Dec 2, 2010
Ready or not, here comes the Christmas music.
At Straight No Chaser, we do our best to bring you a jazzy time of the season, so let's kick it off with a contemplative cover of the classic "Silent Night", performed by Be Still from their 2009 CD Sounds Like Snow.
Be Still is the name for a collaboration between singer/songwriter Lauren Zettler (contributing Vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonium, and glockenspiel) and Cameron Mizell (Electric and acoustic guitar, mandolin, ukulele, harmonium, glockenspiel, and "effects"). Ms. Zettler is a Berklee graduate who works solo or with Mizell. Mizell, a former music executive, lends his axe to any number of projects, including those with Ms. Mizell, his jazz/funk trio (check out Tributary, their latest release), and the band Little Grey Girlfriend. Both live and play in New York.
The history of the song "Silent Night" is a long and interesting one, but the basic story is this:
German words for the original six stanzas of the carol we know as
"Silent Night" were written by Joseph Mohr in 1816, when he was a
young priest assigned to a pilgrimage church in Mariapfarr,
Austria. His grandfather lived nearby, and it is easy to imagine
that he could have come up with the words while walking thorough
the countryside on a visit to his elderly relative. The fact is, we
have no idea if any particular event inspired Joseph Mohr to pen
his poetic version of the birth of the Christchild. The world is
fortunate, however, that he didn't leave it behind when he was
transferred to Oberndorf the following year (1817).
On December 24, 1818 Joseph Mohr journeyed to the home of musician-schoolteacher Franz Gruber who lived in an apartment over the schoolhouse in nearby Arnsdorf. He showed his friend the poem and asked him to add a melody and guitar accompaniment so that it could be sung at Midnight Mass. His reason for wanting the new carol is unknown. Some speculate that the organ would not work; others feel that the assistant pastor, who dearly loved guitar music, merely wanted a new carol for Christmas.
Later that evening, as the two men, backed by the choir, stood in front of the main altar in St. Nicholas Church and sang "Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!" for the first time, they could hardly imagine the impact their composition would have on the world.