Samantha & Starlyn at the Shaker Heritage Society in Albany, NY  who shared their wealth of knowledge about the musical traditions of the Shakers and invited me to visit the grave site of Sister Anne which is located at the perimeter of the Albany airport – very interesting.  Also, Dr. Roger L. Hall, a Shaker Music Scholar who lives in Stoughton, MA has been most helpful in providing additional resources and overall encouragement toward the preservation and enjoyment of Shaker Music tradition.

I look forward to being part of this incredible week at the John C. Campbell Folk School and in addition to experiencing the traditional, we may create a few hymns/anthems of our own! Bring along any inspirational texts that we may set to our own music.

Hope to see you there!


Shaker Music & More” will be offered November 16-22, 2014. Discover Shaker songs and other styles of community singing from the 19th century. This music is made for a community of singers! Come ready to explore the rich history of Shaker songs with rafter-raising hymns and anthems, as well as early songs that expressed feelings beyond words. We’ll examine the unique Shaker musical notation referred to as the “letteral system,” which uses the alphabet instead of conventional notes. In addition, selections from the Sacred Harp (4 shapes) and Christian Harmony (7 shapes) will be used to compare musical modes of 19th-century traditional singing. Singing experience is not required!

For more information and to register, visit our website:

Milt Crotts has taught and conducted a wide variety of ensembles in many musical contexts and styles. His multicultural experiences include multiple performances as guest conductor with the Tokyo Symphony and Tokyo Philharmonic and as a singer/guitarist with some of Tokyo’s top bluegrass bands. He has taught classes ranging from traditional Southern Appalachian music at Davidson College to gamelan music at Warren Wilson College. Milt presently serves as music director for the Blue Ridge Orchestra and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville. He brings to the Folk School a strong history of leading choral and instrumental musicians of all ages and abilities, shaping ensembles that bridge cultures and strengthen a sense of community through music.

Milton Crotts
About Milton Crotts