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!
- Breimeier, Russ. “A Christmas Story.” Christian History | Learn the History of Christianity & the Church, Christianity Today, 26 Feb. 2014, www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/decemberweb-only/tso-1203.html.