Amish Girls Sing ‘How Great Thou Art’–With Instruments

The reader who shares today’s video clip writes, “it’s different, with some instruments”. Those instruments include a Casio keyboard, guitar and accordion.

This is a short clip filmed last year by Ernest Bontrager in Pinecraft. He describes the group as the “Tri Valley Singers from Ohio”. The girls played on Estrada Street “to a large Amish crowd.”

I would agree, it is “different” to see Amish using instruments to accompany song. Amish people usually don’t use musical instruments (with some exceptions).

These are likely unbaptized girls, however, and this is not a church setting–it’s Pinecraft.

If you’d like to hear more-traditional versions of Amish singing, you can find those too.

Here on the site we’ve shared videos of Amish children singing for the Ohio legislatureKentucky Amish girls singing “City of Light”, and the Oakland, Maryland Amish church’s rendition of the same hymn (scroll to bottom).

Nothing against the girls’ playing, but I think I prefer unaccompanied singing to instrumental versions. So many Amish singers I’ve heard have beautiful voices.

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    1. Amish CD

      Actually, we have a CD that some Amish girls in Holmes County recorded of their singing, with some instrumental accompaniment. These girls were not baptized at the time and frequently sang in their area (and I think may have done some traveling too), especially at benefits. The money they raised from the CD sales went to benefit someone in their area, maybe with medical costs, but I can’t remember that for sure. When we saw one of the girls later, she had been baptized and some things had changed. Their group only sang on occasions where there was no equipment like speakers and instruments. I think her younger sister, and maybe some other unbaptized girls, had stepped up into using the more technological equipment.

      1. Guitar playing among Amish

        I think it would be especially hard to give up the guitar or other musical instrument if you have a talent and passion for it. I used to have a guitar and I miss it quite a bit sometimes even though I don’t have musical talent. I imagine it must be even more fulfilling if you are good at playing.

        Amish adults do play the harmonica in different communities. I wouldn’t be shocked if other instruments like the guitar were gradually accepted over time in some communities.

    2. Kim

      random question

      This isn’t related to the music, but I have been noticing a huge percentage of Amish people wearing glasses. As a formally legally blind person prior to LASIK surgery, maybe I notice this more than others. Any thoughts?

      1. Interesting observation. It could just be that contacts are less common among Amish, and I’d think corrective procedures like LASIK would be as well.

        1. I had noticed the same thing Kim mentioned (a lot of eyeglasses among the Amish), and had also wondered if it might be at least in part due to fewer / no contacts among the Amish. If the latter is true, I had wondered if it might be due to general Amish frugality (contacts around our house haven’t been cheap), or if it was an anti-vanity issue. At least at times glasses have viewed as ‘ugly’ (the old saying that “guys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses”), so contacts were a way to “pretty oneself up” — which isn’t the stereotypical Amish way.

      2. Hi Kim, first congrats on your LASIK and new eyesight! As Erik said these surgical interventions aren’t usually allowed within the Amish culture.
        Among the uber strict Swartzentruber Order, no interventions are allowed as it’s “God’s will” with whatever happens to the body. The Ordnung prohibits anything – even sunglasses – except for eyeglasses, and the frames are dictated = round. No individuality in eyeglasses.

        As for the beautiful music, I enjoy hearing it among those higher orders that allow instruments. My son-in-love, who left the Swartzentruber, was prohibited any musical instruments in church (Gmay) and at home. Even a radio was prohibited.

        But I’ve had former-Swartzentrubers sing their familiar a capella German tunes for me. The slow dirge is soothing, and they do harmonize.

    3. Carl Oliver

      The Oakland version of “city of light” is amazing! I keep playing it over and over again. I love the harmony and the simplicity. And the slight imperfections in pitch and tuning actually give it a rich, honest sound. Not really sure how to describe my thoughts any better than that. I love it! I am with you Erik. I think the instruments actually take away from the raw beauty of their voices.

      1. Yes, it is beautiful. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and also just glad that it is available as a somewhat rare recording of an (albeit rather progressive) Amish congregation singing.

        1. Carl Oliver

          I am sure that more conservative Amish would be having the funeral in the family’s home. Is it out of the ordinary for them to sing hymns in English? I always assumed the singing was mostly in German or PD.

    4. Alice Mary

      Yes, I think unaccompanied song (in harmony) suits me just fine, but it is good to see that Amish Youngie have the talent and perseverance it takes to play a musical instrument. As always, I’m especially appreciative of the young lady who chose to learn the accordion…which to me, seems to require physical as well as mental, endurance! I’d like to learn the stories of the musicians and how they came to learn to play their particular instrument…ESPECIALLY that accordion!

      Alice Mary

    5. Carol

      Curious about the accordion player, too. If you notice, I don’t believe she was playing with the right hand at all. Actually, if she’s only using the left hand it wouldn’t even be necessary for her to know how to read music. Just pencil in the chord letter by the words of the hymn and she could do it . Yes, it does require a lot of physical and mental coordination to play an accordion! Really enjoyed seeing this.