Singing, Old Order Amish

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In their regular biweekly worship service most of the Old Order Amish use the Ausbund exclusively. The hymnbooks are the property of the congregation and are gathered by the oldest hymn leader after each service and carried home in a satchel-like box. For the next service he selects the hymn sung traditionally with the Scripture suitable for that season of the year. (See "Amish service manuals" in MQR 15, 1941, 26-32.) Before the next meeting he marks with a piece of bluish-gray yarn in each book the first hymn to be sung. Arriving at the home where the service is to be held, he distributes the books along the benches in the rooms where the worshipers will sit. As the time for the service approaches, each one present takes up a book and turns to the marked page. Each congregation has several hymn leaders (Vorsänger), who decide among themselves who is to lead each hymn. Since the hymns of the Ausbund are sung to well-known medieval or Reformation folk tunes, and the books contain no music notation, hymn leaders must learn them by ear. Very few ever are able to learn all of the twenty-one tunes used by the Amish; many can lead only six or eight with complete confidence. Because leading a hymn is the only congregational activity usually engaged in by a layman, many members chosen for the lot when a minister is to be selected have first served as hymn leaders.

The Amish leader usually sings all but the last word or syllable of the first line alone, the congregation joining in unison at that point. The entire congregation sings the air; the men and women an octave apart; there is no four-part singing. The second hymn in every Amish worship service is the Loblied (hymn of praise), page 770 in the Ausbund, known in northern Indiana as the Lobgesang. Amish tunes have become embellished, down through the years, with so many glides and grace notes and are sung so slowly that the singing of a single stanza requires many minutes, The Loblied with its four seven-line stanzas seems to be the only one ever sung in full. If the ministers enter the room from their half-hour pre-service counsel meeting before the congregation finishes the Loblied, the singing stops at the end of the next line even though the hymn is not finished. If the ministers have not appeared by the time the Loblied ends, one of the hymn leaders announces further singing by saying, for example, "Page 492, stanza 25." Hymns always are announced by the page and the number of the stanza. When the ministers enter, the singing ends at the end of the next line even though the sentence is not complete. There is no further singing until after the benediction, which is spoken with both speaker and audience remaining seated. One of the hymn leaders then announces two or more stanzas from an appropriate hymn. After the service on the Sunday nearest Christmas, for instance, he says, "Page 545, stanzas 14 and 15," two stanzas dealing with the Incarnation and taken from a doctrinal hymn of 32 nine-line stanzas. On certain occasions Amish young people sing faster tunes like "Beulah Land," adapted to their Amish hymns. This is true of the celebration following a wedding service and at the Sunday evening "singings." Amish young people are fond of singing and usually have good, though untrained, voices.


"Amish Service Manuals." Mennonite Quarterly Review 15 (1941): 26-32.

Author(s) John S Umble
Date Published 1959

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Umble, John S. "Singing, Old Order Amish." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 25 Sep 2018.,_Old_Order_Amish&oldid=143449.

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Umble, John S. (1959). Singing, Old Order Amish. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 September 2018, from,_Old_Order_Amish&oldid=143449.

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