Wednesday, May 02, 2012

A Rare Privilege

For the past three years of my life the last week of April has been dedicated to an event called the Montana Storytelling Roundup. Although many people are only aware of the weekend event, the true purpose of this organization is to bring artists and entertainers of all kinds into Glacier County schools, a pressing need in these days of budget cuts that have trimmed arts programs to the bare bones.

Within our county there are eighteen schools from elementary through high school. Six of these schools are located on Hutterite colonies.

For most who are unfamiliar with Hutterites it is easiest to begin by imagining the Amish, except with really big tractors. Unlike the Amish, Hutterites are all about mechanization and the latest in agricultural technology. Hutterites live in colonies, all property is community property. They are farmers, dairymen, raise pigs and chickens and huge gardens with which they feed themselves and often sell the excess in their local communities. They also make and sell amazing baked goods.

Hutterites are Anabaptists. The strictness of their beliefs varies by colony and by geographical area. Television and radio are not condoned. The colonies we visit do not, for the most part, formally teach music in their schools, but they do encourage singing. Some colonies do not allow musical instruments, others permit private use of guitars, for example. But across the board, the Hutterites love music.

While visiting one of the colonies this past week with Storytelling performers we had the rare privilege of being treated to a few songs by our hosts. When you click on the video below, please keep three things in mind. It was recorded with a cheap video camera in a lunch hall, so the sound you'll experience isn't even a fraction as powerful as actually being there. Due to privacy, the video has purposely been altered so that the individual singers can't be identified.

And most of all...remember these singers have no music teacher. No sheet music. No piano to demonstrate proper keys. No one taught them these harmonies. They've developed organically, from the individual ranges and pitches of the singers, passed from one generation to the next the way we pass our legends and stories.

So just close your eyes and enjoy:



Hannah Hounshell said...

Wow O_O

Kari Lynn Dell said...

I had goosebumps. Seriously.

Darlene Underdahl said...

I’m of two minds. I’m glad these people can continue and flourish, but I was raised by the very old-fashioned/backward, and I can’t be passively accepting; I question too much.
The lifestyle is sustainable, and I have to respect that.

Megan Coakley said...


Two sings in his school choir. I love to close my eyes and listen to their harmonies. I can't wait to share this with him.

Interesting perspective from Darlene.

As always, thank you for sharing your life, Kari.

Stan said...

Great work on human interest story! It is informative and revealing. I can understand the "goosebumps".

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Darlene: the arguments for/against communal societies are as old as civilization so like you, I prefer to let individuals make their own decisions. One thing I will say: all of the members of our group agreed that while the women appear to be very subservient from the outside, when you get inside you find some very spirited ladies who have a whole lot more say about what goes on than the men would like to admit.

Megan: I love choral music of any kind, so this was just too cool.

Stan: I'm actually in Helena and was going to give you a call, but I was so exhausted from all of last week's excitement I've done nothing but sleep every minute that I'm not in a meeting. Be back the 15th, though.