My friend, country and folk musician John Schmid, is a favorite among the Amish. John’s story, at least in part, can be found here. John is the founder of Common Ground Ministries, and has been long active in prison ministry and other mission outreach via his music. If you’ve ever wondered if Amish like music beyond strictly religious songs, some – even many – do. Country music in particular, even though Amish people might have more limited opportunities to hear those songs.
One place they can hear those songs is at a John Schmid concert. John is English, but learned to speak Pennsylvania Dutch. From what I have heard others say, he is at “native speaker” level of proficiency (Ira Wagler called his PA Dutch “flawless”). Here’s what Ira wrote about John in one of his posts:
John Schmid is one of the most unique men I’ve ever met. He was born in the Holmes area. Completely “English.” Not a drop of Amish blood. But in his youth, he took to running with the local Amish and got to know them so well he even learned the language. He speaks flawless PA Dutch. He married Lydia, a Mennonite girl whose parents had been Amish. You’d never know he wasn’t born an Amishman. He even sings PA Dutch songs. And the Amish love him for it. He’s accepted as pretty much one of them. Welcome at their homes. And boy, does he know a LOT of people.
You can hear John singing in PA Dutch in this song “Amish Nicknames“, described like this: “This song is about the need for nicknames to keep track of relatives since there are so many Amish with the same last names.”
This is another video from the late Ernie Bontrager. Ernie describes John as “a favorite of the Amish in Pinecraft,” which is where this video was recorded. The song was written by Ezra Petersheim.
If you understand Pennsylvania Dutch, you’ll probably enjoy this. Even if you don’t, you should get the gist of it. You’ll hear some common Amish first names and surnames and of course nicknames (“Geauga Joe” and “Double John” and a whole lot more).
YouTube commenters who presumably understand PA Dutch describe it as “funny” and “Hilarious!”; you’ll hear what sounds like background laughter throughout. We only see some of the faces of the heavily-Amish crowd, but most of those we do see are smiling or cracking up. Enjoy: