In honor of the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, tonight I decided to share the original version of O Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum) with you. I love the sound of the German language when raised in song. Spoken, it is a very guttural language, but when sung it really is very pretty.
When I was in school, I was in the school’s choir and in 6th grade we had the opportunity to learn this in the original German. Sadly, the only part that stayed in my head was the first line (O Tannenbaum O Tannenbaum wie treu sind deine Blätter). After we learned the song, we had the honor of singing it at the Tourneau Watch Company in Manhattan. It was the first concert we ever gave (the next year, we started doing Christmas concerts for the church). I remember that I was just getting over a cold the day of the concert and worrying that I’d mess up everyone else. (Thankfully, I didn’t.)
One of the things that I liked about that concert was getting to sing this song in German because my dad’s family comes (at least in part) from Germany. From what I’ve found, that part of my family immigrated in the late 1850’s (the Irish part came earlier, probably during the potato famine). For the most part, I don’t know anything about my dad’s side of the family, so of course that means I know more about the Italian side and sadly even less about the Polish (yes, you can say it–I’m a total mutt). Because my aunt is big on old school Italian-American songs that she listened to when she was a kid, I know some Italian music. Singing in German was a first and it was cool.