From the Worldwide Faith News archives

A cappella Mennonite music lives on

From Beth Hawn
Date 14 Oct 1998 13:59:01

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Date: 1998-10-14 15:26
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Message ID: C74853D45A63D211AAB0006008075ABF
Conversation ID: A cappella Mennonite music lives on


October 14, 1998
Mennonite Board of Missions
Beth Hawn

Photo News Release

A cappella Mennonite music lives on

HARRISONBURG, Va. (MBM) - Doris Berkey, Dick Good, and Dwight Hartman   
(left to right), all of Harrisonburg, recall the days 30 plus years ago   
they sang with the Mennonite Hour singers for the Mennonite Hour radio   
program here. Some of those same hymns have survived five "incarnations"   
as original live music produced for radio; recorded on reel-to-reel tape;   
into long-playing phonograph records; produced as high quality audio
cassettes created from the original tape masters; and now re-mastered
using digital technology as compact discs. Mennonite Media, a department
of Mennonite Board of Missions, announces the release this month of two   
new CDs, "Favorite Hymns" and "30 Men Sing." Berkey, Good and Hartman   
participated in the choirs at various times between the years 1953-1969.

It was music, specifically Mennonite a cappella music, that provided the
very first entree into broadcasting for a group of Virginia Mennonites
almost 50 years ago (1950, see sidebar.) And it is music that lives on
today in the contemporary medium of compact disc.

First the music was live, as was almost everything in the early days of   
In keeping with the prevailing practice of the Mennonite Church at the   
the music was four-part a cappella, but varied by the use of different
ensembles and a wide repertoire of hymns. In 1952, a special Mennonite
Hour Chorus was selected for the "spiritual contribution" they could make   

to the program and Eastern Mennonite College faculty member Earl Maust
was appointed director.

"Twenty to 30 teachers, farmers, businessmen, secretaries, salesmen,   
carpenters and students, all members of the Mennonite Church, composed
this group," according to Hubert H. Pellman, historian who wrote History   
of Mennonite Broadcasts: The First 25 Years (1979).  As the various   
choirs and ensembles produced new music, phonograph recordings were   
released. Beginning with sales of slightly over 4,000 records of   
"Eighteen Most Loved Hymns," volume increased to almost 12,000 in 1962.

When the program went off the air in 1979 due to the changing nature of   
radio (fewer people listening to 15 minute religious broadcasts) various
entrepreneurs sought permission to re-release the music on cassette or on   

their own radio programs. In 1997, MBM Mennonite Media released its first   
digitally re-mastered CD of "Hallelujah Amen" and this year, are   
releasing "Favorite Hymns" and "30 Men Sing" on CD.

For more information on the CDs or cassettes, call 800-999-3534.

* * *

Melodie M. Davis       PHOTO AVAILABLE

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