The Mennonite Society of Musical Heritage is concerned recordings of choral music are being lost, so they’ve created a home for them.
The Historical Library of Mennonite Church Choir Music was recently established, based at First Mennonite Church of Denver, which is also home to the society. The organization is welcoming donations of any and all recordings of Mennonite church choirs — records, cassette tapes, CDs, even eight-track tapes.
“What sparked it was an interest in listening to four-part harmony music and knowing that the Mennonites do such a good job of that,” said Marjorie Wall Hofer, who is heading up the project. “. . . We don’t know of anybody who is archiving that material.”
She said some groups do a great job of collecting and preserving their work. The Kansas Mennonite Men’s Choir and West Coast Choir have extensive collections, as well as college and university vocal music programs.
“But Bakerview Mennonite Church in Abbotsford did a couple of CDs, and who’s taking care of archiving that?” Hofer asked.
The Mennonite Society of Musical Heritage got its start in 1997, promoting a shared interest in Mennonites singing together. Current steering committee chair Susan Graber said that up until the archival project, the society had mainly supported choral music with performances.
“Young Voices for Peace is a program we’re doing every year starting with third-graders, bringing them to get to experience singing together and bringing a message of peace to the world,” she said. “The other thing we do is an adult choral festival. Now it’s every other year in the Denver area.
“That’s an opportunity to bring together people who love to sing. So few churches have choirs anymore.”
Choirs go extinct and media formats evolve with increasing pace. The society feels the window of opportunity may be shutting for some recordings.
“I’ve seen records are being thrown in the trash, CDs are being thrown in the trash,” Hofer said. “Kids in this day and age, especially the German recordings, they look at it and say, ‘I’ll never listen to this.’
“It’s hard to find any of that for sale online or even in Hesston [Kan.] antique stores, for example. I would have thought I’d find a fair number online or in Hesston. At least one.”
For now, the society is emphasizing older recordings — from the 1940s and perhaps earlier, up to the 1970s — but any recordings of groups are appreciated. The bigger the group, the better.
Materials will be held, and digital transfers to the mp3 format will also be made. The society is discussing options for how to make the files available online.
Meanwhile, Hofer is accepting donations and buying albums when she finds them for sale.
“People are just handing them to me because nobody will want them in their family,” she said. “No one will value them like we at the Mennonite Society of Musical Heritage will, because that’s what we’re all about.”
To donate recordings or funds to the new historical library, contact Hofer at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to 5739 Green Oaks Dr., Littleton, CO 80121-1336.