Hutterites

The Hutterites. Named after Jakob Hutter, they were Anabaptists from Austria and south Germany who began to live communally in Moravia in 1529. After much persecution they emigrated to Russia in 1770 and thence to the USA ca 1870. After 1918 some 50 families emigrated to Canada, settling first in Alberta and Manitoba, then in Saskatchewan. In the 1970s Canadian Hutterites numbered about 15,000. In 1983 one-quarter of all North American Hutterites lived in Manitoba.

The Hutterites have preserved their Tyrolean dialect. In their Sunday and daily worship services they use a hymn book entitled Die Lieder der Hutterischen Brüder (Songs of the Hutterian Brethren). Most of the hymns, written by Anabaptists and 16th-century Hutterites, have both devotional and historical content. The melodies mainly are those of 16th-century sacred and secular German folksongs, but some are derived from art songs, Meistersinger songs, Gregorian chant, and Reformation hymns; one may have been written by a Hutterite. These melodies are learned by ear. The children copy the texts of the songs and learn to sing them from memory on Saturdays and Sundays. In addition to the songs from Die Lieder der Hutterischen Brüder, families sing gospel songs and other hymns in their homes during the evenings. All singing is in unison and octaves except in a few colonies where it is in parallel fourths; often it is led by women.

The Hutterites live in closed communities which they leave only for business, hospitalization, or visiting other Hutterites; they are forbidden to own musical instruments, radios, television sets, record players, and tape recorders and to go to public places of entertainment. Thus, they have almost no exposure to music other than their own singing. Their theology of music, to sing to the glory of God and not for 'carnal pleasure,' is based on the New Testament and the writings of the 16th-century Hutterite, Peter Rideman; the Hutterites sing no secular songs.