Singing occurs in nearly every setting of Amish life. It is a
sanctioned pleasure that frames all Amish rituals and one that
enlivens and sanctifies both routine and special events, from
household chores, road trips by buggy, and family prayer to
baptisms, youth group gatherings, weddings, and "single girl"
sings. But because Amish worship is performed in private homes
instead of public churches, few outsiders get the chance to hear
Amish people sing. Amish music also remains largely unexplored in
the field of ethnomusicology. In Why the Amish Sing, D.
Rose Elder introduces readers to the ways that Amish music both
reinforces and advances spiritual life, delving deep into the
Ausbund, the oldest hymnal in continuous use.
This illuminating ethnomusicological study demonstrates how
Amish groups in Wayne and Holmes Counties, Ohio-the largest
concentration of Amish in the world-sing to praise God and, at the
same time, remind themselves of their 450-year history of devotion.
Singing instructs Amish children in community ways and unites the
group through common participation. As they sing in unison to the
weighty words of their ancestors, the Amish confirm their love and
support for the community. Their singing delineates their common
journey-a journey that demands separation from the world and
yielding to God''s will.
By making school visits, attending worship services and youth
sings, and visiting private homes, Elder has been given the rare
opportunity to listen to Amish singing in its natural social and
familial context. She combines one-on-one interviews with detailed
observations of how song provides a window into Amish cultural
beliefs, values, and norms.