Quakers (known formally as the Religious Society of Friends) are a
small Christian denomination founded by George Fox in England in the
17th century. Friends place special emphasis on the direct ongoing
access that they believe all people have to God within the heart. Over
the past 350 years, Friends have developed some unique ways of attending
to this divine voice in worship and in group decision-making. Quakers
also have been known for their strong social "testimonies" for peace,
equality, simplicity, integrity, and care for the Earth.
In the beginning, Friends (like the Puritans) were opposed to
instrumental music. They also opposed singing psalms and hymns during
worship because they considered this an empty form that got in the way
of God directing worship spontaneously.
In the 1956 film "Friendly Persuasion" (based on the novel by
Jessamyn West), Gary Cooper chafes at this early Quaker attitude towards musical instruments and acquires an organ, which he hides in his attic. He has a
major scare when several elders from his local Quaker congregation come to visit and
one of his children begins playing the organ. To his relief the elders
believe the sounds they hear during silent prayer are actually strains of music
This opposition to musical instruments and choral singing gradually disappeared during the 19th century. Quakers today no longer oppose in any way either group singing or the use of musical
instruments. In those Quaker meetings holding "unprogrammed" worship (where those gathered wait upon
the Spirit in silence), any singing done during actual worship services is usually done individually and
Peter wrote an article in Friends Journal about the history of Music Among FGC Quakers. The article focuses especially on group singing among Friends General Conference meetings & at FGC summer gatherings.
Annie and Peter are both active Friends. We have travelled
extensively among Friends in the US, Canada, Britain, and New
Zealand. We have often led group singing at Quaker national
gatherings as well as at annual meetings, retreat centers, and at hundreds of local Friends congregations.
The fact that Quaker opposition to music-making has thoroughly disappeared is reflected in the rich array of Quaker musicians today. See below...
Directory of Quaker (Folk) Musicians
Note: Peter's writings on Quakerism that were originally on this website are now posted on a new website called inwardlight.org
UPCOMING EVENTS & WORKSHOPS with Annie & Peter. Fri, April 25 - Putney VT
. 7:30pm Singalong Concert at Next Stage
at 15 Kimball Hill Rd, celebrating the life & work of Pete Seeger. Sponsored by Putney Friends Meeting. For more information contact: Susan Slowinski
Sun, April 27 - New York NY.
Abraham Lincoln Brigade 78th Annual Celebration. New School Auditorium, 66 W. 12th Street, 2:30-4:30pm. This year's event will be celebrating Pete Seeger who was a strong supporter of the ALB. Matt Emmer & David Bernz (of "Work o' the Weavers) will join us in leading Spanish Civil War songs. For more info go to ALBA website
.Sun, May 11 - Amherst MA
. Showing of "Pete Seeger: The Power of Song
" at Amherst Cinema
, 7pm. We will introduce the showing with several favorite Seeger songs.
See also website for 2 swing bands Annie sings with:
GIRLS FROM MARS and The O-TONES
Shared Song Communal Memory NY Times article that talks about Annie & Peter, the origins of
Rise Up Singing & ways it's being used in singalong around the
with Peter and Annie. Hear us talk about sing-alongs and the origins
of Rise Up Singing with live performances of several favorite songs