From the recording Free Range Hymns
10. Das Loblied / O Gott Vater
"Hymnal: A Worship Book" #33
Text: Leenaerdt Clock, "Ausbund", 17th century
Tune: notated by J. W. Yoder, "Amish Lieder", 1940 & Olen F. Yoder, "Ausbund Songs with Notes", 1984
Arr. by Nathan Bontrager
Daryl: tenor recorder, voice
Frances: violin, voice
Nathan: cello, voice
The “O Gott Vater” or “Das Loblied” may be familiar to anyone who has attended an Amish church service. This ancient hymn, published in the first Anabaptist songbook, the "Ausbund", is still sung at the beginning of Amish church services. The "Ausbund" contains no written music, only text, with the tunes being passed on through generations via an oral, call-and-response singing tradition: a song leader intones the first syllable of a given verse, and the congregation joins in for the remainder of the verse. Outside of the Amish church one finds a very similar practice still well-preserved in the Free Church of Scotland in the Outer Hebrides.
Many pitches are sung for each syllable, a device known as a melisma, which one finds in many ancient traditions, both secular and religious, and which is still used in other contemporary religious services. While the singing is generally done in unison, individual voices tend to sing with slightly different rhythmic and melodic variation. The effect is known as heterophony: multiple voices simultaneously treating the same melodic line with their own styles. Thus, the melody is stretched both horizontally (melisma) and vertically (heterophony) among the different voices, like the tension between order and chaos, convention and innovation.
We wanted to exaggerate the feeling of pulling apart while staying together musically in our version of the Loblied. The piece begins simply with the version transcribed by J.W. Yoder and Olen F. Yoder and later adapted to contemporary singing practice near Goshen, IN by Mary K. Oyer. As it progresses, more and more layered voices and instruments are added, each taking its own tempo, slower or faster. The music expands into a sonic tapestry before coming together once again to close. The Loblied is the oldest piece of music we chose to interpret, and it represents the origins of the Anabaptist tradition that has been so formative for us.