Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pennsylvania Dutch Kirchenleute and German chorales; scheitholt said "the instrument of choice" among Lutherans

A very good analysis of Pennsylvania Dutch chorale books of the 18th and 19th centuries by Daniel Jay Grimminger, a Lutheran pastor (NALC) and musicologist at Kent State. Deals with issues of retention, acculturation, etc. I think it's particularly valuable because Grimminger is clearly influenced by Pennsylvania folklorist Don Yoder.

  • Daniel Jay Grimminger, Sacred Song and the Pennsylvania Dutch, Eastman Studies in Music 94 (Rochester, New Yor: University of Rochester Press, 2012), 2.

  • Also this: "… chorales had a rhythmic vitality that combined the modes of earlier music with the emerging tonality [of the Reformation era]. … Later, in the eighteenth century, these rhythms would lose their syncopation to give way to the lyricism of the day, but the significance of the genre by that time had been cemented into place." (2)

  • Rooted in chant, too, thus "allowing the German people to participate in a new art form that developed side by side with the German language. This was also true for the melodies. While many of them were entirely new creations, others were based on German religious folk song or Gregorian chant melodies (including Luther's 'Komm Schöpfer helper Geist' from the chant 'Veni Creator Spiritus')." (2) [Paren. in original.]

  • Here's the publisher's description from eBay:

    The Pennsylvania Dutch comprised the largest single ethnic group in the early American Republic of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Yet like other ethnic minorities in early America, they struggled to maintain their own distinct ethnic identity in everything that they did. Eventually their German Lutheran and Reformed customs and folkways gave way to Anglo-American pressure. The tune and chorale books printed for use in Pennsylvania Dutch churches document this gradual process of Americanization, including notable moments of resistance to change. Daniel Grimminger's Sacred Song and the Pennsylvania Dutch is the only in-depth study of the shifting identity of the Pennsylvania Dutch as manifested in their music. Through a closer examination of music sources, folk art, and historical contexts, this interdisciplinary study sheds light on the process of cultural change that occurred over the course of a century or more in the majority of Pennsylvania German communities and churches. Grimminger's book also provides a model with which to view all ethnic enclaves, in America and elsewhere, and the ways in which loyalties can shift as a group becomes part of a larger cultural fabric. Daniel Grimminger holds a doctorate in sacred music and choral conducting, as well as a PhD in musicology. He also holds a master of theological studies degree and is a clergyman in the North American Lutheran Church. Grimminger teaches at Kent State University and is the pastor at Faith Lutheran Church in Millersburg, Holmes County, Ohio.

    … and Grimminger's bio, also from eBay:

    Dr. Daniel Jay Grimminger is a lifelong member of the Paris Community. He holds a Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh), Doctor of Church Music (Claremont Graduate University), and a M.A. (Trinity Lutheran Seminary). He has served as the archivist for Israel's Lutheran Church in Paris and as assistant archivist for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America at Columbus. He currently teaches at Mount Union College in Alliance and resides on the old Charles Lutz Farm.


The dissertation doesn't seem to have his discussion of chorales, which is excellent, IMHO. Intro has terms defined, incl. "chorale book," "tune book," "hymn" and "Pennsylvania Dutch," xvi-xviii. He follows Don Yoder in preferring it to "Pennsylvania German," and explains why.


In the dissertation, Grimminger has this to say about the scheitholt, as he calls it:

… The instrument of choice among the rural Pennsylvania Lutherans to accompany their folk music, the Scheitholt was a homemade six-string zither of wood that could be held on the lap or placed on an empty chest or box while being played. [75] More often than not this Deitsch dulcimer had a heart or a tulip carved into the body of the instrument. There is some evidence to suggest that the Dutch used it at times to accompany hymn singing in the home and provide soft music at intimate social gatherings.

 One scholar suggests that the instrument was also used at dances and the many different kinds of “frolics” when neighbors would help each other complete their work tasks. [76] Just as the organ accompanied the church chorales, so the Scheitholt (see figure 4) played folk music and accompanied the singing of memorized folk pieces, passed on orally from generation to generation. [77]

A recently discovered Scheitholt from 1861 has both a carved tulip and heart; its case contains a repertoire list that the owner wrote in pencil. While this example is a later one, it resembles earlier extant exemplars. [78] The simple construction and sound of the Scheitholt was a contrast to the sound of instruments that the Anglo-American would have enjoyed, especially the piano, which the Dutch could not afford or fully appreciate in rural areas. It was in the countryside of Pennsylvania that folk music evolved to express every day Dutch life. [79]

In Songs along the Mahantongo, Walter Boyer and his colleagues identify several topical categories of secular Dutch folk songs used in the Mahantongo Valley during the nineteenth century: songs of childhood, courtship and marriage, the farm, the Schnitzing party, the tavern, American life, and a New Year’s blessing. [80]

Most of the songs in all of these categories served the purpose of comic relief, providing a contrast to the German chorale tradition in the church, something this dissertation examines in more detail in later chapters:

The humorous dialect songs had and still have a highly-honored place among the rural people, but through the years the literary hymns, earlier in German and now in English, of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches to which the majority of our people belong, have remained also a precious heritage from the lands of Luther and Zwingli. So we have secular or ‘worldly’ songs, and religious songs—for the Pennsylvania Dutchman strikes a neat balance between the sacred and secular. [81] … (35-38)

References in quoted passage:

75 Richard Raichelson, “The Social Context of Musical Instruments within the Pennsylvania German Culture,” Pennsylvania Folklife 25, 1 (1975): 42.

76 Ralph Lee Smith, “A Great Scheitholt with Some Remarkable Documentation,” Dulcimer Players News 32, no. 3 (2006): 32-33. See also Raichelson, “The Social Context.”

77 Several sources document the folk song tradition of the Pennsylvania Dutch: Songs along the Mahantongo: Pennsylvania Dutch Folksongs, eds. Walter E. Boyer, Albert F. Buffington, and Don Yoder (Lancaster, PA: The Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center, 1951); Albert F. Buffington, Pennsylvania German Secular Folksongs (Breinigsville, PA: The Pennsylvania German Society, 1974); Don Yoder, Pennsylvania Spirituals (Lancaster, PA: Pennsylvania Folklife Society, 1961).

78 Smith, 32-33. The particular Scheitholt, which is the topic for Smith’s article, has a list of repertoire recorded in the instrument’s case. Most of it is in English, showing that this instrument might have been owned by an Anglo- American, or more likely by an assimilated Dutchman.

79 This is not to say that no Dutchmen had pianos. Some Moravians had (and made pianos) although this was because of their own unique music culture, which they continued to import from Europe via printed music and instruments. See Jewel A. Smith, “The Piano among the Moravians in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: Music, Instruction, and Construction,” The Music of the Moravian Church in America, ed. Nola Reed Knouse (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2008): 228-251.

80 See Songs along the Mahantongo: Pennsylvania Dutch Folksongs, eds. Walter E. Boyer, Albert F. Buffington, and Don Yoder (Lancaster, PA: The Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center, 1951).

81 Boyer, Buffington, and Yoder, Songs along the Mahantongo, 15.

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