John E. Stromgren, Portsmouth, NH

The last several years I have had the opportunity to perform with Kevin Siegfried’s Portsmouth Singers as part of the Maine Festival of American Music at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village. We have sung programs of tunes that Kevin has transcribed from the original Shaker notation, along with some of his choral arrangements of Shaker songs.

The music itself it beautiful, but we had the extraordinary privilege of joining the community for meals prepared by Brother Arnold, and then rehearsing in the meeting house, which dates from 1794. The history of the place is palpable. The blue paint trimming the interior is original. The floor bears marks used for positioning their dances. And Brother Arnold tells stories of the Brothers and Sisters from a previous century as though they were just here yesterday.

In preparation for one of our programs, Kevin sent us this recording, done by The Byrd Ensemble of Seattle, along with the choral score. Being able to perform this piece in the historic Sabbathday Lake meeting house was a particular thrill, and I never tire of listening to this recording, which gives exquisite voice to a yearning for love and peace in the midst of our human need.

It is a timeless yearning that the Shakers and Kevin Siegfried help us express - I hope that others will be able to enjoy this music as much as I have.