The Shakers are America's oldest and most successful experiment in communal living. A century ago, nearly 6,000 Shaker brothers and sisters lived together in nineteen communities scattered from Maine to Kentucky. This film traces the growth, decline, and continuing survival of this remarkable and influential religious sect through the memories and rich song traditions of Shakers themselves. It includes performances by the late Eldress Marguerite Frost of Canterbury, New Hampshire, and the late Sister R. Mildred Barker, a leading singer and spiritual leader of the Shaker community still active at Sabbathday Lake, Maine when the film was made.
For an account of how the film was made and for contextual materials on the song tradition and gift painting tradition, we highly recommend the essays recently posted by Shaker scholar Daniel Patterson. This work was part of a 2006 grant from the Folk Arts division of the National Endowment for the Arts.