“The RoseBouquet”

About and FOR friends of Ruthe’s Secret Roses


“The RoseBouquet”

Singing Numbers Instead of Notes

Are you musically inclined or well informed? Have you ever heard of people singing by numbers (1 to 7) instead of notes? On the MHSS weekend, we had a guest speaker from Edmonton who is a musicologist. That is, he studies and teaches the history of music. Wesley Berg also leads choirs, and plays organ in his church, etc.

There is a sub group of Mennonites we know around here as Old Colony Mennonites. Their church is ultra conservative. No musical instruments allowed in their churches, they wear dark or black clothing, their pews have no backs, and everything in their church and homes is very neutral gray and unpretentious. They sing a cappella in a style that some compare to a Gregorian chant. (Which, it turned out, is light and airy compared to the Old Colony singing, as we heard in some samples).

My maternal grandparents were Old Colony, so I thought I knew a lot about them. I’d even been to funerals in their church so I thought I knew it well. I got an eduction as Mr. Berg gave us a more detailed look into their music and how it was a centuries old method of singing by the numbers. it was handed down as an oral tradition for many generations, so most of them have never learned to read music. Only the Vorsanger (song leaders) have a little hardcover booklet that has numbers for the tunes they have memorized.

We were surprised to discover that there are other closed closed religious groups that have their own versions of this music which have many similarities.

The Hutterites, the Pennsylvania German Mennonites, a primitive Baptist group in the southern USA (Dolly Parton comes from there!), a Swedish Colony in Russia, and so on. Oh yes, a Scottish Baptist church in the Hebrides off the coast of Scotland too.

On the Saturday afternoon, Wesley Berg gave us a workshop where he taught us how to sing by numbers. Lois, the woman beside me who is a pastor, and quite musical, caught on quickly. I thought I did at first and then got lost.

As I’ve said before, the only musical instrument that I play is the radio and I love the music on BBNRadio.org I’ll stick with that. – But tomorrow I’ll have to write up an article about the above, and the whole MHSS weekend.


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