Those Famous Mennonite Harmonies

February 24th, 2011

Do They Have a Future?

What makes the same hymn inspire one individual to heroism and lead another to boredom cannot be calculated. It has to do with the mysterious way in which song connects us to our past, our soul, our future, our Savior. And because God intended us to be different, our uniqueness is caught up and reflected in our response to the music of the church.

John L. Bell in his introduction to Singing – A Mennonite Voice by Marlene Kropf and Kenneth J. Nafziger, EMU professor of music

Musical Revolution

“The Holy City,” directed by J. Mark Stauffer, at homecoming in 1953.

Students entering Eastern Mennonite University today may not realize that in their grandparents’ generation, this institution offered one option in terms of music. Singing. Usually in four-part harmony. A cappella only. Hymns.

But it was beautiful singing, by all accounts. And almost all of them did it. In daily chapel for sure, but also in choral groups. In 1930-31, of the 148 students who were enrolled in Eastern Mennonite, 72% belonged to one of three campus choruses. [1]

“From morn till night the halls of EMS [Eastern Mennonite School, as it was then called] fairly resound with music,” wrote student Ida Mae Brunk in 1933. “It is a very part of our atmosphere – EMS without its music would no longer be our same beloved school.”

In 1944, Elton L. Martin wrote:

Music is the heart of the school [Eastern Mennonite]. It revives our spirits when they are at a low ebb. It puts hope into our hearts when worry would invade them. It unites us in purpose. Every chorus practice means relaxation from classes. We forget ourselves, our work, and our grades, as we listen for harmony and beauty.

In contrast to singing wafting through campus from morn to night 70 or 80 years ago, EMU students in 2011 will, or can, partake of almost any type of music – if not every day, then at some point during the week. Jazz ensembles, orchestral performances, auditioned and open choirs, individual training in keyboard, stringed, wind and percussion instruments, as well as vocals. Gospel, rock and folk groups. And, yes, a cappella singing.

An EMU student can aim to be a performer, conductor, music educator, minister of music, or combination of these. He or she can do music as a wonderful way of praying and worshiping God, or purely out of love for it, or because making music is a way of balancing out one’s life as a student or as (say) a future scientist, business person, or full-time parent.

After graduation, many former students join other alumni in forming ongoing groups, like the six-member men’s a cappella group Sons of the Day and the eight-member women’s a cappella group Shekinah. Based in Harrisonburg, both groups are eight years old and composed mainly of alumni. Cantore in Harrisonburg consists of 10 men, seven being alumni from the ’80s or earlier.

Daphna Creek in the Broadway area of the Valley had four alumni as core members (and three alumni who rotated in) when it performed Christian-themed folk music from 2001 to 2009.

More recently, we’ve seen alumni forming folk or “Indie” music groups, such as Trent Wagler & the Steel Wheels (named “Best in the Valley” by the Daily News Record in 2010), Dear Wolfgang, Mild Winter, and Preacher.

Many music majors become private instructors, as Faye G. Yoder ’68 did upon graduating as EMU’s first piano major, or they become schoolteachers. (More on this topic later).

Some move into music ministry. Bradley Swope ’85, for instance, was EMU’s first organ major, mentored by our longest-serving music professor, John Fast. Swope is now music director of the First United Methodist Church of Clearwater, Florida, where he plans entirely different music for two Sunday services – a contemporary one and a traditional one. He jokes that between services he sometimes has to do a costume change, switching from jeans to a suit and tie. For the traditional service, he conducts the choirs and the handbell groups (one for children, one for adults) and leads congregational singing. The contemporary service requires him to be adept at working the audio-visual and sound systems. He has been classically trained, finishing a master’s degree and coursework for a doctorate in organ music from the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Yet his training did not include guitar, which he would find handy for his contemporary service. His main objective for both services is to “take the pastor’s point and hit it over the fence with music,” he says. “When everything comes together, people leave feeling changed.”

In the Beginning

M.T. Brackbill directs the men’s chorus in 1925.

Today’s rich diversity in music would have stunned the founders of this university. In 1913, the first constitution for what became Eastern Mennonite College (EMC) specified that only vocal music was to be taught and that no instruments were to be permitted. As odd as this proscription may sound to 21st century ears, the founders of EMC were not being arbitrary. They saw unaccompanied congregational singing as essential to staying true to the Mennonite form of worship.

EMC’s first full-time music instructor, J. Mark Stauffer ’38, articulated the founders’ concerns (which he shared) in a 1947 booklet Mennonite Church Music—Its Theory and Practice. In its introduction, Gospel Herald editor Paul Erb wrote:

… Christian churches in general have handed over, so far as any real effective singing is concerned, the entire musical service to the choir and its soloists. What congregational singing there may be is usually very dependent upon the organ or other accompanying instruments. To hear good, unaccompanied congregational singing in America today, one is practically required to go to a Mennonite Church, or to some other of the few smaller groups which have retained similar musical practices. [2]

J. Mark Stauffer ’38 led choirs at EMU from the late 1930s through the 1960s.

Stauffer noted that beginning under Emperor Constantine in the 4th century, Christians spent about 13 centuries unable to have a full voice in their churches. Instead of participating in congregational singing, they were expected to listen to trained choirs singing in a language they didn’t understand (Latin) and to obey clergy chosen without their consent. The Anabaptist movement that gave rise to Mennonite churches was filled with people who wished to worship God in the manner of their own choosing, with no intermediaries. Singing hymns themselves—with understandable words that came from their hearts or directly from the Bible—was one of the worship choices they wished to make.

As participants in a small religious movement that did not conform to the dominant Catholic and Protestant churches of their day, Mennonites were persecuted almost everywhere they lived in Europe and Prussia. When imprisoned, many early Mennonites wrote new devotional words for the popular tunes of the day. They sang these songs in their final hours and moments before being executed in torturous ways.

Earl M. Maust taught music from 1948 until his death in 1969.

Years later, these songs became the basis of a hymnal used to this day by cousins to the Mennonites, the Amish. Called the Ausbund, the hymnal includes 51 hymns written by Swiss-German Anabaptists who were imprisoned, and often killed, before the year 1540. [3] The hymns spoke of great sorrow at living in a wicked world, but stressed that God would not forsake his children. Early Anabaptist hymnals simply stated the name of the tune at the top and then offered the words to go with it. It was assumed that everyone would know the then-popular tunes. [4]

In these early days, Anabaptists gathered in secret. They rejected the hierarchy, icons, statues, tithing and rituals of the state-approved churches, as well as—and this bears on EMC’s much-later rejection of musical instruments—the pipe organ, which was often one of the most expensive, elaborate items in the officially sanctioned churches. [5]

In this early history, we can see the roots of Stauffer’s advocacy for preserving the purity of congregational singing:

“If we fail to teach, develop, and encourage our congregational music as we should, it is only logical to conclude that in the course of years, we, the Mennonite Church, will be spending money for, and listening to pianos, organs, orchestras, soloists and trained choirs,” he wrote in his booklet. “…[T]his would be tragic.”

Stauffer argued that the Bible favored vocal music: “The musical emphasis in the New Testament is on singing; the instruments in the Old Testament worship should be considered a part of the Law which was forever swept away by Christ as He instituted the age of Grace in which we live.”

The Vespers Chorus, pictured in the 1956 Shen.

Stauffer played a pivotal role in the college’s music program from his arrival as a faculty member in 1939 through the 1960s. Alumni from his era appear unanimous in praising him for the choral leadership and training he offered. Every year, for instance, Stauffer gathered hundreds of singers to rehearse and perform the “The Holy City,” an oratorio, and “David the Shepherd Boy,” a light Sunday school cantata evocative of a Gilbert and Sullivan musical. These events began being held in the early 1920s and continued after Stauffer’s time, through the 1970s.

Mennonites came from significant distances to partake in these events. Carroll J. Lehman ’64, a well-known voice professor and choir conductor in New Hampshire, recalls his father driving their family from the Chambersburg area of Pennsylvania to EMC to see “The Holy City.”

“When I came to EMC in 1956,” John L. Horst Jr. ’60 told Crossroads recently, ““the Holy City was done annually at homecoming in the spring of the year. The large Collegiate Chorus rehearsed it extensively and alumni would join us for a two-hour Saturday morning rehearsal, followed by a packed Lehman Auditorium performance on Saturday night.” Horst is a retired EMU physics professor.

In the 1950s, instruments had to be played off campus, in homes. As pictured in the 1955 Shen: Alma Trumbo, Miriam Pellman, Gerald Bender, Lee Hartzler, Amsey Martin.

In additional to musical instruments, secular music was officially discouraged until the 1960s. “We must guard against using any type of music that may interfere with true divine worship,” Stauffer wrote in 1947. “Inferior gospel choruses, rhythmed music, secular tunes, modernistic songs, and songs which appeal only to the emotions are to be avoided.”

Stauffer’s desired alternative was to ensure that every young person learn to read music and be encouraged to sing hymns. “Congregational music does not progress and develop of itself; it tends to deteriorate as does almost everything else here on earth. Someone must sponsor it, guide it, and be entrusted with its improvement and security.”

The last 50 years have proven Stauffer to be both right and wrong. Right, in insisting on the necessity of quality musical instruction. [6] But Stauffer appears mistaken in thinking that other forms of music inevitably lead to less devotion to God.

Park View Mennonite Church, a church physically near EMU that is heavily populated by EMU-linked congregants, has managed to retain the strength and beauty of its congregational four-part singing while adding regular organ and piano playing, along with periodic chamber and folk musicians, gospel choirs, percussionists, and songs from other traditions sung in unison or even chanted.

Long-time EMU music professor Kenneth J. Nafziger, a member of Park View, says ideally a church should weave its music into the liturgy, ritual and message of the entire service, so that the worship experience is just that: an all-embracing experience, supported and elevated by various forms of musical expression.

Usually led by music director Judy Bomberger ’73 or choir director Karen Moshier-Shenk ’73, some of the singing at Park View is a cappella, but much is not. Park View does not sponsor ““singing schools” for its newcomers and musically challenged members, as some Mennonite churches did a century ago. Nevertheless most of its congregants clearly know how to sing, as exemplified by their periodic unrehearsed singing of portions of Handel’s Messiah. [7] With dozens of EMU-trained singers and musicians, Park View offers a vibrant answer to Stauffer’s mid-century concerns about the future of Mennonite worship music.

Roots of Singing Tradition

The a cappella multi-part harmony singing associated with Mennonites is actually not that old. The tradition dates to the mid-1800s among Mennonites in Russia and to the late 1800s in the United States.

John Fast, teacher of organ, piano and music theory since arriving in 1975 (our longest-serving music prof), with Sandy Waltner in 1993.

Seeking a better life and religious freedom, Mennonites in Prussia moved to Russia in the 1700s. They took with them the tunes of Lutheran hymns, to which they put their own words. They apparently sang these hymns in unison for several generations, but by the late 1800s, some in their communities realized the singing was becoming abysmal.

One Russian Mennonite, Heinrich Franz (1812-1889) produced a Choralbuch in 1860 in an effort to upgrade the quality of singing among his people. He likely would have agreed with Margaret Loewen Reimer’s 1995 comments about the quality of Mennonite singing in the mid-1800s:

Transmitting unwritten melodies through the generations had reduced singing to ponderously slow repetition of corrupted tunes. They [Mennonite educators interested in quality music] felt it was urgent to recover the original melodies and rhythms, as well as to train people in singing. [8]

Such changes were resisted by many, which explains why the Amish and some Old Order Mennonites sing in unison to this day. In their eyes, four-part singing fosters individualism and pride instead of humble obedience to God.

When Russian and Prussian Mennonites began to migrate to North America after 1870, they brought Franz’s Choralbuch and their revitalized choir-singing tradition with them. Once in North America — where they mostly settled in the mid-western states and eventually in Manitoba, Canada — they proved open to adopting musical and worship practices they saw in neighboring Protestant churches and to incorporating instrumental music into their churches. This more liberal group of Mennonites became known as “General Conference.”

Mennonites directly descended from the Dutch, Swiss and Germans had arrived in North America earlier, from the late 1600s through the 1700s, in search of greater religious freedom and economic opportunity in the resource-rich colony established by William Penn. These Mennonites, with whom the Amish share roots (Anabaptist elder Jakob Ammann led a split from the main body of Mennonites in Switzerland in the 1690s), brought recent memories of martyrdom and oppression with them from Europe. Thus they made a point of establishing communities that were self-protectively separate from encircling society and civil institutions. They also made a point of maintaining their adherence to unaccompanied singing in non-ornate buildings. This more conservative group of Mennonites became known as the “Mennonite Church.”

Ken J. Nafziger conducting a rehearsal in the mid 1990’s.

Both the General Conference (GC) Mennonites and the Mennonite Church (MC) Mennonites eventually founded colleges, with the GC group leading the way with the establishment of Bethel College in Kansas in 1887 and Bluffton University (initially named Central Mennonite College) in Ohio in 1899. The MC group founded Goshen College in northern Indiana in 1894

At Bethel, Bluffton and Goshen colleges, organ and piano music and choirs were accepted for teaching music from the beginning, though participatory a cappella singing remained the favored approach. [9] At Goshen, however, all musical instruments were banned from worship services until around World War II. [10] At EMC, instrumental music was banned on college radio broadcasts until the early 1960s. The first musical instrument owned by EMC, a piano, appeared in 1962 for “technical studies,” but authorized classes in how to play other musical instruments and a music education major did not evolve until the late 1960s. [11] In 1966, under the direction of a new professor, Ira T. Zook Jr., a piano was used for the first time as accompaniment for “The Holy City.”

Joseph S. Funk

Judy Keener Bomberger ’73, music director at Park View Mennonite Church.

With Mennonites avoiding instrumental music until the 1900s, there was much space and energy for developing the voice and for congregational singing. Joseph S. Funk (1778-1862) stepped into this space.

Funk was born into a German-speaking Mennonite family in Franconia, Pennsylvania. His pastor-father moved the family to the Shenandoah Valley in 1786. Funk grew up to be the patriarch of a family famous for publishing four-shape-note and, later, seven-shape-note, tunebooks. They also published one of the South’s first music periodicals, the 16-page monthly Southern Musical Advocate and Singer’s Friend, from July 1859 to April 1861. [12]

The Virginia Mennonite Conference appointed Funk to the three-man committee that published the first Mennonite hymnal in English. First printed in Winchester, Virginia, in 1847, the 364-page hymnal was reprinted on the Funk-owned press in Singers Glen near Harrisonburg in 1851, 1855, 1859, 1868, and 1872 (as well as reprinted elsewhere in other years).

Karen Moshier-Shenk ’73, choir director at Park View Mennonite Church. She and Judy Bomberger ’73 (facing page) also sing in “Finely Tuned,” a women’s a cappella group with Elaine Hunsecker Dunaway ’89 and L. Elaine Warfel Stauffer ’73.

Funk’s most famous book, Harmonia Sacra, has remained in circulation for 177 years. It is now in its 25th edition, published by Good Books of Intercourse, Pennsylvania, with nearly 100,000 copies sold. [13]

Stephen Shearon wrote in the Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music that Funk appreciated use of instruments in sacred music, but he also “believed strongly that music should be sung by all members of a congregation as a participatory form of worship . . . as a kind of musical democracy.” Thus Funk, like most of his fellow Mennonites, was opposed to having a paid or select choir. [14]

By 1890, four-part singing was sufficiently accepted by North American Mennonites that they furnished each hymn of their hymnals with a four-part harmony, making the use of a separate choralbook superfluous. [15] Beginning in the late 1800s, Mennonites organized and attended singing schools, though generally it was not acceptable for these schools to be housed in churches. By the 1950s, singing schools had fallen by the wayside, probably due to competition from other entertainment outlets and due to opportunities to learn singing at Mennonite-sponsored schools and colleges.

In 1913, Bluffton became the first Mennonite college to select an a cappella choir and dispatch it into the community and on tour for performances. [16] Over the next several decades all Mennonite colleges began doing the same – a distinct change from the 19th century view that sacred music was not a spectator activity for Mennonites, but only a participatory one as part of communal worship.

Music educators

Glenn Lehman ’66, founder and director of Harmonies Workshop, 1987 to present. Also organist at Neffsville Mennonite Church In Lancaster. Author of You Can Lead Singing. Has two master’s, one from Westminster Choir College.

A final reason for Mennonite colleges to embrace change in the way they approached music stemmed from gaining accreditation to train music teachers destined for public institutions. To do this work, Mennonite colleges needed to provide a well-rounded music education that included competency in musical instruments, regardless of historical and theological reasons for downplaying instruments and emphasizing the voice.

Today, EMU-trained music teachers – such as Michael W. Miller ’82 of Boonsboro, Maryland, who teaches music to elementary-aged students [17]; Bethany Blouse ’06, who is choral director at Stuarts Draft (Va.) High School [18]; and Janet Heatwole Hostetter ’87, choir director and pianist at Wilbur S. Pence Middle School in Dayton, Virginia [19] – are feeding the spirits of hundreds with their passionate musical service and leadership in public school systems.

EMU has a number of music doctorate-holding alumni teaching at the collegiate level, including:

Carroll J. Lehman ’64 teaches voice and opera at Keene State College (5,400 students) in New Hampshire. He holds master’s and doctor’s degrees in vocal performance from the University of Iowa. He has been on the faculty of Hope College, Holland, Michigan, and Western Washington University. As a bass-baritone, he has performed more than 20 principal roles in opera. He judges vocal competitions up through the national level.

Ronald Lyndaker ’78 is academic director of Lewis & Clark College in France, a consortial study abroad program. He is also an administrator and a humanities professor at the trilingual undergraduate program of the Institut d’Études Politics in Nancy, a branch of the highly selective “Sciences Po” of Paris. Finally, he is a tenor in the permanent chorus of the Opéra National de Lorraine. Lyndaker did a double major at EMU – modern languages and music – followed by graduate work at Ohio University and University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a doctor of musical arts degree.

Karen Fix Rice ’95 teaches piano and sings at Winston Salem State University (6,000 students) in North Carolina, a public institution that was historically black. In 2009, she completed a doctorate in musical arts (piano) at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She has taught at four North Carolina universities. She recently performed at the College Music Society’s national conference in Quebec City.

Singing Today

SONS OF THE DAY: Nathan May, Matthew Hunsberger ’02, Joel Ross, Michael V. Heatwole ’09, W. Clay Showalter ’02, Chris A. Burkholder ’08.

In 2002, the two main traditions among modern Mennonites in the United States – the General Conference and Mennonite Church groups – officially merged, reflecting their increasing similarities and, some would say, their increasing assimilation into mainstream US society. The majority of Mennonites no longer live on farms, and they no longer spend as much of Sunday and Wednesday evenings in their churches, singing and otherwise worshiping as a group. Less than half of those enrolled at the six Mennonite institutions of higher education identify themselves as being Mennonite, reducing the pool of those trained in congregational singing.

Newer Mennonite churches consisting of recent converts, often in urban areas and serving ethnic or minority constituencies, tend not to sing in four-part harmony or to seek ways to learn the skill. There are even those church leaders (a minority, so far) who assert that any amount of sight-reading music and four-part harmonizing makes newcomers feel uncomfortable and thus should be avoided. “Contemporary-style” services generally feature songs sung in unison, often with words (but not musical notes) projected on a large screen in the front, with instrumental or recorded music carrying the singing.

Songs from other countries have been incorporated into the main Mennonite hymnal, Hymnal: A Worship Book (1992). Seven percent of the songs in it are not American or European in origin, and these often do not lend themselves to four-part harmony. Two supplemental hymnals, Sing the Journey (2005) and Sing the Story (2007) contain many contemporary or cross-cultural songs that are intended to be sung with accompanying percussion or other instruments. EMU music professor Kenneth J. Nafziger, who holds a doctor of music (conducting) from the University of Oregon, is one of two people who has served as an editor for all three hymnals. This work has spanned more than 25 years of his life. (The other long-time editor is Marlene Kropf, an associate professor at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary.)

SHEKINAH: (Back, l-r) Aubrey Helmuth Miller, Sharon Kniss ’06, Joanna Souder Showalter ‘04, Greta Shenk ’10, Sara Hershberger Gingerich ’07. (Front) Jessica Hostetler ’08, Jenny Hartwig Wagner ’06, Sylvia Hooley Meyer ’09.

A 2003 survey of 104 Mennonite congregations shows that they continued to do four-part harmony “more than anything else,” [20] but the time devoted to it is giving way to other forms of music, including singing international worship songs in unison, listening to select choirs, and being accompanied by various forms of instrumental music. Is this an enrichment of the Mennonite choral tradition, or an erosion of it?

Nafziger, who has pioneered bringing fresh songs from foreign lands into Mennonite hymnbooks and who has produced CDs of choirs modeling how to sing these new songs, argues for both embracing new ways and taking conscious steps to preserve the beautiful congregational singing of the last century or so. He says:

Most of us in our churches sing much less than we used to. Not only do we meet each other less frequently, but we also sing less when we are together. Other aspects of worship have found space in worship, often at the expense of congregational singing… If singing is as important as we claim it is in our tradition, we will need to find ways of making more time for singing, of teaching our children to sing, and of strengthening the abilities of many of us to sing more confidently. [21]

Janet Heatwole Hostetter ’87, choir director, Wilbur S. Pence Middle School, Dayton, Va.

Writing in 1998, Gary Harder (then pastor of Toronto United Mennonite Church) argued that the “participatory community” of the Mennonite church was nourished by its style of congregational singing. “As much as I enjoy and am often led to encountering God by a good choir, an instrumental ensemble or solo, or a well played piano or organ, these, in my mind, are not the center of a church’s musical ministry; congregational singing is.” [22]

Synthesizing the views of experts on the Mennonite choral tradition, it appears that EMU and the other Mennonite colleges need to keep working at preserving the positive elements of their religious tradition, while simultaneously being open to change. The experts suggest that preserving implies:

  • Continuing to sing, and teaching the next generation to sing, regardless of the quality of anyone’s voice, an impulse which goes against today’s drive for “professionalism” and perfectionism in most walks of life.
  • Possibly reinstating a modern version of “singing schools,” or at least offering optional (and fun) practice sessions, for newcomers to the tradition.
  • Retaining a core group of songs that people are able to sing from memory for critical moments in their lives, such as singing to calm oneself during a scary situation or singing as a family at the bedside of a dying loved one.
  • Factoring in the acoustics when planning for new churches and auditoriums. The old rectangular meetinghouses used by Anabaptists in the 1700s and 1800s, with their unpadded seats and non-carpeted floors, lent themselves acoustically to congregational singing in a way that fan-shaped sanctuaries, with their typically thick carpeting and upholstery, do not. In fact, J. Evan Kreider calls many contemporary churches “dead sanctuaries,” where the “voice of the people” is literally silenced. [23] (Unfortunately, EMU’s own Lehman Auditorium is acoustically dead. Music faculty have been praying for donations toward overhauling the nearly 70-year-old building.)
  • Considering whether instrumental music and technology might accidentally usher in theological changes. When amplified music overwhelms the singing, does this render the congregation more passive, with less “voice”?

Harder, a Canadian-Mennonite pastor for 38 years until he retired in June 2007, cherishes the “wholeness” that results when the worship team works well together, with the spoken word, silence and music seamlessly integrated:

It is immensely satisfying when music contributes to a particular moment in worship. Perhaps what is needed at a given moment is a Taizé short piece, or a Bach choral, or a guitar-led chorus, or folk hymn, or a song from Guatemala or Africa, or a chant, or an African-American spiritual, or a gospel song, or a Brian Wren or Bradley Lehman contemporary hymn. [24]

Surely it is easier for the Amish, who cling to their slow a cappella hymns with countless verses sung in unison, from the Ausbund of the early martyrs. They don’t have to choose from the wide array of hymnal possibilities – some better sung a cappella, others better with just percussion instruments, still others requiring orchestral music – for their communal experience of sacred music. Yet few Mennonites, not even J. Mark Stauffer who counseled against instruments in Mennonite church services, would want to revert to Amish-style dirge-like singing. Most realize that the Anabaptist choral tradition has been enriched by permitting new influences to seep into it. As Nafziger puts it:

‘Where there is devotional music, God with His grace is always present’ (Johann Sebastian Bach). Perhaps this is the issue for all music in worship… Perhaps we need to reclaim wholeheartedly a belief that indeed sound in worship is the shaping force we have sometimes claimed it to be. And maybe the music of the church of the next generation will be an eclectic mixture of old and new, familiar and foreign, experimental and safe, the much-loved and that which waits to be loved. [25]

Toward the end of Singing – A Mennonite Voice, the authors quote Sue Williamson, who became a Mennonite as an adult. She wonders whether those born into the Mennonite tradition fully grasp the awesomeness of their style of congregational singing:

I am always amazed, during these last four years spent worshiping in the Mennonite church, to go to other denominations and find that this singing and what it offers is just not as present in their worship services. It is something which is delegated to the professional musicians and the choir. It is a wonderful gift, and I wonder if Mennonites realize that. [26]

— Bonnie Price Lofton, MA ’04, editor

[1] Roth, Daniel Roy. “A Curriculum for a Proposed Church Music Major at Eastern Mennonite College,” his master’s thesis at U. of Oregon. September 1972. Source of this quote and following two paragraphs. It and other materials referenced in this article can all be found in EMU’s library system.

[2] Stauffer, Mark J. Mennonite Church Music—Its Theory and Practic, a 46-page booklet. Mennonite Publishing House, 1947. All Stauffer quotes herein come from this booklet.

[3] Friedmann, Robert. “Ausbund.” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, 1953.

[4] Friedmann.

[5] Sharp, John. “The Devil’s Bagpipe or God’s Voice? The Organ in Historical Context,” a 2008 speech covered by Hesston News Services. newsport/archives/spring2008/080310sharp.htm newsport/archives/spring2008/080310sharp.htm

[6] J. Mark Stauffer surely would like the excellence of the music instruction offered at EMU today, where faculty, staff and advanced students cater to all skill levels and ages with well-subscribed programs. The programs are overseen by musicians with graduate degrees, usually doctorates. In addition to their academic credentials, they have been hired for their ability to both make and teach music beautifully. a rare combination.

[7] Go to to view Karen Moshier-Shenk leading the Park View congregation in the singing of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah during their Easter worship service on April 4, 2010. The organist is EMU music professor John Fast.

[8] Reimer, Margaret Loewen. “Mennonites & Music. Footnotes on the way to four-part harmony.” The Christian Leader, Nov. 1995, p. 13.

[9] Maust, Earl M. “The History and Development of Music in Mennonite-Controlled Liberal Arts Colleges in the United States.” Doctoral dissertation, School of Music of the George Peabody College for Teachers. August 1968, pp. 80 & 98.

[10] Maust, pp. 61-62

[11] Pellman, Hubert R, Eastern Mennonite College, 1917-1967—A History. EMC, 1967, p. 240.

[12] Hostetler, John A. “Funk, Joseph (1778-1862).” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, 1956.

[13] Hostetler. See also The Harmonia Sacra, Twenty-Fifth Edition at

[14] Shearon, Stephen. “Funk, Joseph.” Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music. Ed. W.K. McNeil. Routledge, 2005. p. 134.

[15] Neff, Christian. “Choral-Books (Choralbuch).” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, 1953.

[16] Maust, p. 110.

[17] Michael W. Miller ’82 was a voice major at EMU, who also played trumpet. He has since learned to play the baritone, violin, cello, clarinet, saxophone and flute sufficiently to teach these to children in his school band. In his 7th year as a teacher in 2010-11, he is working on a master’s in educational leadership. at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland.

[18] As an undergraduate, Bethany Blouse ’06 toured with the Chamber Singers, had a role in a musical (Music Man), took three opera scenes classes, and frequently performed in EMU’s noon recitals.
[19] Janet Heatwole Hostetter ’87, former director of music ministries at Harrisonburg Mennonite Church, has a master’s degree in choral conducting from James Madison University.

[20] Jacoby, Stephen. “What Are Mennonites Singing in Sunday Morning Worship?” Sound in the Land – Essays on Mennonites and Music. Eds. Maureen Epp and Carol Ann Weaver. Pandora Press, 2005, p. 186.

[21] Kropf, Marlene and Kenneth Nafziger. Singing, A Mennonite Voice. Herald Press, 2001, pp. 160-161.

[22] Harder, Gary. “Congregational Singing as a Pastor Sees It.“ Music in Worship – a Mennonite Perspective. Ed. Bernie Neufeld. Herald Press, 1998, p. 109.

[23] Kreider, J. Evan. “Silencing the Voice of the People: Effects of Changing Sanctuary Design.” Music in Worship – a Mennonite Perspective. Ed. Bernie Neufeld. Herald Press, 1998, pp. 212-225.

[24] Harder, p. 114.

[25] Nafziger, Kenneth. “And What Shall We Do with the Choir?” Music in Worship – a Mennonite Perspective. Ed. Bernie Neufeld. Herald Press, 1998, p. 193.

[26] Kroft & Nafziger, p. 163.