Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Carol for Christmas VI - Silent Night 1914

The most famous story about, perhaps the most popular of Christmas carols, "Silent Night" involves a broken organ in the Nikolaus-Kirche in Oberndorf in 1818.  Legend says that Joseph Mohr brought the lyrics to Franz Gruber and asked for a melody that he could play on his guitar.  Whither that is fact or legend is a small point - it is a carol that has been recorded by artists as varied in musical genre as Mahalia Jackson, Kathleen, Battle,  Luciano Pavarotti and Annie Lennox and translated into at least 40 different languages.

It is this universality that led to one of the strangest episodes of the First Great War: the Christmas truces of 1914.  Those unexpected episodes leading up to Christmas of that year when British, German and to some small extent French troops left their trenches and met in New Man's Land.  For a brief time in that bloody conflict men exchanged greetings, cigarettes, played football and it is said sang carols together - the one carol each knew, in their own language, was Silent Night.

I've chosen not one of the many versions of this beloved carol that is on YouTube but a song that commemorates that fragile and brief peace.  It appears that Cormac MacConnell who wrote the song may have altered the year but captures the spirit of those amazing moments; and Jerry Lynch brings a sincere beauty to even the sad brutality of the last verse.


And this is for all my dear friends and all those serving overseas - may there soon be a peace that will bring you home to your families and loved ones so there is never again a need for a Christmas truce.


24 dicembre/December - La Vigilia di Natale
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3 comments:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

A beautiful and conflicted song, like the incident itself. This is a particularly lovely version of it.

yvette said...

Joyeux Noël Willym!

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

with the exception of that stupid song about hippopotamuses and Christmas there is no bad true Christmas carol.but my favorite is still the little drummer boy by Tennessee Ernie Ford.
merry christmas my friend.