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Posts tagged ‘German music’

Siegessäule, Grosse Stern, Tiergarten, Berlin, Germany,

My Berlin: 29 tracks for the German capital

Above/featured: Siegessäule & Grosse Stern, at night – 13 Nov 2012 (HL).

I compiled a list of songs accompanying my travel, a soundtrack that’s full of meaning and memories. This is another set, a listing of tracks I associate with Germany’s capital city. Music is always about personal selection, and every track fires a specific memory of time and place within Berlin. For example, watching “Lola rennt” (Run Lola Run) in a movie theatre in Toronto in the fall of 1998 planted the seeds for a move to Germany three years later. My first visit to Berlin soon after marked the beginning of a deep love affair with the “grand lady of BAER’leen.”

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Silent Night, Stille Nacht, Stille Nacht Museum, Stille Nacht Platz, Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Oesterreich, Austria,

Austria’s Silent Night: 200 years, 300 languages

One of my early childhood memories surrounding Christmas is learning and singing “Silent Night”. This humble melodic carol is known around the world and sung in over 300 languages and dialects. 2018 is the 200th anniversary of the hymn’s first public performance, and that’s why I’m on a train traveling north from Salzburg to the Austrian town of Oberndorf.

With over 5000 residents, Oberndorf lies opposite the German town of Laufen along the winding flow of the Salzach river. Laufen-Oberndorf was once a single community whose people derived their greatest business and wealth with salt carried on barges from upstream in Hallein and transferred onto larger ships for transport downstream to the Inn river and Passau. After the arrival (and departure) of Napoleon’s French troops, the river became a border, and the town was split in two after over 1000 years as a single community#. Although Oberndorf and Laufen remain in separate countries, the European Schengen treaty has helped reforge their common bonds with the abolishment of border controls.

Short History

Between 1817 and 1819, Joseph Mohr lived and worked in Oberndorf as curate, minister, and schoolteacher for the salt-barger community. The organist for Oberndorf’s St. Nicolas Church was Franz Gruber, a fellow schoolteacher and sexton at a parish in nearby Arnsdorf. Mohr and Gruber tended to spiritual and education needs for their towns, and with their common zeal for music, they quickly became friends. On Christmas Eve 1818, Mohr brought his song to Gruber who added the melody. That very evening after evening mass at Oberndorf’s St. Nicholas Church, Mohr’s completed song, “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” was performed for the first time with Gruber on his guitar as the only accompaniment.

Over years and decades, the song had generally been considered to be Tirolian in origin, but handwritten letters show Joseph Mohr composed the song by 1816 when he lived in Mariapfarr, a town 120 kilometres southeast from Salzburg. The original German-language version of the song has six verses; the English version has three which are translations of verses 1, 6, and 2.

At Oberndorf’s Stille-Nacht-Platz (Silent Night Square), the two key elements are the Stille-Nacht-Kapelle (Silent Night memorial chapel) and the Stille Nacht Museum. The original St. Nicholas church was in bad shape and torn down in 1906. To maintain the memory of the first performance of the Christmas song, construction began in 1928 for a chapel at the same location, and the townspeople celebrated the chapel’s inauguration in 1937. With the museum’s opening in November 2016, exhibits describe the history of how the song came to be, highlight the lives of Mohr and Gruber, explain the context of culture and place of the times in the late-18th to early-19th century, illuminate the importance of the salt trade on the neighbouring Salzach river, and celebrate the song’s longevity and popularity around the world.

Every year, evening mass on Christmas Eve from the Silent Night memorial chapel is broadcast to the world on webcam.

# The 1814-1815 Congress of Vienna enforced the Salzach river as the border and separation between the nation-state of Bavaria (Laufen) on one side and the Austrian Empire (Oberndorf) on the other side.

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Europe at night, 2012: NASA Earth Observatory

Favourite 10 German songs (mid-2012)

When I moved from Canada to Heidelberg, Germany in late-2001, I had no idea how my life would change.

After two years in Heidelberg and frequent visits since 2003, I’ve become a Germanophile, and I’ve learned that my nature is more European than North American; such is the relative ease I feel every time I’m back in Germany.

Like an ongoing soundtrack, music provides snapshots to key memories and important events. I’ve been learning the German language over the last decade with the help of the domestic music scene. Even after several listens, I’m not good at picking out song lyrics, so I’ve generally sought them online.

It was difficult to limit the list to just ten. The following are listed alphabetically by title, and corresponding weblinks go to their respective videos on YouTube.

  1. “Elektrisches Gefühl” — Juli, 2010. Broad translation: “electric feeling”.
  2. “Himmel auf” — Silbermond, 2012. Broad translation: “open sky”.
  3. “Ich, Roque” — Sportfreunde Stiller, 2004. The title is wordplay on “Ich rocke” or I rock. The band members are fans of FC Bayern Munich, and one of their favourite players at the time was Paraguayan striker Roque Santa Cruz.
  4. “Meer Sein” — Silbermond, 2006. The title is wordplay on “Mehr sein”, to be more. “Meer” is another word for the sea.
  5. Mensch” — Herbert Grönemeyer, 2002. Translation: “human”.
  6. “Nur ein Wort” — Wir Sind Helden, 2005. Broad translation: “just one word”.
  7. “Schiffsverkehr” — Herbert Grönemeyer, 2011. Broad translation: “ship traffic”.
  8. “Stadt” (featuring Adel Tawil) — Cassandra Steen, 2009. Translation: “city”.
  9. “Steh Auf, Wenn Du Am Boden Bist” — Die Toten Hosen, 2002. Broad translation: “get up if you’re down”.
  10. “Unendlich” — Silbermond, 2006. Translation: “endless”.

A favourite is the band Silbermond, a quartet from the humble origins of Bautzen in the southeast corner of the country. Lead singer Stefanie Kloss appeared recently (May 2012) on Deutsche Welle’s Talking Germany and Typisch Deutsch programs; here is her interview in English.

This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress ( on “musikalischer Montag” (musical Monday).

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