The Battle of the Songs: A Classic Christmas Battle Between Two Orchestras [25 Days of Holiday Songs]

Welcome to another round of The Battle of Songs. We are continuing on the theme of Christmas songs. This time, I picked two different covers of a traditional song. These two versions were written in minor keys, which, to people’s surprise, I am a big fan of. I do love songs in minor keys as they are, as I believe, express more deep emotions. 

Enough of my rambling, you are probably asking what the song is? Well, click to find out!

Mannheim Steamroller –  God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

We start the battle off with Mannheim Steamroller’s version of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”, The song starts off all mellow with a trumpet lead playing the opening verse. Then, at the 25-second mark, there is a dramatic pause for a couple of seconds with the drums playing a small solo. Then, the song spirals into different melodies and different directions with various instruments. Somehow, in this mass array, the different themes and instruments come together to create a unified song.

I discovered Mannheim Steamroller when I was in my high school years. I love their Christmas songs and, along with their rendition of “Carol of the Bells”,  their “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” is one of my favorite instrumental tracks to play during the holiday seasons. I just love the dramatic effects with the phrasing of each section and by the instrumentation. 

(Note: Mannheim Steamroller gets brownie point because they originated from Omaha, Nebraska, my hometown.)

Trans-Siberian Orchestra with Savatage –  Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24

Next up is Trans-Siberian Orchestra with Savatage and their song “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24”. Now, I am cheating a little bit because this song isn’t really just “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”. It also features “Carol of Bells”. Well, it mostly features “Carol of Bells” and just one line from 
“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”. But, it counts in my rule book as 
Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Mannheim Steamroller are the most well-known modern orchestras that have great Christmas music. Besides, having these two bands battling with their own rendition of 
“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” sounds fun, right?

What I love about the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is that they aren’t a classical orchestra, but feature both classical and modern instruments. And, 
“Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” shows this off well with a heavy metal guitar lead. Many people don’t know is that I love heavy metal. People think I love just like bubblegum pop, but I love metal too. I have been listening to Ozzy Osbourne’s album No More Tears and System of the Down all this week.

The reason why I like metal is that of the dramatic and soul-searing riffs performed by the lead guitarist. It created a thrill and excitement for me. And that is what I feel when I listen to the metal guitar solo in 
“Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24”. 

The other section to listen to is the piano break in the middle of the song. The way how the piano goes down the scale in a dramatic effect is eye-opening and just wow!

The story behind the song is inspiring. You can read an excerpt from Christianity Today where band member Paul O’Neill explained about the song:

We heard about this cello player born in Sarajevo many years ago who left when he was fairly young to go on to become a well-respected musician, playing with various symphonies throughout Europe. Many decades later, he returned to Sarajevo as an elderly man—at the height of the Bosnian War. only to find his city in complete ruins.
I think what most broke this man’s heart was that the destruction was not done by some outside invader or natural disaster—it was done by his own people. At that time, Serbs were shelling Sarajevo every night. Rather than head for the bomb shelters like his family and neighbors, this man went to the town square, climbed onto a pile of rubble that had once been the fountain, took out his cello, and played Mozart and Beethoven as the city was bombed.

He came every night and began playing Christmas Carols from that same spot. It was just such a powerful image—a white-haired man silhouetted against the cannon fire, playing timeless melodies to both sides of the conflict amid the rubble and devastation of the city he loves. Sometime later, a reporter tracked him down to ask why he did this insanely stupid thing. The old man said that it was his way of proving that despite all evidence to the contrary, the spirit of humanity was still alive in that place.

The song basically wrapped itself around him. We used some of the oldest Christmas melodies we could find, like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Carol of the Bells” part of the medley (which is from Ukraine, near that region). The orchestra represents one side, the rock band the other, and single cello represents that single individual, that spark of hope.

What Will It Be?

Now it is your turn to vote! Who will be the victor of the first-ever “Battle of the Songs”? Tell me in the comments below! Also, tell me why you choose a particular version! I can’t wait to hear what you guys think!

I am also part of The “Battle of the Bands” blog collection. After you vote, please visit the other battles from this blogger circle. There are really interesting battles!

🎄 Visit TOSSING IT OUT by clicking HERE.
🎄 Visit MIKE’S RAMBLINGS’by clicking HERE.
🎄 Visit CURIOUS AS A CATHY by clicking HERE.
🎄 Visit JINGLE JANGLE JUNGLE by clicking HERE.
🎄 Visit ANGELS BARK by clicking HERE.
🎄Visit THE DOGLADY’S DEN by clicking HERE.


  1. Breimeier, Russ. “A Christmas Story.” Christian History | Learn the History of Christianity & the Church, Christianity Today, 26 Feb. 2014,

This Post Has 119 Comments

  1. Love the way you narrated the band’s story its members & how they started carols. Made it interesting to read.

  2. John Holton

    I’ll go with Trans-Siberia Orchestra. Mannheim Steamroller sounds a bit artificial.

  3. sonam

    Love them both, as usual when it comes to music can’t choose any one.

  4. konnaant

    Ughhh it’s so hard to decide!! I like them both equally.

  5. Amber

    OH man, I like them both. I don’t think I can pick. I would listen to them both.

  6. I love Mannheim Steamrollers and my parents always played their Christmas music when I was growing up, so I love the memories the song brings. However in a head-to-head comparison I have to vote TSO!

  7. THANK YOU for all these Christmas Songs!!! I really don’t know how to choose a favorite because when the holidays come around, I just get in the mood and want them ALL!

  8. momelite2

    I guess I’m partial to Trans Siberian Orchestra. Good stuff!

  9. The Color Coded Mom

    I’m a long-time TSO fan, so this is an easy choice for me!

  10. Chloé Hamard

    I would have to give my vote to the trans-siberian orchestra in this battle

  11. rhianwestbury

    I’ve never heard of either of these songs. But I do love that you mention that the Trans-Siberian Orchestra feature both classical and modern instruments x

  12. Cathy Kennedy

    Welcome to BoTB with your ‘Battle of the Songs’ this month! Did you play along on the first? I’m a bit whacked out with the craziness I was thrown into at the end of November. I’m rebounding but I ain’t going to lie to you I’m slow going right now. That being said, please be patient with me.:)
    You pitted two excellent versions against one another with two equally wonderful bands. Mannheim Steamrollers while furtastic just didn’t quite do it for me this morning. Maybe another day it would be a different story. My vote goes to Trans-Siberian Orchestra! I love their full instrumental assemble peppered heavily mind you with rock vibes!! 🙂
    I hope you’ll stop by to give your opinion and vote in my mid-month BoTB on Saturday! Of course, you’re welcome to visit anytime. 😉 Have a joyful and blessed day.
    PS: I loved the TSO backstory! Very inspiring cellist!

  13. Surekha Busa

    Nice songs, i love everything about them. Thanks for sharing their story. Im now a fan of those two.

  14. successunscrambled

    Ever tried to enjoy the season without music? I think not. There is something about the music that is essential for the holiday spirit.

  15. mamabee1981

    What a fun idea. I love music so much but adore Christmas music even more so.

  16. I’m going to have to go with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I LOVE the cello and I love it even more after reading the story about why it was written.

  17. luciwest

    Hadn’t heard either of these songs and didn’t know either of the bands/orchestras. So besides this battle of the songs being a fun idea, I also got exposed to new-to-me stuff. Thank you!

  18. lexafish

    It was so hard to choose! But I really liked the Trans-Siberia Orchestra! Oh my goodness I forgot how much I loved this style of music. Keep it coming!!

  19. I absolutely adore this time of the year. Nothing is more exciting then Christmas. If I had to choose, I’ll have to go with Trans-Siberian Orchestra!

  20. Beth Deyo

    Although I REALLY love both, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version has always been my all-time favorite Xmas song. I saw them live and it was definitely a bucket-list-worthy show!

  21. Natalia

    I just love these Christmas songs and to tell the truth I can’t say which orchestra is better, as both of them are just awesome. They’ve moved me into a Christmas mood! 🙂

  22. moondreams

    Trans Siberian Orchestra is my pick! I have loved them since college and hope to one day see them perform!

  23. Joanna

    This “battle” reminds me when one of my favorite bands, Scorpions, played together with the Orchestra of Berlin. It was so amazing, rock and classic on the same stage. So my vote goes for the Transsiberian orchestra.

  24. travellandlearn

    I would also go with the Trans Siberian Orchestra, but something else caught my eye! Reading about you listening to Ozzy Osbourne gave me a flash back to like 9th grade, when I listened to “I just want you” on repeat for like 2 months. Those were the days! 🙂

  25. Eileen Mendoza Loya

    I would vote for the Mannheim Steamroller version. I don’t know why but it just appealed to me better. I love the part when I heard individual instruments at one point.

  26. TheSuperMomLife

    I love Christmas music. All types. There is something about it that always brings a smile to my face.

  27. Kemi

    Ok. I DEFINITELY prefer the Trans-Siberia orchestra. I love how it increases in tempo as it gets to carol of Bells. Also helps that I love those carols too. Beautiful!

  28. Karen Monica

    It’s a difficult choice. I love both but maybe I like TSO a tiny bit more.

  29. Honeycomb Moms

    I like both, but I generally like all Christmas music. It just makes me feel warm and gooey!

  30. Annie Cho

    I really enjoyed listening to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra with Savatage. I like the mix of modern instruments and classical orchestra! I love all this holiday cheer you’re spreading!

  31. Shnooks

    I really love both,I can’t even decide 😅 but I will vote for Trans-Siberian Orchestra 😍

  32. Macey

    This is amazing! I cant decide!

  33. Nancy_ycnan

    Wonderful sharing! Thank you very much for this amazing article. What a good post and I love your good written I will show this to my friends.

  34. chaddden2001

    Mannheim Steamroller is too fake for me, but this is a great post and very well written, which I don’t see too often.

  35. Becca Wilson

    I love Christmas songs so much. They are both so very good!

  36. melissalucy

    It’s too hard to decide I like them both!!! Christmas music is Christmas music! 🙂

  37. Neil Alvin Nicerio

    Each has its own beauty. I’d vote for both. 🙂

  38. Fatima D Torres

    Do I really need to choose? Holiday classics hold a special place in my heart. Love them all!

  39. Katie Walsh Beck

    This is too cool! But I am a fan of Trans-Siberian orchestra for sure!

  40. Arlee Bird

    I tend to like music in a minor key as well for the reason you suggest–the music is more haunting which causes me to reflect more on a variety of things.
    Two great choices. I’ve never had any TSO in my collection, but I got on a Steamroller kick back in the eighties. Have listened to them in a long while so it was refreshing to hear this music again.
    Give my vote to Mannheim Steamroller.
    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

  41. Renee Baiano

    I absolutely love Christmas music and this is such a fun post. Thanks!

  42. Dani Flanders

    I have been big into TSO this year with my dance students that I teach. They love trying to pick out which Christmas song they are playing 🙂

  43. Rachel

    I don’t know why, but somehow concerts at Christmas are always so much more magical than other times of the year! All the instruments and elegance of a Christmas orchestra is beautiful!

  44. ehdesignmn

    Trans-Siberian Orchestra For sure!!! Love love love! I just love the music!

  45. Fujka

    Even though I am not a fan of metal, I will go with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The arrangement is mainly rhythmically better. Christmas is always a great time to discover new artists covering Christmas carols, so thanks for these ones! I am personally in love with Jamie Cullum’s version of “All I want for Christmas is you” –

  46. amayszingblogs

    I love listening Christmas song and I would totally check these music.

  47. Emilio Marcos Sierra

    I love christmas and christmas songs! Every time I read your posts it makes me so excited 😀

  48. momi berlin

    I always love CHristmas songs. They always remind me of the love of God and how people make the celebration merry and symbolic.

  49. alison

    What fun to compare christmas songs and different genres. Trans-Siberian Orchestra definitely has a great beat and fun to listen to.

  50. Keshia Richmond

    I love orchestra and classical music so this a nice contest between musicians.

  51. Debbie D.

    Hello; so nice to see a new regular at BOTB. 🙂 This is a terrific battle between orchestras. I have to vote for Trans Siberian however. I’m a “heavy metal” kind of gal. 😉 Cheers!

  52. Definitely the second one, Trans-Siberian Orchestra. While the first one is beautiful in its own right, its lightheartedness doesn’t quite compete with the dramatic intensity of the second performance.

  53. Samantha Immer

    I love all the background story! It makes the songs even more special. I have so many memories growing up listening to TSO; I feel like I will always be biased towards them 🙂

  54. Matija Antonić

    I am sorry I heard the first 50 seconds of the trans-siberian orchestra and I didn’t need to hear yn more nor any other song, the begging is smooth, the transition is done perfectly, the choice of music, everything is perfect, they are the winners for me.

  55. K'Mich E

    I loved them both. So, it’s going to be hard for me to choose one.

  56. Hannah Marie

    The songs sounds really nice. It makes you feel that Christmas has already arrived. I am also a big fan.

  57. Princess Quinn

    Hearing songs like this makes me very happy. I love the jam and music coordination. I have definitely enjoyed listening.

  58. Lali

    I love the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Christmas is the best time of year!

  59. Mary B

    Two very tough choices for me. I’ve always loved Mannheim Steamroller and had to have ALL of the Fresh Aire albums when they came out. But then, I learned of TSO, and I fell in love with them as well. So who do I vote for?
    I think Christmas time is a time for nostalgia, so I’m going to vote for Mannheim Steamroller – but honestly, I could vote either direction on any other given day. Today’s vote : Mannheim Steamroller
    #BattleOfTheBands : Christmas Edition

  60. elenaanderinblog

    Thank for sharing, love Christmas music!!

  61. JL Prince

    I can’t choose either! They are both my favorite types of Christmas music to listen to. They do a great job with pepping up the classics for sure!

  62. Cherdo

    Nice battle! For me, I gotta go with Trans-Siberian Orchestra…great rendition and musicianship.
    Welcome to the Battle of the Bands!

  63. Ronesha

    TSO always and forever 😅

  64. The Travel Bunny

    Bing Crosby’s It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas instantly makes me smile. I adore it.

  65. Been thinking of going out and watch something like this over the coming Holidays. I think this would be a great idea to have my parents with me too.

  66. Scott Gombar

    I have seen TSO live. It is an amazing show that I hope to take my son to in the near future. I have never heard of the other artist before. Thanks for sharing.

  67. Flyingkids

    Music is timeless. But, it has its own categories. Classic and contemporary Christmas songs have always been a hit in the musical industry! This is such a fun share 🙂 perfect for the holidays

  68. Nabanita Dhar

    I don’t know how does one choose. I’m quite conflicted. I guess I love all. choosing one would be injustice!

  69. Bindu Thomas

    These are absolutely amazing classic songs for Christmas. I like them both.

  70. this is a really great collection. My personal favourite when it comes for Christmas song is “Hello Santa” 🙂

  71. Hiking Singh

    Both songs are really cool !!! My all time favorites !!! Thanks for sharing !!!

  72. Stephen T. McCarthy

    Merry Christmas, AMY.
    I almost didn’t even see that you had posted a Battle this time. Glad I scrolled down a little bit on your blog.
    As others have said, this is a tough Battle because both versions bring the power and majesty. And ‘God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen’ ranks high on my list of favorite Christmas songs.
    And incidentally, I too am a fan of music in minor keys. Something in me really resonates to that.
    I’m not normally a fan of Heavy Metal music at all. But T-S O doesn’t get too crazy here with pointless (and cliche) guitar solos, like most Heavy Metal groups do. They keep it under control and don’t wander off too far from the basic melody.
    When push comes to shove, like so many others here have done, I’m going to side with T-S O. What little I have been exposed to their music, I like them pretty well.
    ~ D-FensDogG @ STMcC Presents ‘BATTLE OF THE BANDS’

  73. Devyani Ray

    Love love love christmas jingles. I have my own list that I play all December. My husband gets bored of it though.

  74. Supermompicks

    My 10 year old som’s favorite Christmas song is Christmas Eve, but he also loves all TSO songs. We play it through Alexa and have a family dance party!

  75. Summer Mitch Ryan

    Honestly, this is my first. So it won’t be difficult to choose. I just have to listen to both and decide later.

  76. blair villanueva

    They both played well and classic songs are always good to hear. You picked nice group!

  77. Elizabeth O

    Both are wonderful Holiday sounds… I’m not one for choosing this type of music as they sound good to me

  78. Gill Trotman

    Both are wonderful to listen to but if I have to favor one I have to go with Trans-Siberian Orchestra with Savatage.

  79. Kay

    I will have to check out Trans Siberian orchestra. They sound like the better choice

  80. Stephanie

    I don’t even have to listen to tell you that my choice is easily TSO. Besides, Christmas Eve/Sarajevo is probably my absolute favorite Christmas song. I would love to see it live one day!

  81. Jessie

    Beatiful, but I grew up with TSO and I would go with that!

  82. marjiemare

    I may be biased in this battle as I love Trans-Siberia. They are the best to me at all times.

  83. Surekha Busa

    All the sings are wonderful! They both got my vote, They give me this overwhelming Christmas feels.

  84. KateLovesTravel

    I haven’t heard of either of these orchestras as it’s not my kind of music really, but they both sound great… I couldn’t choose between them!

  85. Morgan Shaw

    Trans-Siberian Orchestra with Savatage was my favourite what a relaxing song to listenin to on my lunch break!

  86. Gervin Khan

    Both songs are really beautiful and it so hard for me to choose which is good or not because during these holidays season any kind or type of Christmas songs really makes me happy!

  87. Ménesa Campbell

    I love Christmas songs.
    So I find it difficult to have a favourite. I enjoyed reading your views though.

  88. Jack Bransson

    I think not only holidays but everything needs music to be more fun to everyone. Amazing list!

  89. Jazmin Williams

    Oh this one was tough! I think maybe the Trans-Siberian Orchestra but I love both!

  90. Lauren Stewart

    Ahhhh I can’t pick!!!!!! I just love Christmas music so so much!!!!!!!! Brings out all the feels.

  91. Elizabeth

    I’m a big fan of System of a Down too, so I had to listen to your Trans-Siberian Orchestra clip. Thank you for the introduction to a great band!

  92. Marcella Mind

    Love how you have composed the post. And the history info too. Honestly, I can’t pick. Al the song sound and they are amazing.

  93. thecupcakehome

    Oh I love this!!!! Transiberian has been a favorite for years!! but both are amazing!

  94. Elizabeth O

    I know you are tired of my non committed way of refusing to choose. As I said on your last challenge, I see all holiday music as special as they hold memories for many families including my own.

  95. ohmummymia

    I love Christmas music:) both orchestras are good and it’s hard to decide

  96. This comes just in time as I wanted a nice Christmas playlist. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is the winner for me !! Love it

  97. AnythingRad.Com

    these are good old classics that make me get flashbacks all the time!! love this!!

  98. anna

    such good memories with these songs. Thanks for reminders

  99. Very cool, thanks for posting about this and bringing it to my attention! I never otherwise would have heard anything!

  100. oyibougbo

    They all sounds great, find it difficult choosing, But if i must.. I will go with Trans-Siberia Orchestra

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