Christmas in the Trenches: The “Silent Night” Truce

After months of deadly trench warfare, on Dec. 24, 1914, German and British soldiers in Belgium suddenly ceased hostilities and, through the singing of carols, celebrated Christmas together. This film documents their spontaneous musical truce with eyewitness reports, proving that "people who make music together cannot be enemies, at least not while the music lasts" (Hindemith). 
The Christmas Truce DVD, available from Music in Motion, documents this incredible event, when music transcended the ravages of war to unite foes in a spirit of common  humanity to discover true meaning of Christmas.

American folk singer John McCutcheon immortalized the 1914 Christmas truce in his moving ballad, “Christmas in the Trenches”:

I heartily recommend the following illustrated book for children, which tells the true story of the Christmas Truce in a language children can understand:


In Flanders Field

By Norma Jorgensen and Brian Harrison-Lever. On Christmas morning, the guns stop firing. A robin is caught in the barbed wire of no-man’s land on the front. The soldier makes a choice that transforms into a peaceful moment of sharing Silent Night across enemy lines. The famous World War I title poem of John McCrae is a fitting conclusion to this illustrated book for children.
Hardback 2496  $16.95 (available at Music in Motion)

Also recommended is The Story of Silent Night DVD. It recounts the history of the carol Silent Night and includes a re-enactment of a spontaneous World War II music-induced Christmas Day truce between the Germans and Americans, similar to the WWI Christmas truce at Flanders Field:


The Story of Silent Night DVD

A live-action retelling of how the best-loved carol was written on a snowy night in 1818, and how it has affected generations since. Filmed in an Austrian winter wonderland, it features the Vienna Boys Choir.
The transcendent power of music is revealed in a deeply moving (and true) episode on Christmas Eve during World War II. American and German soldiers lay down their arms for a shared moment of peace, uniting their voices in this universal carol. For all ages! 80 min. DVD 5491  (avail. at Music in Motion)

Personal Note: My young nephew just shipped to Afghanistan. My thoughts and prayers are with him and all the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and wherever lives are at risk in battle. May the spirit of the “Silent Night” Christmas truce be with them. "People who make music together cannot be enemies, at least not while the music lasts" (Hindemith). (Oppressive dictators have always known this, which is why music is often banned in times of repression, as it was under Taliban rule of Afghanistan and during Mao’s Cultural Revolution in China.)

John Cage – Sept. 5

Born Sept. 5, 1912 in Los Angeles, California Died Aug. 11, 1992 in Manhattan, New York “There are two things that don’t have to mean anything; one is music, and the other is laughter.” – John Cage, paraphrasing Immanuel Kant. (Cage agreed with Kant that music and laughter don’t have to mean anything in order… Continue Reading

World Cup Music: Shostakovich’s Soccer Match

Don’t underestimate the power of either sports or music when it comes to exciting a crowd. Even as a tormented composer writing under the harsh restrictions and demands of Communism, in his 1929 ballet  The Golden Age big-time soccer fan and sometime soccer referee Shostakovich recreated a soccer match. In this ballet, a communist soccer team… Continue Reading

Vienna Vegetable Orchestra: Veggies Never Sounded So Good

Since 1998, the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra has performed on musical instruments they make from fresh vegetables. (I couldn’t make this up.) They shop for veggies at the local produce market, spend a few hours making their vegetable instruments, then after their concert, they throw them into the pot and serve up vegetable soup. Contrary to… Continue Reading

Boomwhackers on Steroids: Plastik Musik

If you thought boomwhackers were just for kids, think again. Better still, listen to the percussion group Plastik Musik in their astounding Boomwhacker performance: The first time I met Craig Ramsell, creator of the Boomwhackers, was  in Phoenix, Arizona, about 15 years ago at a music education conference.  At the time, I knew his newly… Continue Reading