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Silver Fir (Abies alba)
|English title||O Christmas Tree|
|Writer(s)||Ernst Anschütz, based on a 16th-century Silesian folk song by Melchior Franck|
|Composer(s)||Old folk tune|
"O Tannenbaum" (German: [oː ˈtanənbaʊm]; "O fir tree") is a German Christmas song. Based on a traditional folk song, it became associated with the traditional Christmas tree by the early 20th century and sung as a Christmas carol.
The modern lyrics were written in 1824, by the Leipzig organist, teacher and composer Ernst Anschütz. A Tannenbaum is a fir tree. The lyrics do not actually refer to Christmas, or describe a decorated Christmas tree. Instead, they refer to the fir's evergreen qualities as a symbol of constancy and faithfulness.
Anschütz based his text on a 16th-century Silesian folk song by Melchior Franck, "Ach Tannenbaum". Joachim August Zarnack (1777–1827) in 1819 wrote a tragic love song inspired by this folk song, taking the evergreen, "faithful" fir tree as contrasting with a faithless lover. The folk song first became associated with Christmas with Anschütz, who added two verses of his own to the first, traditional verse. The custom of the Christmas tree developed in the course of the 19th century, and the song came to be seen as a Christmas carol. Anschütz's version still had treu (true, faithful) as the adjective describing the fir's leaves (needles), harking back to the contrast to the faithless maiden of the folk song. This was changed to grün (green) at some point in the 20th century, after the song had come to be associated with Christmas.[year needed]
The tune is an old folk tune attested in the 16th century. It is also known as the tune of Es lebe hoch der Zimmermannsgeselle and of Lauriger Horatius.
Bilingual performance of the first verse by the U.S. Army Band Chorus
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|Anschütz (1824)||One English version||Another version|
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
Notable other uses
The tune has also been used (as a contrafactum) to carry other texts on many occasions. Some notable uses include:
- "The Red Flag", anthem of the British and Irish Labour Parties
- Florida—"Florida, My Florida" – former state song
- Maryland—"Maryland, My Maryland" – official state song
- Michigan—"Michigan, My Michigan" – widely believed to be the official state song
- Iowa—"The Song of Iowa" – official state song
- The tune was used for the national anthem ("O Parador") of the fictional country Parador in the 1988 film Moon over Parador.
- The school songs of Nankai schools, including Tianjin Nankai High School, Nankai University and Chongqing Nankai Secondary School
- The school song of Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii
- "Oh Holy Name", the corps song of The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps uses a variation of the tune.
- The students of Trinity College in the University of Toronto sing their school song to the tune of "O Tannenbaum"
- When traveling by bus, schoolchildren in Sweden use to sing "En busschaufför" (Swedish: "a bus driver") or "Vår busschaufför" ("Our bus driver") to the melody.
- Albany—"Albany, O Albany" song for the city of Albany, New York
- St. Bonaventure University—Bonaventure Alma Mater, "With Myrtle Wreath We'll Deck Thy Brow"
- The Scout Vespers, used by the Boy Scouts of America, is sung to the melody.
They Might Be Giants version
|Single by They Might Be Giants|
|Recorded||1992, Fairfax High School
1993, Excello Studio, NYC
|Producer(s)||They Might Be Giants|
|They Might Be Giants singles chronology|
"O Tannenbaum" is the first recording by They Might Be Giants to utilise their live touring outfit. The duo had recently expanded to include a live bass player, drummer, and horn section for their Don't Tread on the Cut-Up Snake World Tour 1992 to promote Apollo 18. The song was recorded during a soundcheck at Fairfax High School on 20 November 1992. "Christmas Cards", which also utilises a live drummer and bassist, was recorded on 5 July 1993 at Excello Studio in Brooklyn.
"O Tannenbaum" is sung entirely in German by John Linnell. The recording only includes the first verse. According to John Flansburgh, the band was provided with a phonetic transliteration from a German-speaking friend.
The cover artwork for the EP was illustrated by Amy Sillman. The songs are pressed on either side of a transparent green 7" record. The labels use an Elektra Records logo recreated by John Flansburgh and Barbara Lipp for the Apollo 18 album.
|2.||"Christmas Cards"||They Might Be Giants||2:32|
- They Might Be Giants: John Flansburgh – electric guitar, vocals; John Linnell – accordion, vocals
- Additional musicians: Brian Doherty – drums on track 2; Jonathan Feinberg – drums on track 1; Graham Maby – bass
- Production: Paul Angelli – recording and mixing, track 1; Pat Dillett – recording and mixing, track 2
Other notable recordings
- The English version of this song is renditioned in the Disney version of the story called The Swiss Family Robinson.
- A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – instrumental, arranged by Vince Guaraldi.
- Alvin and the Chipmunks for their album Christmas with The Chipmunks, Vol. 2 (1963).
- The 1967 song "Snoopy's Christmas" cites in its introduction the first two lines of the second verse of the song in German.
- Ernest Saves Christmas (1988) – traditional, sung in the film's introduction along with "Deck the Halls" and "Here We Come A-wassailing".
- In 1992, Aretha Franklin's version of the song was released on A Very Special Christmas 2.
- The 2001 Mannheim Steamroller album Christmas Extraordinaire includes a version of the song featuring Johnny Mathis on vocals.
- The 2008 Bradley Joseph album Classic Christmas includes an instrumental version.
- They Might Be Giants released an EP in 1993 containing their version which was recorded during a soundcheck.
- Tony Bennett recorded the song for A Swingin' Christmas (2008).
- "O Christmas Tree" was released on the 2010 album Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album.
- Chicago included a cover version of "O Christmas Tree" on their 2011 album Chicago XXXIII: O Christmas Three.
- The German Neue Deutsche Härte band Unheilig included a rendition of "O Tannenbaum" on their album Frohes Fest (2002).
- Comedy metal band Psychostick released a cover of the song in the musical style of Rammstein in December 2015.
- On Celtic Woman's albums Celtic Woman: Home for Christmas (2012), Celtic Woman: O Christmas Tree (2014), Celtic Woman: Destiny (2016)
- Wook Kim (December 17, 2012). "Yule Laugh, Yule Cry: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Beloved Holiday Songs (With holiday cheer in the air, TIME takes a closer look at some of the weird stories behind our favorite seasonal tunes)". TIME. – "O Tannenbaum" (p. 5)
- "O Tannenbaum": Originalhandschrift im Stadtarchiv Leipzig" by Birgit Horn-Kolditz, in Sächsisches Archivblatt, no. 2 2008, p. 3, State Archive of Saxony (German)
- "Rev. C. V. Waugh". Alachua County Library District Heritage Collection. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
- "New Citizen Civic Handbook, page 44" (PDF). sos.state.ia.us. 2006. Retrieved 26 December 2006.
- "Musiknavet" (PDF). Idébanken. 2005. p. 22. Retrieved 20 September 2014.
- Saint Bonavenure University website http://web.sbu.edu/friedsam/archives/football/Cheers.htm . Accessed 2014 January 3.
- "Scout Vesper". ScoutSongs.com. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
- Feinberg, Jonathan. "JDF Discography". Retrieved 2013-05-22.
- They Might Be Giants in Holidayland (Album notes). Restless Records. 2001.
- "O Tannenbaum" (Release notes). Elektra Records. 1992.
- Seattle Weekly interview with John Flansburgh, December 2001. Accessed 2012-08-05.
- Apollo 18 (Album notes). Elektra Records. 1992.
- O Tannenbaum EP at This Might Be A Wiki
- "Psychostick Covered "Oh Tannenbaum" in the Style of Rammstein". bloody-disgusting.com. Retrieved December 20, 2015.
- Tobias Widmaier: "O Tannenbaum" in: Populäre und traditionelle Lieder. Historisch-kritisches Liederlexikon des Deutschen Volksliedarchivs (2007).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to O Tannenbaum.|
|German Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- "Eglite" – old recording of the song and article from The Hermann von Helmholtz Center for Cultural Technology (German)
- MP3 and Arrangement of "O Tannenbaum" (sheet music in JPG)
- Notes "O Tannenbaum" (sheet music in GIF)
- "O Tannenbaum" multilingual – MIDI and lyrics for "O Tannenbaum" and "O Christmas Tree"
- Sheet music in JPEG format, MIDI, and lyrics to "O Tannenbaum"
- Lyrics and MP3 of "O Christmas Tree" by the Layaways