Listen to the Carols in their Original Languages

As the Christmas festivities begin to fade a bit, I can more easily reflect on everything the last couple of days.  Even as a musician, I love Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services.  The music can be beautiful when done well.  But something hit me this past year that I had not considered in the past:  the beauty of those old Christmas carols in their original languages.

Of course the one choir I was part of decided to sing “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve (what choir doesn’t sing that one?!).  It was so nice though at the end to be able to sing one of the verses in German.  I don’t know why, but for some reason it’s easier for me to fully appreciate the song when it’s sung the way it was intended–in its original language.  Now, obviously, with something like “Silent Night,” I learned it in English first, but it still doesn’t touch me the same way the German text does.  I’ve heard several versions of it translated into other languages, and it just sounded “wrong.” It’s the same thing with hearing “Lulajże Jezuniu” sung in English; it just doesn’t leave me with the same connection.

I really have no idea why I have this reaction.  Perhaps because I truly believe that music forms part of a culture’s identity and heritage, and hearing a song in that language allows us to have a deeper connection to the culture even though we may not speak its language.  I will certainly enjoy listening to some of the old carols in their languages throughout the rest of the season!


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