I’m not religious – but I do enjoy a fair amount of what might be termed religious music. As well as choral works, singing Christmas carols is kinda fun, just as much musically part of Christmas to me as much of the music I have posted here over the last few weeks. And my absolute favourite Christmas carol of all is ‘Silent Night.’
There’s an article over on Wiki about how the song was first written and performed in Austria on Christmas Eve 1818, by a priest, Father Joseph Mohr, and Franz Xaver Gruber. Mohr had first written the words in 1816, which makes it just over 200 years old. (I idly wonder how much of the music I have featured on the blog over the last thirteen years will be listened to in 200 years’ time.) Written in German, the original version is Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht. According to Wiki, during the famous Christmas Day Truce in 1914, it was sung by both British and German troops simultaneously as it was one carol both sides knew.
It has been performed by many, many artists over the years. Sinead O’Connor, above, recorded a version for the 1991 TV film The Ghosts Of Oxford Street.
The carol has reportedly been translated into over forty languages, and that includes Gaelic. Enya originally recorded a version in Gaelic in the late 1980s:
The quintessential Christmas record of the last twenty years is Low’s Christmas album (though a close second for me is Tracey Thorn’s Tinsel And Lights). It could almost have been written with them in mind…
Sufjan Stevens’ version is as ethereal as Low’s but more trippy:
Can recorded a version in the 1970s:
A few weeks ago, in London’s Rough Trade store, Mrs. 17 Seconds and I picked up a vinyl re-issue of The Temptations’ Christmas Card. A new video has premiered for it, and while I could clearly post a different version of the track every day for a year, I’ll leave you to enjoy these: