Mennonite Acappella Groups

February 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Since most conservative Mennonite and Amish churches sing only a cappella hymns in their churches, it is not surprising to find that there are numerous Mennonite and Amish a cappella choirs, quartets, and family singing groups. With the exception of some of the more polished choirs, like Oasis Chorale and Faith Builders Chorale, most of these groups sing in simple four-part harmony. The following list of Mennonite a cappella groups is in alphabetic order:

Altar of Praise Chorale

This chorale is a mixed a cappella group, comprised of some of the best male and female singers in the conservative Anabaptist world. Members of the group come from various Anabaptist backgrounds: Beachy Amish, Mennonite, and Charity Christian Fellowship.

Antrim Mennonite Choir

This choir is composed of members of the Antrim Mennonite Church in Antrim, Ohio, which is actually a Beachy Amish church. Some of the members of the choir are teachers who teach at the Antrim Mennonite school, and they come from various Anabaptist backgrounds.

Mennonite Hour Singers

In the 1950’s through the 1970’s, the Mennonite Hour was the official radio broadcast for the Mennonite Church. It began in 1951, and it was a thirty-minute program that featured acapella singing by the Mennonite Hour Chorus, together with a brief sermon. Normally, the chorus was composed of students from Eastern Mennonite College and from various Mennonite singers from the area around Harrisonburg, Virginia. The singing was always four-part harmony sung acappella. <br> <br>

The Mennonite Hour peaked in the early 1960’s with over 140 radio stations. It declined thereafter, and the program went off the air in 1978. Recently, musical recordings from the program have been re-mastered and released in CD format.

Overholt Family Singers

The Overholt family has been heavily involved in music for many decades. This Beachy Amish family are the publishers of the popular Christian Hymnary. The present singers are composed of the four Overholt adult children.

Smucker Family

This singing group is composed of members of the extended Smucker family of Beachy Amish background. It includes various persons who have married into the Smucker family. Their sound is distinctive from many Mennonite a cappella groups in that the lead melody is usually given to the tenors instead of the sopranos.

To listen to music samples from these groups and to order their CDs, please click on the button below:

Acapella Hymns

Church of Christ Acappella Groups

February 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

There are numerous acapella singing groups associated with the churches of Christ. This article will focus on two of the better known groups:  the Harding University Concert Choir and Hallal.

Harding University Concert Choir

Harding University is located in Searcy, Arkansas. It is a private Christian university that serves a diverse, coeducational student body from across the United States and around the world. Although admittance is not limited to members of the churches of Christ, that is where its primary constituency lies.

The 90-member Harding University Concert Choir was organized in autumn of 1988. Choir members are chosen by audition. The majority of the members of the choir come from students who major in studies other than music. The choir has performed for important dignitaries, including President George Bush.

In all of its concerts, the Harding University Concert Choir brings a message of musical excellence and spiritual commitment. The choir has released a number of CD recordings of acapella hymns. One of its most popular recordings is that of the hymns of Fanny Crosby.

Hallal

Hallal, is one of the finest acappella contemporary Christian worship groups around today. Their arrangements (and many of their songs) are all original. One of their original compositions, “Faithful Love,” has been translated into six languages and is song in Christian circles outside of the churches of Christ and Christian churches. Unlike many acappella singing groups today, they primarily sing contemporary Christian praise songs.

Hallal was founded in 1989 by the Young family, and it began as an acappella singing group in Midland, Texas. It has participated in hundreds of conferences across the United States and throughout the world.  In 2003, Hallal moved to Franklin, Tennessee, which is a growing center for contemporary Christian music. For approximately the first ten years of this ministry, all of their recordings were acappella.  However, some of Hallal’s more recent recordings also feature musical instrumentation.

Hallal Worship provides concerts and leads worship services in churches all around the world, primarily at churches of Christ and Christian churches.

To browse or purchase acapella CD recordings of either the Harding University Concert Choir or of Hallal, please click on the link below, which takes you to our sister site:

Browse Music

Early Christians and Music

February 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Most of the early Christian writers speak negatively about musical instruments, as can be seen from the quotations that follow. Many of these quotations do not pertain directly to church music. The reader can decide for himself or herself the applicability of these quotations to the issue of using musical instruments in worship. All of the quotations are from the Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, under “Music.” These quotations are used by permission.

Justin Martyr (A.D. 150)

Your [pagan] public assembles I have come to hate. For there are excessive banquets and subtle flutes that provoke people to lustful movements. ©

Irenaeus (A.D. 180)

Of such persons, too, the Spirit has spoken through Isaiah: AThey drink wine with harps, tablets, psalteries, and flutes. However, they do not regard the works of God. ©

Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 190)

If people occupy their time with pipes, psalteries, choirs, dances, Egyptian clapping of hands, and such disorderly frivolities, they become quite immodest. …Let the pipe be resigned to the shepherds, and the flute to the superstitious ones who are engrossed in idolatry. For, in truth, such instruments are to be banished from the temperate banquet. …Man is truly a peaceful instrument. However, if you investigate, you will find other instruments to be warlike, inflaming to lusts, kindling up passion, or rousing wrath. …The Spirit, distinguishing the divine service from such revelry, says, APraise Him with the sound of trumpet. For with the sound of the trumpet, He will raise the dead. APraise him on the psaltery.@ For the tongue is the psaltery of the Lord. AAnd praise him on the lyre.@ By the lyre is meant the mouth struck by the Spirit. ©

The one instrument of peace, the Word alone by whom we honor God, is what we employ. We no longer employ the ancient psaltery, trumpet, timbrel, and flute. For those expert in war and scorners of the fear of God were inclined to made use of these instruments in the choruses at their festive assemblies. …Yet, even if you wish to sing and play to the harp or lyre, there is no blame. You will imitate the righteous Hebrew king in his thanksgiving to God. …Nevertheless, let love songs be banished far away. But let our songs be hymns to God. ©

As an example of music, let us produce David, both playing and prophesying, melodiously praising God. Now the Enarmonic suits best the Dorian harmony; and the Diatonic, the Phrygian. …Music then, is to be studied for the sake of the embellishment and composure of manners. For instance, at a banquet, we pledge each other while the music is playing. By song, we soothe the eagerness of our desires, and we glorify God for the copious gift of human enjoyments. …How­ever, we must reject frivolous music, which weakens men’s souls. ©

Tertullian (A.D. 197)

The [theater and the arena] resemble each other also in their ceremony, having the same proces­sion to the scene of their display from temples and altars, and that mournful profusion of incense and blood, with music of pipes and trumpets. ©

If [Mercury] also first strung the chord to give forth melody, I will not deny–when listening to David–that this invention has been in use with the saints and has ministered to God. ©

Novatian (A.D. 235)

One imitates the hoarse, warlike clanging of the trumpet. Another with his breath blowing into a pipe regulates its mournful sounds. …Why should I speak of…those great tragic vocal ravings? Why should I speak of strings set vibrating with noise? Even if these things were not dedicated to idols, they should not be approached and gazed upon by faithful Christians. ©

Arnobius (A.D. 305)

Did He send souls so that beings of a sacred and majestic race should practice singing and piping here? Did he send them so that they would swell up their cheeks in blowing the flute? Or, that they would take the lead in singing impure songs and raising the loud clamor of the castanets?  ©

Gregorian Chant

February 7, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 


Exactly what is Gregorian chant, and how did it originate?

Although most people today think of chant as something different from singing, our English word “chant” comes from the Latin word cantus, which simply means “song.” So what we call “chant” today is actually the type of singing that was used in early Christianity. It dates back before the time of the New Testament. Christians didn’t invent chant. They simply borrowed the style of singing used in the Jewish synagogue and in much of the Roman world. This form of singing is what we know today as Gregorian chant or simply chant. It is a simple, monophonic form of acapella singing.

Chant was organized and more fully developed during the time of Gregory the Great (590-604). That is why Christian chant is generally known today as Gregorian chant. However, as we have discussed, Gregory did not invent the chant form. Christians had been using it for centuries before he was born. Nevertheless, Gregorian chant superseded the earlier forms of chant and represented a musical advancement beyond them.

At first, the chants were learned simply by ear, for there was no system of musical notation. (Actually, the Greeks had invented a form of musical notation, but knowledge of the ancient Greek system had been lost.) Gregorian chant developed in large part because of monastic life. That is because the monks in most monasteries observed various hours of worship eight times a day. Singing psalms and chants made up a large part of monastic life.

Invention of Musical Notation for Chant 

 
During the Middle Ages, the church re-invented a form of musical notation, which was used for Gregorian chant. Medieval chant notation differed from modern notation in that it had only four lines to the staff. It used a system of shaped notes called neumes. Gregorian chant or plainchant remained the primary form of church singing until the Renaissance and Reformation – and well beyond. During the time of the late Renaissance, polyphony was introduced into church music, which made use of several voices singing different, but complementary lines of music. In contrast, Gregorian chant was monophonic – all singers sang the exact same melody in unison – without additional harmony or polyphony.

 Unlike most music from ancient times, Gregorian chant has never died. It is a beautiful form of music—meditative, relaxing and peaceful—with a very other-worldly sound to it that many Christians still enjoy today.