I love hearing the Amish sing (and trying to hang with them, for that matter). There is something very moving about sitting in the midst of 150 upraised voices, all giving glory to the Maker. Those accustomed to musical accompaniment may find the drawn-out a capella hymnals tedious, but for me, they are eerily beautiful and uplifting.
Sunday church gathering in Geauga County, Ohio
Kraybill in The Riddle of Amish Culture:
‘The extremely slow tempo of singing ushers in a different temporal order. One song may stretch over twenty minutes…the congregation sings from the Ausbund–a hymnal with only printed words…the ancient tunes, learned by memory, are sung in chant-like unison without any rhythm.’
At my first Amish church service in Pennsylvania, the opening singing actually stretched to over 45 minutes, due to the ministers needing the time to instruct applicants for baptism, as is the custom. Singing usually concludes on the ministers’ return.
A song-leader, a male, sings the first note of each line and holds it for a second before the voices of the entire congregation come crashing in on top. How do they choose the song-leader for each song?
From my experience he is chosen by a couple of the older non-minister greybeards sitting at the front of the men’s section–they sort of confer, look around and find whom they’ve agreed upon, and whisper to him that he’s the one. One of them calls out the number of the hymn, and everyone shuffles through their hymn-books to the right page.
‘Singing in unison avoids the showy display that accompanies solos, choirs, and musical performances. A praise song, the “Lob Lied,” is the second hymn in every service just before the sermon. Thus, on a given Sunday morning, all the congregations holding services across the settlement are singing the same song at roughly the same time, an experience one member described as giving a beautiful feeling of unity among the churches.’