Shaker Village Work Group
The Shaker Village Work Group was a recreational summer camp and teen educational program that occupied historic Shaker land and buildings in New Lebanon, New York. The property was purchased by founders Jerome (Jerry) and Sybil A. Count from the Mount Lebanon Shaker Village community in 1946, and was opened to its first group of young "villagers" as the Shaker Village Work Camp in 1947. Around 1960, the Work Camp's name was changed to the Shaker Village Work Group. Operating until 1973, the Shaker Village Work Group was noteworthy as a program that gave urban youths the opportunity to learn skilled hands-on work through folk crafts, for its efforts to preserve Shaker architecture and culture, for its role in the American folk music revival of the 1950s and 60s, and for its influence on the 1960s counterculture movement.
During its twenty-six year span the Shaker Village Work Group presented a microcosm of American work and political ideals, weaving together the Protestant work ethic and communitarianism of the Shakers, the labor movement's celebration of ordinary working class manual labor, and libertarian ideals of self-sufficiency and self-ownership.
The Shaker Village Work Group operated on land formerly owned by the Mount Lebanon Shaker Society, the Shaker community that built and occupied the Mount Lebanon Shaker Village from 1787 until its population became too small to make use of it. Under the Shakers, the Village was organized into "Families" that occupied clusters of buildings sited around the property. The Church Family site was sold to and is currently occupied by the Darrow School. The North Family site is currently being occupied and renovated by the Shaker Museum and Library. Jerry and Sybil Count purchased the South Family and West Family land for their planned youth work camp in 1946.
The "work camp" part of the Shaker Village Work Camp name is rooted in the 1930s. As part of government efforts to help the United States escape the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was established and operated between 1933 and 1942 to train unemployed young men in useful manual labor job skills and also to provide employment for them in public works projects. Large scale CCC projects were sometimes accompanied by what were called "work camps," in which up to 200 workers were housed together and which operated under a quasi-military organization. During World War II, some of the work camps were re-purposed by the Civilian Public Service to provide conscientious objectors an alternative to military service. After World War II, informed by these earlier public service work camps, many new "progressive work camps" were created for teenagers and young adults to let them "visit and labor in fields and factories," to provide "work experience for youth under expert counselors," "to help children understand the democratic roots of their country," or to "teach neighborliness, public service, respect for manual labor, [and] self-government." For at least some of these new work camps, the "word work in 'work camp' signified a solidarity with labor on the part of the affluent, progressive middle class."
The Counts opened the Shaker Village Work Camp as one of these new progressive work camps. There, urban teenage boys and girls would learn manual skills for the purposes of building character and to preserve and celebrate the crafts and work ethic of the Shaker culture. Some alumni of the work camp's early years have noted what Villager and artist Henry Halem called the "very socialist" character of the Village. Describing his time at the newly opened Shaker Village Work Camp, philosopher Robert Paul Wolff wrote, "Many of the counselors had roots in the various progressive movements that had emerged during the depression, though whether any were actually members of the Communist Party I never knew." Some later attending Villagers have stated that this character was not apparent by the 1960s, and that Jerry Count was more concerned with "work education" than "socialism for the sake of socialism."
An unusual feature of the Shaker Valley Work Group compared to typical summer camps was the extent to which the Villagers were autonomous, without direct counselor supervision. For example, the Villagers were entitled to set their bedtime hour by voting as a community.
Preservation of Shaker architecture and culture
The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, known as the Shakers or Shaking Quakers, were a small Protestant Christian sect that is known today primarily for their cultural contributions, particularly in music, furniture and folk crafts (particularly baskets and boxes). They tied religious devotion to hard work, as exemplified by one of their founder Mother Ann Lee's mottoes, "Put your hands to work, and your heart to God."
The Shakers' cultural traditions made them an excellent model for the kind of youth work camp that Jerry and Sybil Count were seeking to establish. "The Counts learned about the Shakers' high standards of conduct and workmanship, their forsaking of material ownership and pride, their fabled tolerance, gender equality, and non-violence. The Shakers learned of the Counts' plans and ideals for a youth camp and heartily approved sale [of the land] for that use. The Shaker Village Work Camp opened in 1947 not only with Shaker approval but also with frequent appearances of those Shakers who could still get around."
Robert Paul Wolff, who attended for the first three years of the Village's existence, says that it "celebrated labor, along with folklore and the arts." He recounted his work restoring one of the old Shaker buildings: "The building was in very bad shape, so one of our major work projects was to renovate it. This involved not only pulling old plaster and lathe from the attic walls, but also making new pegs for the peg boards. ... I learned how to use a wood turning lathe and spent many happy hours turning new pegs." He concludes, "Shaker Village was unabashedly idealistic in its celebration of manual labor, community democracy, and folk culture."
A 1962 Sports Illustrated article described the Shaker Village Work Group activities as "restoring the original village, repairing and rebuilding the historic buildings and reviving some of the Early American industries and crafts such as weaving, herb raising and woodcraft. The 'villagers' raise livestock, do farming and forestry work, landscaping and beekeeping." As a teen, author and Harvard professor Marjorie Garber refused to attend the Shaker Village as her parents wished because, "Teenagers who attended work camps wore denim and flannel shirts and learned about folk songs, barn construction, leftist politics, and sex—so far as I know."
In their 2004 book A Shaker Musical Legacy, Robert C. Opdahl and Viola E. Woodruff Opdahl provide some detailed descriptions of the Work Group's activities under Shaker tutelage, with an emphasis on Shaker music, but also including crafts, dance, and even the performance of a Shaker prayer service.
The Shaker Village Work Camp (and later Work Group) produced two Shaker songbooks with scores (Songs of the Shakers, 1956; Songs of the Shakers, 1962), two phonograph albums of Shaker songs sung by the teenage Villagers (14 Shaker Folk Songs, 1959 which featured an introduction by Shaker Brother Ricardo Belden; and Shaker Folk Songs, 1952), and a book of Shaker recipes (Shaker Desserts and Sweets, 195-?). A book of Shaker songs, with some history of the Shaker Village Work Group, was released in 2004 by two alumni of the Village. The Shaker Village Work Group was also featured in a 1966 episode of the television series Tony Saletan's What's New on National Educational Television (NET), the precursor to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). An article was written by Roger Hall in 1996 about singing at the Shaker Village Work Camp.
Role in the American folk music revival
During the 1950s, some folk musicians "looked to summer camps and resorts as areas ripe for the introduction of folk music," and spent their summers touring among the rural camps, resorts and festivals. For example, folksinger and social activist "Pete Seeger used to come and play" at the Village.
In 1954, Tony Saletan had been working as folksong leader at the Shaker Village Work Camp, and was searching the Widener Library of Harvard University for material to teach the Villagers that summer. He adapted the song Michael Row the Boat Ashore from the 1867 songbook Slave Songs of the United States to create the version that's well-known today. "I judged that the tune was very singable, added some harmony (a guitar accompaniment) and thought the one-word chorus would be an easy hit with the teens (it was). But a typical original verse consisted of one line repeated once, and I thought a rhyme would be more interesting to the teenagers at Shaker Village Work Camp, where I introduced it. So I adapted traditional African-American couplets in place of the original verses."
That summer, Saletan taught Michael Row the Boat Ashore to Pete Seeger, who later sang it with the Weavers, one of the most important singing groups leading the American folk music revival of the 1950s to mid-1960s. Saletan's adaptation was included in the Village's 1956 songbook, Songs of Work. A #1 hit-single based on Saletan's version was released in 1961 by the American folk quintet the Highwaymen under the abbreviated title, Michael. Joe Hickerson, co-founder of the Folksmiths, credits Saletan for introducing him to the song Kumbaya in 1957 (Saletan had learned it from Lynn Rohrbough, co-proprietor with his wife Katherine of the camp songbook publisher Cooperative Recreation Service). The first LP recording of Kumbaya was released in 1958 by the Folksmiths. Folksinger Peggy Seeger was also taught several songs by Saletan, which she later recorded.
Saletan went on to host a public television series for children, Let's All Sing with Tony Saletan, with an associated album mostly drawn from American folksongs, including those discovered and developed for teaching young Villagers. In 1970, he released an album, Tony and Irene Saletan: Folk Songs and Ballads with his then-wife, Irene (formerly and subsequently of the Kossoy Sisters), on Folk-Legacy Records. Saletan also released the albums I'm a Stranger Here on Prestige Records (1961 or 1962), Song Bag with Tony Saletan and an associated teacher's guide and songbook, Songs and Sounds of the Sea (National Geographic Society 1973), Revolutionary Tea (with the Yankee Tunesmiths, Old North Bridge Records 1975), and George & Ruth (songs of the Spanish Civil War, Educational Alternatives 2004).
After Jerry Count died in 1968, his wife Sybil kept the Shaker Village Work Group running for four more years, through the 1972 season. Bill and Cornelia Cotton were the operational directors the last few years. In 1975, the South Family and most of the West Family land was sold to the Sufi Order International, which established on it a spiritual intentional community, the Abode of the Message. Sybil Count died in 1996. After the New Lebanon facility was closed, the T.E.E.N.S. Global Democracy Project of the Shaker Village Educational Work Foundation, Inc. has continued some aspects of the Count family's work. Shaker Village Work Group alumni continue to maintain contact through various means, including a Facebook group.
- Opdahl 2004.
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- Shaker Village Sleep Away Camp Alumni, online discussion 2010, Aug 28-29.
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- Opdahl 2004. pp. xii-xiv.
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- Shaker Village Work Group 195-?.
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- Harold Aks; Shaker Village Work Camp. (1952). Shaker Folk Songs. Mt. Lebanon, Pittsfield, MA: Shaker Village Work Camp. OCLC 50940661. — 78 rpm phonograph album. "Collection of Shaker folk songs, sung by a mixed chorus of teens."
- American Folklife Center (20 June 1968). "A brief list of material relating to 'Michael Row the Boat Ashore'". Archive of Folk Culture. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
- Amy, Ernest F. (1957). "Cooperative Recreation Service: A unique project". Midwest Folklore 7 (4, Winter): 202–206. ISSN 0737-7037. OCLC 51288821.
- Becksvoort, Christian; Sheldon, John (2000). The Shaker Legacy: Perspectives on an Enduring Furniture Style. Newtown, CT: Taunton Press. pp. 54–55. ISBN 978-1-56158-357-7. OCLC 38925149. — Describes some history of the Shaker Village, including the South Family lands' ownership by the Shakers, then the Shaker Village Work Camp, then the Sufi Order International.
- "Darrow School: A unique sense of place". Darrow School website. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- Dorson, Richard M. (1950). "The growth of folklore courses". Journal of American Folklore 63 (249): 345–359. ISSN 0021-8715. OCLC 67084841.
- Eyerman, Ron; Barretta, Scott (1996). "From the 30s to the 60s: The folk music revival in the United States". Theory and Society 25 (4): 501–543. doi:10.1007/BF00160675. ISSN 0304-2421.
- Folksmiths. (1958). We've Got Some Singing To Do. New York: Folkways Records (F-2407). OCLC 14186458. — 33 rpm phonograph album. Track 12 is Kum Bah Yah. The liner notes credit Tony Saletan for teaching the Folksmiths several songs. Re-released on audio CD as: We've Got Some Singing to Do: The Folksmiths Travelling Folk Workshop. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Folkways (FW02407). OCLC 47801193.
- Garber, Marjorie B. (2003). Quotation Marks. New York: Routledge. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-415-93746-7. OCLC 474363465. —
- Gutek, Gerald Lee (1998). Visiting Utopian Communities: A Guide to the Shakers, Moravians, and Others. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press. pp. 43–48. ISBN 978-1-57003-210-3. OCLC 36343343. — Extended history of the Mount Lebanon Shaker Village.
- Hall, Roger (1996). Singing at Shaker Village Work Camp 1 (3, December). Shakers World. ISSN 1087-0466.
- Hays, Lee; Gilbert, Ronnie; Hellerman, Fred; Darling, Erik; De Cormier, Robert (arranger) (1960). The Weavers' Song Book. NY: Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0-06-007231-5. OCLC 16690787. — Includes "Michael Row the Boat Ashore." "Paul Campbell" was a pseudonym adopted from 1950 to 1953 for Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman and Peter Seeger (source).
- Holland, Kenneth; Hill, Frank Ernest (1942). Youth in the CCC. Washington DC: American Council on Education. OCLC 2209506. — Reprinted in 1972 (ISBN 978-0-405-05962-9).
- Horn, Huston (1962). "Easy livin' and no more bugle calls". Sports Illustrated 17 (6, Aug 6). ISSN 0038-822X. OCLC 1766364. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- Johnson, Dale W. (2002). "Camp Woodland: Progressive education and folklore in the Catskill Mountains of New York". Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore (New York Folklore Society) 28 (Spring-Summer). ISSN 1551-7268. OCLC 45746922. Retrieved 31 August 2010.
- Keim, Albert N. (1990). The CPS Story: An Illustrated History of Civilian Public Service. Intercourse, PA: Good Books. ISBN 978-1-56148-002-9. OCLC 22452302.
- Morse, Flo (1980). The Shakers and the world's people. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company. p. 283. ISBN 978-0-396-07809-8. OCLC 472747235. — Reprinted by the University Press of New England in 1987, ISBN 978-0-87451-426-1. Notes that Jerry Count was a lawyer.
- Opdahl, Robert C.; Woodruff Opdahl, Viola E. (2004). A Shaker Musical Legacy. Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England. pp. xvii–xviii. ISBN 978-1-58465-360-8. OCLC 56550805.
- Peterson's, ed. (2003). "T.E.E.N.S. Global Democracy Project". Summer Opportunities for Kids and Teenagers 2004. Lawrenceville, NJ: Thompson Learning. pp. 424–425. ISBN 978-0-7689-1158-9. OCLC 53191926.
- Rhyne, W.L. (1947). "Work camps as education". The High School Journal 30 (4, Oct): 212–216. ISSN 0018-1498. OCLC 1642826.
- Riservato, Rochelle (1 August 2010). "Celebrating Camp Woodland". Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY). ISSN 0746-4932. OCLC 11656221. Retrieved 5 September 2010. — Camp Woodland also had a strong focus on folklore and folksongs.
- Saletan, Tony (2000). "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore (lyrics)". Robokopp database of choral music. Retrieved 30 August 2010. — A quote from Saletan on the origins of the song, including his work at the Shaker Village Work Camp. The text is from a personal email by Saletan to the author of the webpage, Richard Kopp.
- Saletan, Tony; McIntyre, Bruce (1974). The Song Bag: Teacher's Manual. Los Angeles, CA: Western Instructional Television. OCLC 13326352. — With an associated phonograph album (OCLC 12897503) or cassette tape (OCLC 26290685).
- Saletan, Tony (1976). Let's All Sing. Los Angeles, CA: Western Records. OCLC 7904988. — Phonograph album.
- Seeger, Peggy (2009). "Heading for Home (album notes)". Peggy Seeger website. Retrieved 30 August 2010. — Album was released 2003 on Appleseed Records. Notes refer to Tony Saletan and the Shaker Village Work Camp of 1954.
- Seeger, Pete (2010). "Forward". In King Dunaway, David; Beer, Molly. Singing Out: An Oral History of America's Folk Music Revivals. New York: Oxford University Press. p. x. ISBN 978-0-19-537834-4. OCLC 432444012. — Pete Seeger attributes the song "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore" to Tony Saletan.
- "Shaker Museum and Library: History". Shaker Museum and Library website. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- Shaker Village Sleep Away Camp Alumni, online discussion (2010). "Discussion topic: Shaker Village". Facebook group. Archived from the original on 31 August 2010. Retrieved 31 August 2010. — Archival service WebCite is unfortunately not consistent in successfully archiving Facebook discussions, so you may need to visit the original material at the Facebook discussion board.
- Shaker Village Sleep Away Camp Alumni (Facebook group) (2010). "Shaker Village Sleep Away Camp Alumni". Facebook. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- Shaker Village Work Camp (1954). Songs of Work. Pittsfield, MA: Shaker Village Work Camp. OCLC 82064467. — Book of musical scores, compiled by Tony Saletan. Includes the song Michael Row the Boat Ashore.
- Shaker Village Work Camp (1956). Songs of the Shakers. Mt. Lebanon, NY: Shaker Village Work Camp. OCLC 340800295. — Book of musical scores, compiled by Tony Saletan. Included in the Aaron Copland Collection of the U.S. Library of Congress Music Division. Box-Folder 196B/3. website, retrieved 30 August 2010
- Shaker Village Work Group (195-?). Shaker Desserts and Sweets: A Volume of Shaker Recipes. Pittsfield, MA: Shaker Village Work Group. OCLC 341195165. — "Published by Shaker Village Work Group, a work education project for teen-agers."
- Shaker Village Work Group (ca. 1958–1959). 14 Shaker Folk Songs (10-inch 331⁄3 rpm phonodisc). Shaker Village Work Group. Shaker Village TV. http://www.libraries.psu.edu/digital/findingaids/2279.htm. OCLC 52434165 — Phonograph album, includes an introduction by Shaker Brother Ricardo Belden and Jerome Count. From the Pennsylvania State University Libraries album notes: "Produced by Shaker Village Work Group, a Work Education Summer Project for Teenagers."
- Shaker Village Work Group (1962). Songs of the Shakers. Pittsfield, MA: Work Education Foundation, Inc. OCLC 12616444. — Comb-bound volume of typed & hand-scored Shaker songs published as part of the teenage work project at the Mount Lebanon community in 1962.
- Narrator: Tony Saletan (1966). "Shaker Village Work Group (episode)". Tony Saletan's What's New. National Educational Television. http://www.wgbhalumni.org/anecdotes/1960s-whats-new.html. — Saletan explains the Work Group's activities and shows a music and dance performance by the teenagers (more information). This video is included on the DVD "The Shakers On Television."
- Smart, Paul (28 July 2010). "Folk songs and Catskill’s history". Woodstock Times (Woodstock, NY). OCLC 22747737. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
- Stein, Stephen J. (1994). The Shaker Experience in America: A History of the United Society of Believers. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-05933-5. OCLC 185691696. — An extensive history of the Shakers.
- Stern, Gary (27 June 2009). "'Kumbaya, My Lord:' Why we sing it; why we hate it". The Journal News (White Plains, NY). OCLC 40979145. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
- Sutton, Robert P. (2003). Communal Utopias and the American Experience: Religious Communities, 1732–2000. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. pp. 161–163. ISBN 978-0-275-97554-8. OCLC 50725639. — Some detailed history of the Abode of the Message.
- Time reporters (1940). "Education: For the Common Defense". Time magazine (Nov 18). ISSN 0040-781X. OCLC 1767509. Retrieved 30 August 2010. — A call to "let pupils get part of their education in work camps (like CCC)."
- Time reporters (1944). "Education: Work Camps". Time magazine (Jul 31). ISSN 0040-781X. OCLC 1767509. Retrieved 30 August 2010. — Quaker work camps.
- "Tony Saletan". WGBH Alumni website. 2000. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- Tulloch, Tim (3 February 2009). "Abode of the Message hires a master planner". Country Life section in The Independent (Hillsdale, NY). pp. 1, 24. OCLC 25235262. Retrieved 9 August 2010. (also archived, 4 February 2009) — Extensive reporting about the Abode of the Message, its history, and activities.
- Warmus, William (2005). "Oral history interview with Henry Halem, 2005 May 14". Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- Weiss, Jeffrey (12 November 2006). "How did 'Kumbaya' become a mocking metaphor?". Dallas Morning News website. Retrieved 1 September 2010. — Joe Hickerson credits Tony Saletan for teaching him the song Kumbaya, which he had learned from Lynn Rohrbough.
- Whitburn, Joel (1994). Top Pop Singles 1955–1993. Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research Inc. p. 274. ISBN 978-0-89820-104-8. OCLC 31423892.
- Wolff, Robert Paul (6 June 2009). "Chapter One: Growing Up". Memoir. Retrieved 30 August 2010. — Chapter was posted to Wolff's blog, The Philosopher's Stone, entry for 28 June 2009.