I’m not surprised that Shirley Hershey Showalter and her producers picked a beautiful Mennonite Hour recording as the music track (with some new added arranging) for the “trailer” for her new book, Blush: A Mennonite Girls Meets a Glittering World. You can watch it here or at her blog and see the comments people are making about it. (Book launch coming Sept. 19, watch for blog/Facebook page posts.)
What I was surprised to find was that when I went to YouTube to find Shirley’s trailer, there are a whole bunch of other old Mennonite Hour recordings there. And MennoMedia didn’t post them. But that’s ok. We love getting this beautiful music out there and we hope people will track down the source if they are interested.
Listening to these pieces (some accompanied by typical scenery slides, some just with lyrics which makes nice background music as you work), it not only takes me back to my roots growing up in a Mennonite home and church, but to my early days of working for MennoMedia, (in one of its predecessor organizations then called Mennonite Broadcasts, Inc.), under whose umbrella the Mennonite Hour radio program was produced for almost 30 years.
One of my first jobs here was picking which Mennonite Hour pieces of music to use with each sermon; commonly we used an opening hymn and a closing one, with maybe an extra thrown in if the sermon was short or we wanted to do something different. I typed the order of the program using an old fashioned IBM Selectric Typewriter. Whee.
If the music on those programs was like the music I sing in church, it stuck with the listeners long after they had forgotten any sermon.
Not only does the music from Sunday replay in my head most of Monday, but it creeps back in through the week (sometimes getting disgustingly stuck there). But most times, if I just roll with it, the music soothes and speaks to me in new ways all week long.
This is part of what accounts for the long long life of these Mennonite Hour recordings, which were first recorded onto to reel-to-reel tape. That was the format for the recordings in 1975-6 when I first started working with the engineer who edited the program. Okay, so I’m older.
It is a delight to see these songs finding new audiences today on YouTube: none have gone viral, but 110,000, 114,000, and even 69,000 views is not too shabby.
Mennonite Hour singers recording in an old
converted chicken house studio, circa early 60s,
long before I came on staff, by the way.
Of course they have long been popular as long play records, then cassettes, (I think our recordings mercifully skipped the 8-track era), and now enjoy good sales as CDs. You can get your own copies here.
And now, rather than more words from me, click on the hymn titles below to go to the YouTube links, minimize the screen, and get back to working on something else, just allowing this glorious a cappella music to speak to you, too. There are many forms of Mennonite music today; this is only one small rich part of our tradition. Today we also celebrate all the different types and styles and cultures where Mennonite Christians around the globe sing out.
And share this blog post with your friends and family if you’d like to spread the worshipful, mood-altering music.
Lord I am Fondly, Earnestly Longing, (also known as Open the Wells of Grace and Salvation)
I Will Sing of My Redeemer
When Peace Like a River – Men’s chorus
We Rest on Thee – Finlandia tune, Men’s chorus
Thine is the Glory
All the Way My Savior Leads Me
A sampler of several more tunes – from MennoMedia
Been around a long time as producer, writer, editor, and still having fun.