Wednesday, December 24, 2008

All is calm, all is bright

Pat Buchanan gave a particularly incendiary anti-immigrant speech at the '92 Republican Convention. Molly Ivins (I bow down and worship at your statue, Molly) remarked that Pat's speech "sounded better in the original German". Oh snap!

Well, some things do indeed sound better in the original German, like the fab Christmas song "Stille Nacht".

My dad, a music teacher when I was young, was a fan of the recorder, an end-blown early flute. He wrote his first Master's Thesis on the recorder and its use as an educational tool. And he started teaching me the instrument, it's fingering, and musc theory at age 7. My school musical education began the next year, when I started playing flute at 16th Street School in San Pedro, CA. My music teacher, Mrs. Schmidt, was a treasure. Patient as a saint, she persevered while a sincere but seemingly untalented geek kid tried to master the flute.

One day, near Christmas, she played a recording of the Vienna Boys' Choir singing a version of Stille Nacht, the original lyrics to what we call Silent Night, and it was an epiphany for me. I experienced my first emotional reaction to music. The strange lyrics made it more mysterious, and the sound of the pre-pubescent male voice, as pure as the sound of the recorder, was entrancing to me.

I later became pretty fluent in conversation German, but that performance of Stille Nacht changed my life. The Viennese kid who sang the solo in '57 is probably retired now after a fairly normal life; work, kids, grand-kids, an ulcer or two. But his pure voice singing those foreign lyrics changed my life forever.

Here's a more recent performance by the Vienna Boys' Choir:

Now these guys have an interesting take on the song:

And these guys take it even further:

Christmas Rocks!