Guitarsite Forums Guitar Discussion Guitar The Best Christmas Carol Ever Written For Guitar

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  • #24561

    thought it would be good to write a little something on Christmas, something guitar related. Well, then it just occurred to me, what about a Christmas song?

    There is no Christmas song for the guitar more popular than Silent Night.(Greensleeves is the second runner-up I am sure) Well, I am sure some readers will think, “What is so special about Silent Night?”

    Well, first of all, it was originally written for the guitar. The song originated in Austria, and its original version is actually German, know by the name ‘Stille Nacht’. The words to the song were written by the priest Joseph Mohr. He had written the text in the form of a poem much earlier. It is still contemplated why this poem had been transformed into a Christmas carol.

    The song’s origin can only be speculated upon based on stories and rumours passed down throughout the generations. Legend has it that on December 24th, 1818, there was a problem with the church’s organ in the small village of Oberndorf, just outside of the city of Salzburg, Austria. In desperation to have music for the Christmas mass, Father Mohr gave a poem he had written 2 years earlier to Franz Gruber and asked him to write something. Silent night was performed on that Christmas Eve in the St. Nicolas Church. I had been written for soprano, tenor, and choir. Oh, and lets not forget the guitar accompaniment!

    Since then, the song has been translated into over 300 languages and is sung around Christmas every year. By the time it was first recorded in 1866, it had already become popular all around the world…

    The song had supposedly been the cause of what was considered somewhat of a miracle. It is said that on the Christmas Eve of 1914, the German and British troops were lying in their trenches. For some reason, after a moment of silence, a German started singing ‘Silent Night’ in German and then, the British retorted by singing the same carol in English. Right smack dab in the middle of World War I, the British and the Germans had stopped fighting and called what is known today as the ‘Christmas Truce’. There is no proof stating this, yet I would like to believe that these people had taken the Christmas spirit in and chosen to think about humanity instead of their differences.

    On a different note, interestingly enough, Silent Night still remains to this very day a very special and sacred song in Salzburg, Austria and its surroundings. In contrast to many cities around the world, which play the song all repeatedly throughout the Christmas season, the song can only be heard in Salzburg on Christmas Eve, and is very reluctantly listened to beforehand. Tradition in Salzburg is to sing the song to candlelight on Christmas Eve in church and around the Christmas tree.

    I speak from experience when I say, if you ever teach guitar to youngsters in Salzburg… as far as the parents will ever be concerned, the kids can play whatever they would like on the guitar, as long as they learn to play Silent Night for the family on Christmas Eve.

    —- Michael Ferris

    Here is the first verse of the song literally translated into English. There are subtle differences:

    Silent Night! Holy Night! / Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!

    All is asleep, alone standing guard, / Alles schläft; einsam wacht

    only the tender and godly couple. / Nur das traute hoch heilige Paar.

    Holy infant with curly hair, / Holder Knab’ im lockigen Haar,

    Sleep in heavenly peace! / Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!

    Sleep in heavenly peace! / Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!

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    • #75767

      A lot of (worrying, for the Generals) fraternization occurred on the Western Front during Christmas Eve 1914. Most of it (at least the reported stuff) took place between German and British lines in the Ypres salient but some French and Belgians also relaxed a bit. No doubt, Stille Nacht/Silent Night helped to cross barriers. My mum, who ran a residential home for disabled people asked me and my (singing only) brother to perform for the residents. With only a right-handed acoustic available, I’ve got Franz Gruber to thank for writing an uncomplicated number that even I could strum out.

      On a lower plane, I particularly like the guitar on Greg Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas”. The amusing thing is that he and Pete Sinfield (both were in King Crimson) wrote the most miserable, anti-Nativity/Santa lyrics you could imagine yet it’s on every compilation album every year. Myself, I detest Christmas time so this and “Fairytale of New York” are my preferred songs.

    • #74107

      My vote would have to be for The Kink’s “Father Christmas.”

      It’s a work of true genius on so many levels.

      Happy Holidays!

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