Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Christmas Carol - All is calm.

Note: If you are viewing this from an iPhone, iPad, etc. you may not be able to see the videos embedded in the post. 

I've been going through many different Christmas carols over the past few weeks, and hopefully I've introduced some people to some new versions of these songs or reminded you of some of your old favorites.

Today I'm going to discuss one of my favorite Christmas songs of all time - Silent Night.

Silent Night was originally written by Franz Gruber, and when I was researching the song for my concert program notes a few weeks ago, I discovered that it originally was written to be rather upbeat, instead of the lullaby-like form it has today. I think, given the translation of the lyrics, the slower tempo fits better.

If you look at the original manuscript, you'll see it is marked "moderato" which means "moderately" (not "adagio" or "andante" which would indicate a slower tempo), and the accompaniment also seems to indicate that the original performance was more upbeat - more of an "oom pah pah" feel. BUT that is my personal interpretation of the manuscript! I'm not saying it's right : )

If you are interested in the history of this song, I found this video on YouTube - it's a little lengthy for a YouTube video, but I thought it was neat. : )

The reason Silent Night is one of my favorites is very personal. Church has always been a very important part of my life- I grew up attending one church, and the people there are like my family. Every year there have been Christmas Eve services- early, late, sometimes one, sometimes two, but there is always at least one and this year is the first year I can think of that I will not be attending. (I actually don't remember much about last year's service because I was so miserably sick... but I was there!)

Anyway, there is usually a live nativity and special music; when I was younger and there was a huge Sunday School, we even did plays and musicals. But my favorite part, every year, is when the lights go out and we all light candles, spreading the light to each other, while singing Silent Night. The organ music goes out on the last verse and we all raise our candles, singing a cappella.

This is a picture I took from my spot in the choir loft a few years ago.

I think because I am so used to this manner of performance, I prefer very simple versions of Silent Night. When people start ad-libbing and riffing on the melody, it bothers me because I feel like it doesn't stay true to the nature of the song. If you are singing "Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, all is bright... sleep in heavenly peace" it doesn't seem like the right opportunity to show off your prowess with vocal turns and cadenzas.

Here are some of my favorites:

Bing Crosby
You really can't go wrong with Bing. 

Josh Groban
I know not everyone is in love with Josh's voice, but I think this performance is lovely.

Sometimes I like Jewel's music. Sometimes I don't. But every time this version of Silent Night comes on I listen the whole way through. 

Sleep in heavenly peace.


  1. I have to agree. The song has pure, quiet lyrics. It's not for showing off! :) I used to really like Josh Groban, for some reason, I just don't anymore. ANYWAY, this is a great song for harmonizing. :)

    1. I love his old albums, but I am not as big of a fan of his new songs. IMHO he should stick to more "classic" songs and stay away from the more "pop-py" songs he's been trying to do. Also, glad you agree : )