Listen to Amish and 4 Other Churches Sing Hymns (Audio)
Members of Amish and four other Lancaster County churches came together for a group singing recently, an event which happens every “couple of years.”
If you’ve ever wondered what Amish church song sounds like, the audio clip below gives you a feel for it.
You’ll hear “As Jesus Christ, the Son of God”, found on page 217 of Anabaptist songbook The Ausbund (note: to listen, you may have to click play once, close the Soundcloud screen, then click play again).
To be honest this sounds a little different from what I am accustomed to hearing in Amish church – possibly due to the number of voices, lack of female voices(?), or generally the acoustics of the recording.
But you hear the song leader vocalizing the opening syllable of each line, the remaining voices crashing in in unison, and the drawn-out notes characteristic of Amish church song.
An Amish leader noted for the Lancaster Online article that that while the hymns Amish sing have historically been sung without written notes, recently a group has recorded the notes:
“We are getting closer and more unified, as a community. We’re singing more and more as a whole and our younger generations are now relying on the notes to keep these tunes preserved,” the song leader says. “Before there was a little bit of arguments: ‘My grandfather always sang the songs right. Sam’s grandfather had a little bit disoriented.’ With the notes, it unifies our community and I appreciate that and most of our people do appreciate that.
The event is hosted by the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society and Swiss Pioneer Associates. Other churches represented at the singing were:
- Old Order River Brethren
- Groffdale Mennonite Conference
- Weaverland Mennonite Conference
- Church of the Brethren
These churches all fall under the Anabaptist umbrella along with the Amish, with some resembling the Amish more so culturally and in lifestyle, others less so.
For example, Old Order River Brethren dress is quite similar to that of the Amish (though they use English in services; those of you familiar with the late Stephen Scott may know that he was a member of this church). Groffdale Mennonites use horse-drawn transport like the Amish. The Weaverland Conference drive motor vehicles and are also known as “Black-bumper Mennonites”.
Singing style differs as well. For instance, compare the above Amish song with this hymn by the Church of the Brethren, sung in English complete with chorus and harmonizing:
Differences aside, the chance to come together in song was seen as unifying. As another leader put it:
“We’re all different personalities. We’re all different temperaments,” says John Dietz, a local Old Order River Brethren song leader. “Singing is one way of merging that.”
No matter the denomination, singing is an activity that transcends earthly bounds, as David Sauder, an Old Order River Brethren bishop noted:
“For an eternity, singing is significant here and in heaven,” he says. “We want to thank the Lord for the privilege to do something that will carry over into eternity.”
You can read the article and find all five song clips here.
Very peaceful and the words meaningful. Enjoyed and look forward to receiving more of the singing of the Amish hymns. Thank you for sharing and may the LORD bless … H.E. Curtis
Glad you liked it Harriet! I thought this was a great idea for an article by Lancaster Online.
"Make a Joyful Noise Unto the Lord"
There is an OOM retail store that I visit every other week in Synder County. The bakery has about a dozen women working and often you can hear one or many burst out in song. I’ve even requested it and they oblige.
These remind me of the Southern Baptist hymns sung during my childhood. Now I’m an Orthodox Christian and our chanting is much more ancient, coming from the ancient Egyptian Pharaonic music but with, of course, Christian meaning. This Church was established by St. Mark himself in Alexandria, Egypt. In our services, Coptic, English, Greek, and Arabic are spoken and sung. There are only a triangle and hand-held cymbals allowed as instruments and there is no harmony. The Priest chants and the psalters and people respond chanting. In a Russian Orthodox or Orthodox Church in America (OCA) parish there is usually a choir that sings a cappella with harmony, leading the people in the responses. In the Greek Orthodox parishes, there is usually only 1 cantor, much like a Jewish synagogue. All the cultural differences make for an interesting study in musical tradition, but the end result is all the same; glorifying the only One True God, Jesus Christ our Lord!
Thanks for sharing this Kiki. Many churches, many musical traditions. I don’t know how it sounds in practice but I think a triangle and cymbals would be a nice minimalist accompaniment.
I enjoyed listening to these songs and the information about the program by the Lancaster Menn. Hist. Society and Swiss Pioneer Associates.
MennoHof Amish-Mennonite Visitors’ Center in Shipshewana, Indiana hosts a similar program each year. This is the 9th year for such a program and will be held in a tent on the lawn of MennoHof on Sun. Sept. 10 at 5 p.m. Rain location is Farmstead Inn Pavilion, next door to MennoHof. The invitation states, “Come and enjoy a cappella singing … in the traditions of the Amish Church, Amish Mennonite Church, Conservative Mennonite Church and Mennonite Church USA. There will be ice cream and pretzels following the worship service.” In years past, there has been more singing in the MennoHof building after refreshments are served.
The printed version wuth musical notes looks like a page from the late Joseph Yoder’s book, Amishe Lieder”, now unfortunately out of print. He had taken the most common “Slow tunes” and wrote out musical scores with the text in our beautiful old German script. If they would republish that wonderful book, the problem of preserving the melodies might be partially solved. Since he lived more than 80 years ago, he had insights as well into that older generation. His mpst famous book, “Rosanna of the Amish,” I believe is still in print and an enjoyable work.
Since I make my living as a musician, I find the Ausbund endlessly fascinating. The fact that there are no notes in the hymnal, that the tunes come from 12th and 13th century love and folk songs – that orginally the songs were sung much faster – and throughout the centuries have slowed down and incorporated ornamentation, shows to me the descendants have attributed grave respect for the hymns used – as they show the struggle and pain of their ancestors and martyrs. That there are so many variations are to be expected since communication between groups have not been easy, and then now, they want to write down the notes and have everyone who is anabaptist sing in consonance is a little sad for me.
There is a tapestry in Amish music, almost like a quilt – each patch is different and makes the whole quilt that much more complex and beautiful.
Yes,I do hope that all their music is transcribed for history’s sake – but I hope that they continue to use their Ausbund, with their endless variations and differences – which has been to the benefit of the Amish throughout history in their culture – and not just music. I love the fact that each ordnung is different – each hymn is slightly different – from group to group – yet all under the same umbrella of love of music in worship by the Amish and Mennonite communities.
Vive la difference! It is all beautiful, serene, respectful, and lovely to the ears of God.
I suspect that the standard Ausbund without musical notation is not going anywhere anytime soon as far as what’s used in church. But, this might make for a nice historical study to put down a marker in time as far as what notes are being used. A few generations from now perhaps things will have evolved further in one or another direction.