One Christmas Song a Day.
Songs in the Advent Calender of 2020
25 December 2020
Oh Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf
We take our leave today with one last Advent song and recording. Enjoy the holidays and have a happy new year! Hopefully it will be one filled with lots of singing.
Oh Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf sung from our sheet music by Felix Jansen:
24 December 2020
Silent Night · Stilla Natt · Stille Nacht
Today, we're going multilingual!
Probably the most famous Christmas carol in the world with a melody by Franz Xaver Gruber is on our agenda today. Its lyrics have been translated into over 320 languages and dialects, which makes it the perfect song to be transcribed into IPA!
The first version we offer today is in English and very close to the pronunciation we found in a recording by Bing Crosby. The second version is a transcription for Swedish, the language of a country with an immense choral and singing culture. And at the end - how could it be otherwise - there is a transcription of the original German text by Joseph Mohr.
Using recordings to support singing in other languages has become the norm due to the ubiquity of audio materials. Our solution with IPA in the notes aims to significantly simplify the process of learning to sing in other languages and, on top of that, enable singing in languages that previously seemed unattainable for many, such as Russian, Mandarin or in this example Swedish or English in a special idiolect. Listening to pronunciation and singing is good and important. Visualising what is sung with the help of IPA should give all singers the confidence to be able to sing in any language without major problems.
With that, we wish you a nice and peaceful Christmas Eve. If you haven't had enough of IPA in the notes yet, feel free to sign up for our newsletter and look forward to more surprises!
23 December 2020
Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann
... who might be hiding behind that big white beard?
Is Father Christmas coming tomorrow? Or old Saint Nick? Maybe it's Santa Claus? Or no one at all? Maybe you'll celebrate the day after tomorrow? What does Christmas look like for you? Tell us about it! To shorten the waiting time, you can delve into Elisabeth Hösl's musicological contribution to today's song.
von Elisabeth Hösl
So, Santa Claus was invented by that certain softdrink company, right? Well, actually no: In fact, the illustrious ‘design’ of Santa Claus is a product of the advertising industry. Santa, wearing a red coat with white fur, a white beard and his pointed red hat first appeared in the 1930s and is the star of the company’s Christmas campaign until today. But the motif of the old man bringing gifts for Christmas is older than one might think:
The ‘roots’ of Santa Claus are manifold, too many to distinguish one clear ‘sorce’. The Scandinavian image of a gift-bearer who lives in Lapland and comes on a reindeer sleigh probably goes back to old Nordic sagas. The Slavik legends and fairy tales speak of ‘Father Frost’ (Дед Мороз – Ded Moroz) and his granddaughter ‘Snegourotschka’ (Снегурочка, ‚snowflake‘). Since the Middle Ages, Christians commemorate St. Nicholas of Myra (a 4th-century bishop) on the 6th of December. To celebrate this Saint, regional traditions developed: Quite often, St. Nicholas, played by an elderly man, comes with different companions, sometimes terrifying, sometimes friendly. He usually brings small gifts for the children. Therefore, the original ‘gift day’ was the 6th of December. It was Martin Luther who established the distribution of presents on Christmas Eve to turn away from the veneration of saints and put Christ back in the centre of faith. Thus, many German families both protestant and catholic are waiting for the so-called ‘Christkind’ (lit. ‘Christ Child’) instead of Santa Claus. Today, St. Nicholas is still celebrated earlier in December.
Coming from these ‘archetypes’, the step towards Santa Claus as we know him was not that big: They all are already an old man wearing a ‘wintery’ outfit (except for St. Nicholas who wears a red bishop’s garment, model for the red colour of Santa’s coat). And thus, Santa Claus already appeared in the 19th century as a kind of secularised St. Nicholas. Back then, the 24th of December was already established as the ‘day of the presents’, which is why this became the day of Santa Claus bringing the presents (in Germany – we all know that it is slightly different in English-speaking countries). Having said this, it is not that surprising that the lyrics of today’s carol Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann are almost 200 years old:
The text was written by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben who is also the author of the German national anthem (of which today only the third verse is sung). Entitled Der Weihnachtsmann, the lyrics without the melody first appeared in the Deutscher Musenalmanach für das Jahr 1837, edited by Adalbert von Chamisso. Considering the context of Christmas, the feast of peace, it might seem a little bit ‘off’ that the lyrical “I” lists a variety of war toys it would like to get. In fact, until the 1970s it was considered normal and unproblematic that children played ‘war’ in their rooms. It was the peace movement that evoked a more critical view of these games. That’s why modern versions of the text replace the military toys with other popular presents like colouring books, toy trains and cuddly toys.
|Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann,||Tomorrow Santa’s coming,|
|Kommt mit seinen Gaben.||Coming with his gifts.|
|Trommel, Pfeife und Gewehr,||Drum, pipes and rifle,|
|Fahn und Säbel und noch mehr,||Flag and saber and even more.|
|Ja ein ganzes Kriegesheer,||Yes, an entire army|
|Möcht’ ich gerne haben.||I’d like to have.|
|Bring’ uns, lieber Weihnachtsmann,||Bring us, dear Santa|
|Bring’ auch morgen, bringe||Bring also tomorrow, bring|
|Musketier und Grenadier,||Musketeer and grenadier,|
|Zottelbär und Panthertier,||Shaggy bear and panther,|
|Roß und Esel, Schaf und Stier,||Steed and donkey, sheep and bull|
|Lauter schöne Dinge.||Nothing but nice things!|
|Doch du weißt ja unsern Wunsch,||But you know our every wish,|
|Kennest unsere Herzen.||You know our hearts.|
|Kinder, Vater und Mama,||Children, father and mama|
|Auch sogar der Großpapa,||Even grandpa|
|Alle, alle sind wir da,||We’ll all, all be there|
|Warten dein mit Schmerzen.||Painfully awaiting your arrival.|
You already know from my last small article about Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier that some verse forms allow for interchanging text and melodies. This also happened to Hoffmann von Fallerslebens text: In 1837 and 1843, Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann was published in two songbooks for children. The melody given in these prints is not the melody we are using today. In fact, the famous, simple melody is, again, older than the lyrics.
It was already known in the middle of the 18th century. In 1761, it first appeared in print, but without any text. Variants with different texts followed in the 1770s and 1780s. One of them, beginning with the words Ah vous dirai-je maman (printed in the 1774 Recueil de Romances and entitled La Confidence naïve) is well-known by Mozart-fans all over the world because the Austrian composer created a series of variations of the melody for piano. Despite the lyrical “I” addressing its ‘maman’ (mother), the text is not a children’s song. The lyrical “I” in the French text is actually a young girl that reports to its mother how her beloved Silvander seduced her by picking flowers and sweet-talking to her. The girl is, as implicated by the text (the girl had a dog and a crook with her), a young shepherdess, so Ah vous dirai-je maman is actually a livesong with a pastoral theme. The rephrasing as a children’s song took place within the bourgeois culture, which is why there are several variants of the text that omit the topic ‘love’ by replacing it with a child complaining to the mother about the ban on sweets or strict rules.
Probably because of its easy melody, Ah vous dirai-je maman serves as a base for different children’s songs in various languages. It is often used to learn the alphabet as the melody almost perfectly allows to sing the 26 letters. Other well-known songs with this melody include, for example, the English variants Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Bah Bah Blacksheep, the German ‘non-Christmassy’ version Morgen wolln wir Hafer mähn (‘Tomorrow we want to mow oats’), the French Quand trois poules vont au champ (‘Three chicken are going on the field’) or the Greek Φεγγαράκι μου λαμπρό (‘My Moon is shining’). The melody inspired not only Mozart to compose variations on it, but also some of his contemporaries and the early 20th century-composers Ernst von Dohnányi and Erwin Schulhoff. In addition to that, the melody is quoted in Camille Saint-Saëns Carnival of the animals as a melodic ‘fossile’.
Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann! Well, in the Upper Bavarian ‘hometown’ of ipipapa, it’s rather the Christkind that brings the presents, and in English-speaking countries, people have to wait one more night for their presents. I hope that you can enjoy a calm and peaceful festive season despite the current circumstances and that Santa Claus not only brings a lot of beautiful ‘physical’ presents to you, but also the courage to face the new year with an optimistic and hopeful mindset. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Don’t miss tomorrow’s last door of our Advent calendar – it contains a well-known Christmas classic! And who knows, maybe the 25th might hold another surprise.
22 December 2020
O du fröhliche
... what a time we live in.
Phonetic transcription and singing - we are not the first to think of this. Especially in the US, there are many textbooks on singing in IPA and a tradition of several decades of singing with the help of phonetic transcriptions. In Europe, phonetic signs have only started to appear in recent years as an aid to singing. Especially the young professional singers among you might know many signs from their singing lessons. It is interesting for one's own language when you start to reconsider some of the rules of pronunciation when singing. It is all the more fascinating once you start using it for other languages in which you have never sung or been able to sing before. Do you have any experience singing with IPA? Tell us all about it!
O du fröhliche sung from our sheet music and recorded by Clemens Joswig, accompanied by Ines Ohnewald:
21 December 2020
Es wird scho glei dumpa
... it's already getting dark.
Don't these IPA signs look weird? Will I ever be able to learn them all? Some of you may be wondering. But don't panic. For any given language, you will only need to add a small number of sounds to your inventory. Many other sounds you will already know from your mother tongue. What tools would you need to use IPA effectively, especially in a language that is foreign to you or, as is the case today, in a dialect? Let us know!
Es wird scho glei dumpa sung beautifully from our sheet music by Cosima Becker und Leonardo Ventroni:
20 December 2020
... which one should we pick?
Transliteration or transcription? In a transliteration, you transfer the sounds of a foreign language into your own or a well-known language like English. In principle, this is a sensible idea. However, it only works to a certain extent. For example, there may be sounds in the language you want to sing in that don't exist in your own language. That's why we clearly advocate transcriptions, even though we could also create automated transliterations. Which do you prefer? Transliteration or transcription? Let us know!
19 December 2020
Josef, lieber Josef mein
... I could really use some help over here!
There are many phonetic transcriptions and many variations. For example, NAPA, SAMPA, X-SAMPA or IPA. Why did we choose IPA? The only true explanation: Since our name is ipipapa, we had no choice but to take the International Phonetic Alphabet. Just kidding ;-) The aim of the people behind IPA has been for several decades to unite the many phonetic scripts into a single alphabet, and many "special" phonetic scripts are now very much based on IPA, which was established as an international standard by the 1990s. Another central goal of IPA is to be able to represent all the sounds that exist in the worlds' languages. A nice goal that we would like to support with our work. In which context did you encounter IPA for the first time? Let us know!
Josef, lieber Josef mein sung from our sheet music and recorded by the wonderful Giulia Montanari, accompanied by Wolfgang Tacke:
18 December 2020
Zu Bethlehem geboren
... a child is born!
We are pleased to feature another contribution by Annika Egert to today's song Zu Bethlehem geboren. At ipipapa, we had a long discussion about the transcription of the word "auserkoren". Up for debate were, apart from the final version [ʔˈaːosɐkoːrən], the combination of a glottal stop [ʔ] before the syllable "-er", a half-open unrounded vowel [ɛ] and a low schwa [ɐ], i.e. [ʔˈaːosʔɛɐkoːrən], as well as the transcription of the traditional r-variant, as described yesterday. Which variant would you advocate? Let us know!
Zu Bethlehem geboren sung from our sheet music and recorded by Annika Egert:
17 December 2020
... frrrrreue dich!
Singing the right "r" in German is no easy undertaking. As can be seen in today's song Tochter Zion, we transcribed the "er" in "Toch-ter" with a low schwa /ɐ/. However, it is also possible to transcribe the end of this word using a normal schwa /ə/ and a tab /ɾ/ or an alveolar trill /r/. Also possible but even more unusual would be the transcription of a uvular trill /ʀ/ or fricative /ʁ/. Why is that?
The "r" sound in German is a so-called allophone: that is, a phoneme that has many variants which do not change the meaning of a word in the respective target language. There are other languages in which the mentioned sounds can indeed be meaning-differentiating. Similarly, there may be sounds, such as the German "i" and "ü", that change the meaning of a word in German but don't do so in other languages such as Tagalog (see atlas of language structures, Wikipedia)
When it comes to singing a German "r", there exist different schools of thought on top of that. In a more traditional version, the "r" is often rolled: /r/, while a more modern version tends more towards the spoken pronunciation. With our programme, we can control these variants of the German "r" at different positions in a word quite precisely.
You want to know more about this topic or have a specific question? Let us know!
Tochter Zion sung from our sheet music by the wonderful Clemens Joswig, accompanied by Ines Ohnewald:
16 December 2020
Alle Jahre wieder
... every year but this year.
Every year the 'Christ-child' returns. Just as naturally as the Son of God is expected by many Christians at Christmas, many of us have come to believe that singing is an integral part of Advent and Christmas time. On this 16 December 2020, however, we enter another hard lockdown in Germany without any singing in churches or in public. So we are all the more grateful to soprano Annika Egert for her support today in the form of a recording.
Alle Jahre wieder sung from our sheet music by soprano Annika Egert:
15 December 2020
Ihr Kinderlein, kommet
... come to the crib in Bethlehem!
Today we are pleased to present another karaoke video by Cosima Becker with another recording by Kanahi Yamashita. Today's piece has quite a lot of text in very little time. Are you able to follow along? Let us know!
14 December 2020
... when will you come snow?
Voiced consonants such as the voiced /z/ in "so" are now common when singing in German. For many years this was not the case, which was also due to the choirs' and singers' dialectal characteristics. Even today, it would sound very strange and wrong if a piece in Bavarian dialect were to contain a voiced [z], for example. With southern German singers and choirs, there is still a tendency to sing fewer voiced consonants. What do you think about this? Let us know!
Find out how our soprano Giulia Montanari pronounces the "s": Schneeflöckchen, Weißröckchen sung by her from our sheet music, accompanied by Wolfgang Tacke:
13 December 2020
... come and light up our winter night!
Today, on the third Sunday of Advent, we present to you the first ipipapa-notes of a Swedish piece! Lucia is celebrated in Sweden on 13 December, bringing light into the dark northern night. Which songs lighten up your night? Let us know!
12 December 2020
Ich steh’ an deiner Krippen hier
... my Jesus, Life from heaven.
Slowly but surely, things are getting contemplative and intimate. Today, Elisabeth Hösl is back with a musicological insight into the background of this nativity song. What do you associate with this well-known song? Let us know!
Perhaps you have been a little bit surprised when looking at today’s sheet music. If you’re not from a German-speaking country, it is most likely that (if you already knew the song at all) you did not have this exact melody in mind when thinking about Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier. In fact, this song is known with two different melodies, and it seems that most regions, parishes, and families traditionally opt for either the one or the other. That is why the catholic hymn book Gotteslob also points to another tune whose melody could be used for Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier.
In fact, the melody given in our transcription is the more recent one. The lyrics of Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier first appear in 1653 in the protestant hymnal Praxis Pietatis Melica which was redacted by the musician Johann Crüger. The Praxis Pietatis Melica was used for singing in private as well as for church services. It became widely popular and was used until the 18th century. The lyrics of Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier (originally 15 verses) were written by the theologist Paul Gerhardt who is also the author of numerous other well-known hymns. In the print, no notated melody is given: a small note refers to the melody of Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein which was composed in the 1520s by Martin Luther. Confusingly, also this hymn is known with two different melodies.
So, how is it possible to replace the text of an already existing melody? The form of the verses does the trick: Like many German hymns, the verses are organised in a seven-verse, iambic ‘Barform’. The Barform consists of two two-verse ‘Stollen’ (which is also the name of a delicious Christmas cake, nevertheless, the ‘Barform’ ist not exclusively used for Christmas songs). Both ‘Stollen’ have the same melody:
|Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier,||I stand before Thy manger fair,|
|o Jesu, du mein Leben;||My Jesus, Life from heaven!|
|ich komme, bring und schenke dir,||I come, and unto Thee I bear|
|was du mir hast gegeben.||What Thou to me hast given.|
The rhyme scheme is abab (in the German version, for pronunciation please refer to our transcription). The ‘Stollen’ are followed by the ‘Abgesang’ (ccd) which has its own melody:
|Nimm hin, es ist mein Geist und Sinn,||Receive it, for ’tis mind and soul,|
|Herz, Seel und Mut, nimm alles hin||Heart, spirit, strength—receive it all,|
|und lass dir’s wohlgefallen.||And deign to let it please Thee.|
Due to the popularity of the ‘Barform’, several melodies could fit for one text – or vice versa. However, Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier initially was not known in another version than Luther’s melody. For non-German-speaking singers, this melody is probably the more familiar: it is the melody Johann Sebastian Bach used for his setting of the chorale in his Christmas Oratorio. But Bach is also the composer of the newer melody: In 1736, two years after the premiere of the Christmas Oratorio, Bach wrote settings for solo voice and continuo based on popular hymns. They were published by Christian Schemelli in the Musicalisches Gesang-Buch. Here you can find Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier with the newer and more complex melody. Hence, the original (Luther) melody is over 100 years older than the lyrics, and the new melody (Bach) was created no less than 80 years after Gerhardt wrote his text.
Bach’s interpretation as a solistic ‘aria’ seems programmatic considering the content of the text. We transcribed three of Gerhardt’s 15 verses. Here are verse number 2 and 3:
|Da ich noch nicht geboren war,||When I as yet had not been born,|
|da bist du mir geboren||Then hadst Thou been born for me|
|und hast mich dir zu eigen gar,||And chosen me to be Thine own,|
|eh ich dich kannt, erkoren.||Thy mercy shedding o’er me.|
|Eh ich durch deine Hand gemacht,||Before I by Thy hand was made,|
|da hast du schon bei dir bedacht,||Thou hadst the plan in order laid,|
|wie du mein wolltest werden.||How Thou Thyself shouldst give me.|
|Ich lag in tiefster Todesnacht,||I lay still in death’s deepest night,|
|du warest meine Sonne,||Till Thou, my Sun, arising,|
|die Sonne, die mir zugebracht||Didst bring joy, pleasure, life, and light,|
|Licht, Leben, Freud und Wonne.||My wakened soul surprising.|
|O Sonne, die das werte Licht||O Sun, who dost so graciously|
|des Glaubens in mir zugericht’,||Cause faith’s good light to dawn in me,|
|wie schön sind deine Strahlen!||How lovely is Thy radiance!|
Unlike many other German hymns, the ‘speaker’ is not the collective body of the Christians (‘We’) but a lyrical ‘I’: a more intimate ‘role’. Thus, Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier is a ‘prayer’ of one single believer. The lyrical I imagines itself as a part of the nativity scene and tries to understand the magnificence of the newborn child by using comparisons: For example, in the third verse, Jesus is seen equal to the sun, the brightest celestial body. The ninth verse, on the other hand, compares the child to the moon and the stars whose light is not as bright as the twinkling of the baby’s eyes:
|Wo nehm ich Weisheit und Verstand,||Oh, wisdom fails me utterly|
|mit Lobe zu erheben||For honoring and praising|
|die Äuglein, die so unverwandt||The eyes this infant fixedly|
|nach mir gerichtet stehen;||To mine is ever raising.|
|der volle Mond ist schön und klar,||The full moon may be clear and fair,|
|schön in der güldnen Sternen Schar,||The golden stars most beauteous are,|
|dies Äuglein sind viel schöner.||But these eyes far excel them!|
The lyrics also address the poor conditions in the stable:
|O daß doch so ein lieber Stern||Oh, that a star so passing fair|
|soll in der Krippen liegen!||Should in a crib be holden!|
|Für edle Kinder großer Herrn||Who mighty nobles’ children are|
|gehören goldne Wiegen.||Should lie in cradles golden!|
|Ach! Heu und Stroh sind viel zu schlecht,||Ah, hay and straw too wretched are,|
|Samt, Seiden, Purpur wären recht,||Silk, velvet, purple better far|
|dies Kindlein drauf zu legen.||Were for Thee, Child, to lie on.|
|Nehmt weg das Stroh, nehmt weg das Heu,||Away with straw, away with hay,|
|ich will mir Blumen holen,||From where the Child reposes,|
|dass meines Heilands Lager sei||And flow’rs I’ll bring, that lie He may|
|auf Rosen und Violen,||On violets fair, and roses.|
|mit Tulpen, Nelken, Rosmarin||With tulips, pinks, and rosemary,|
|aus schönen Gärten will ich ihn||From goodly gardens plucked by me,|
|von obenher bestreuen.||I’ll from above bestrew Him.|
The mentioned “tulips, pinks, and rosemary” refer to the death and resurrection of Christ (of which we all know will happen): The Gospel of Easter tells us about the women who come to the grave early in the morning to anoint the body of Christ with fragrant oils. But the grave is empty, and the women are the first to witness the resurrection. Also, bedding the baby on roses, as the other verse cited above is a reference to bedding the dead body of Christ in a grave. Just think about the tradition of setting up a Holy Sepulchre with flower arrangements in the church on Good Friday!
Gerhardt’s 14th verse makes clear that the lyrical I strives for more than just being ‘near’ Jesus: The individual wants to become a ‘cradle’ itself to be able to carry Jesus “in, an und bei” (“within and on and by”) it, to internalise the faith in its body and soul.
|Eins aber, hoff ich, wirst du mir,||One thing I bid Thee grant to me,|
|mein Heiland, nicht versagen,||My Savior, ne’er deny me,|
|dass ich dich möge für und für||That I may evermore have Thee,|
|in, bei und an mir tragen,||Within and on and by me.|
|so lass mich doch dein Kripplein sein,||And let my heart Thy cradle be,|
|komm, komm und lege bei mir ein||Come, come and lay Thee down in me,|
|dich und all deine Freuden.||With all Thy joys and treasures!|
Hence, Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier invites everyone to pause and marvel at the child in the stable. Once again it is Johann Sebastian Bach who uses this message in a particularly impressive way: The hymn is embedded in the sixth cantata of the Christmas Oratorio as a chorale. The preceding recitative tells us about the kings’ arrival at the cradle: “When the Wise Men saw this, with exceeding joy rejoiced they, and went within the house, and saw the young child, and with the child His mother Mary, and falling down at His feet they worshipped Him, and from the treasure they had brought they gave to Him gold, frankincense and myrrh.” On the one hand, the immediately following chorale expresses the feelings of the kings whose worldly wealth suddenly seems small compared to the glory of the newborn child. On the other hand, each singer takes up the role of a ‘guest’ in the stable. Suddenly, everything gets silent and intimate. There is no more festive “Jauchzet, frohlocket“ (first cantata) or “Wir singen dir in deinem Heer” (second cantata). Everyone can find itself at the cradle, alone, in a personal contemplative situation. When Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier is sung in the Christmas service or in a concert, it is not about making everyone hear the glory of the festive message: It is about each individual who is supposed to feel the “radiance” (“how lovely is Thy radiance”) within itself.
11 December 2020
Still, still, still, weil’s Kindlein schlafen will
... let's hope for a silent night.
Lullabies are probably one of the oldest inventions in the history of music. The physical closeness between mother and child, through the steady heartbeat of the mother, creates a natural idea of metre and rhythm. It is highly probable that this was no different many thousands of years ago than it is today. You can find research on the effect of music on children across cultural borders here. Today's song is part of this long tradition. Do you remember the first lullaby that was sung to you? Which one was it? Let us know!
Still, still, still, weil’s Kindlein schlafen will sung from our sheet music by soprano Magdalena Hinterdobler, accompanied by Christian Hornef:
10 December 2020
Süßer die Glocken nie klingen
... nothing is sweeter than Christmas bells.
And again the bells are ringing, just as they did behind the first door. Such onomatopoeic elements in song lyrics are often found in Advent and Christmas carols. If you do not know the language you want to sing in, it is important to present such connections between language and music correctly. But also native speakers have told us that it can be a lot of fun and quite educational to sing in one's own language with the International Phonetic Alphabet. This applies to the already mentioned thematic of the distribution of syllables, which are usually set differently when singing, as well as to the quality of vowels or the /r/ in German, which we will come back to soon.
Süßer die Glocken nie klingen sung from our sheet music by soprano Giulia Montanari, accompanied by Wolfgang Tacke:
9 December 2020
Was soll das bedeuten?
... it's dawning already.
The ninth piece has its origins in Silesia. The Silesian dialect was not taken into account in the transcription. Instead, a standard German variant was chosen. The interesting question: Can phonetic transcriptions in sheet music help bring a rare dialect back to life? What do you think about this? Let us know!
Clemens Joswig is also asking Was soll das bedeuten? sung from our sheet music and accompanied by Ines Ohnewald:
8 December 2020
Vom Himmel hoch, da komm’ ich her
... and I bring you the good news.
Martin Luther is the lyricist of today's piece. There are several songs and compositions by the famous German reformer. What not many people know: There also exists at least one polyphonic piece by Martin Luther. Of course, the pronunciation of song texts is also a matter of temporal influences and intentions. One can also reflect on how lyrics were pronounced in certain regions a few hundred years ago. Especially with Luther, the comprehensibility of the lyrics is the first priority. That is why we have made our transcription in accordance with today's singing standards. What do you think about this? Let us know!
Today's angel is played by Clemens Joswig: Vom Himmel hoch, da komm’ ich her sung from our sheet music and accompanied by Ines Ohnewald.
7 December 2020
Leise rieselt der Schnee
... and the quiet time of the year begins.
For today's piece, we are once again delighted to have a guest contribution from Giulia Montanari. If you take a close look at the IPA version in the sheet music, you will notice that it differs from the previous transcriptions. Yesterday, you could read about diphthongs. In the transcription of today's piece we deviate from this and create a version that stays closer to a spoken version of the text. As this is a folk song, this kind of transcription is perfectly justified. However, eventually it will always be the decision of our editors and linguistic experts which way to transcribe a piece in. We would like to hear your opinion on this. Do you think it makes sense to transcribe differently in such cases, for example if the genre renders it appropriate? Or do you think it is generally advisable to advocate an idealised / special form of transcription in a certain language? Let us know!
Leise rieselt der Schnee sung from our sheet music by soprano Giulia Montanari, accompanied by Wolfgang Tacke:
6 December 2020
Lasst uns froh und munter sein
Did you practice with our video yesterday? Then today's karoke-video by Cosima Becker with another wonderful recording by Kanahi Yamashita should be easy for you:
For singing, diphthongs, i.e. sound combinations such as au, eu or ei in German, are a topic of their own. For example, there is no real consensus on how these sounds should be transcribed in IPA. Our idea is that the first vowel in the diphthong is usually sung longer than the following vowel. Hence the decision to write an elongation sign after the first vowel. Because of the often lower position of the larynx when singing, which then also affects the position of the tongue and thus the quality of the vowel, the second components of our diphthongs are created. What do you think about this? We are looking forward to your answer!
5 December 2020
Morgen, Kinder, wird’s was geben
... but today, it's your turn!
Cosima Becker turned a wonderful recording by Kanahi Yamashita into a karaoke-video with notes by ipipapa:
As you know, sung pronunciation differs from spoken pronunciation. This also matters in our transcriptions. You may have noticed that, for example, the distribution of syllables might look strange: Weih - nachts - tag turns into vaːe - na - xtstaːk. This is due to the idea that when singing, one should stay on the vowel of a syllable as long as possible, while the ensuing consonants are associated with the following syllable and note. What's your stance on this? Let us know!
4 December 2020
Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen
... amid the cold, cold winter?
You should be familiar with the song behind this fourth little door if you have seen the first videos on our website, which will be updated soon. If you don't want to miss this, do subscribe to our ↓ newsletter ↓. Apart from the sheet music, today's post features an article by Elisabeth Hösl. As a musicologist, she is writing about the background of today's piece.
“Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”? Well, the ‘rose’ mentioned in today’s song Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (literal translation: „a rose has sprung up”) is actually not a flower, so things are a bit more complicated. What – or rather: who – is that “Rose I have in mind”? Let’s catch a glimpse of the tradition of the over 420 years old lyrics. We will soon discover that the word ‘rose’ can be interpreted in two different ways.
The oldest known source of Es ist ein Ros entsprungen is a handwritten prayerbook, probably from the Carthusian monastery St. Alban in Treves where it is still kept in the city library (signature Hs. 2363/2304). It contains 19 verses of the song. Therefore, Es ist ein Ros entsprungen can be referred to as an “alt Catholisch Trierisch Christliedlein“ (“old catholic christmas song from Treves”) as it is the case in a Cantual (a hymnal) from Mainz dating from 1605. In 1599, the song appeared in a printed source for the first time: The Speyerer Gesangsbuch (confusingly printed in Cologne, but edited in Speyer by the local Jesuit convent) does not only contain 23 verses but also the melody known until today.
The first sources of Es ist ein Ros entsprungen were therefore all written or compiled within catholic congregations. Of course, this does not necessarily imply that the origins of the song are also exclusively catholic: after all, it is assumed that some of the verses were already sung in the first half of the 16th century.
As choir singers you might not only know the melody but also the setting by the protestant composer Michael Praetorius from the sixth volume of the Musae Sioniae (1609). Comparing the text in the Musae Sioniae with the catholic version from Speyer it is noticeable that – while the first verse is just the same – the second verses differ in small but significant details:
|Speyer 1605||Speyer, translated|
|Das Röselein das ich meine||The small rose that I mean|
|Darvon Isaias sagt||Of which Isaiah spoke|
|Ist Maria die reine||Is the pure Mary|
|Die uns das blümlein hat bracht||Who brought us the small flower|
|Auß Gottes ewigem raht||From God’s eternal counsel|
|Hat sie ein Kindlein gboren||She has given birth to a child|
|Und blieben ein reine Magd.||And remained a pure maiden|
|Praetorius 1609||Praetorius, translated|
|Das Röeßlein das ich meine||The small rose that I mean|
|darvon Esaias sagt||Of which Isaiah spoke|
|hat uns gebracht alleine||Is brought to us alone|
|Mary die reine Magd||By Mary, the pure maiden|
|aus Gottes ewgen raht||From God’s eternal counsel|
|hat sie ein Kind gebohren||She has given birth to a child|
|wol zu der halben Nacht.||Halfway through the night./|
|[welches uns selig macht.]||[who makes us blessed.]|
As the words “[d]as Röslein, das ich meine” (lit. “the small rose that I mean”) indicate, the second verse contains the answer to our question about ‘the name of the rose’. In the catholic version, the ‘rose’ is the virgin Mary (cf. the literal translation). Here, medieval flower symbolism which often depicts Mary as a rose, or a lily is taken up. However, in the protestant version in the Musae Sioniae, Mary is the one who brings forth the ‘rose’ by giving birth to Jesus. By substituting the reference to the virgin birth („und blieb ein reine Magd” – “and remained a pure maiden”) for a more neutral mention of Jesus’ time of birth (“wohl zu der halben Nacht” – “halfway through the night”). Also, the often-sung variant “welches uns selig macht” (“who makes us blessed”) relates to Jesus. The virgin Mary is not the flower itself; she is the rosebush from which the blossom has sprung up. The divergence of the interpretative variants of the ‚rose‘ in the song corresponds to the ambivalent interpretations of the verse from the prophetic book of Isaiah which provides the basis for the lyrics. The parable in Isaiah 11:1 can also be read in both ways: On the one hand, Mary could be the ‘rod out of the stem of Jesse’, and the ‘Branch’ her son Jesus (“und hat ein Blümlein bracht” – “and has brought a small flower”). On the other hand, the ‘rod’ could refer to Jesus himself:
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. (Isaiah 11:1)
Despite already comprising 19 to 23 verses in the early sources, the lyrics of Es ist ein Ros entsprungen have been extended over time. For example, in 1844 Friedrich Layritz added some verses, among which the frequently sung verse “Das Blümelein so kleine, das duftet uns so süß” (this verse found its way into the popular English translation: “O Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air”). During the Third Reich, a profaned rewriting (“Uns ist ein Licht erstanden in einer dunklen Winternacht“ – „A light has risen for us in a cold winter’s night”) was established, eradicating the reference to Isaiah and to the jewish heritage of Christ. Beyond that, the lyrics praise motherhood as a central contribution to the preservation of the ‘Vaterland’. This national socialist form which only left the melodic shell of the original song is fortunately no longer popular.
In its many Christian variations, Es ist ein Ros entsprungen is sung until today, not only in the German-speaking area. The song was translated in numerous other languages, and often there are even different variations of these translations. The widespread English versions Lo, how a rose e'er blooming (by Theodore Baker) and A Spotless Rose is blowing (by Catherine Winkworth) were both written in the 19th century. While both of these translations stay close to the ‘catholic’ German lyrics, Augustin Mahot’s French version rather depicts the situation of the birth of Jesus “in a dim stable” (Dans une étable obscure) than referring to Isaiah’s prophecy. Other translations include Swedish (Det är en ros utsprungen), Norwegian (Det hev ei rose sprunge), Danish (En rose saa jeg skyde) and Dutch (Er is een roos ontloken).
Both the melody and Praetorius’s setting of Es ist ein Ros entsprungen served as an inspiration for composers who created manifold arrangements of the song. The most famous of these settings are the ones by Hugo Distler and Jan Sandström. The latter uses the original setting by Praetorius which, sung by a four-part upper choir, transmits the mystical message of the incarnation ‘hovering’ above the chords of a humming lower choir. Distler on the other hand uses multiple compositional variants for every verse. For example, he adds the solistically sung German Magnificat (“Meine Seele erhebt Gott den Herren” – “My soul doth magnify the Lord”) to the third verse and thereby makes the ‘voice’ of the mother of God heard.
The over 420-year-old song Es ist ein Ros entsprungen, in all its confessional and international variants, is still an important element within the Christmas celebrations for many people around the world. Perhaps it’s the mystical, allegorical text – which present the joyful festive message in the form of an inconspicuous small ‘rose’ – that evokes a special fascination in the times ‘of the old’ (“As men of old have sung”) as well as in our modern times.
3 December 2020
Herbei, oh ihr Gläubigen
O come, all ye faithful!
In the third door you will find the famous "Adeste fidelis" in the German version. The lyrics exist in many other languages and versions as well. With our semi-automated transcription, we will soon be able to transcribe lyrics from many languages and dialects. If you are as excited about this as we are and want to support us, do let us know!
2 December 2020
A, a, a, der Winter, der ist da
Did it snow at your place today?
Behind this second little door, we hid a song with lyrics written by the poet August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, who also wrote what is now the national anthem of Germany. We hope you enjoy this song, even if the lyrics are rather basic. Maybe that makes it perfectly suited for training your German pronunciation with IPA ;-)
1 December 2020
Kling, Glöckchen, kling!
Can you hear the bells jingle?
Our song waiting behind this first little door plays with the sound of words which the wonderful soprano Giulia Montanari knows just how to highlight.
Kling, Glöckchen, kling! sung from our sheet music by soprano Giulia Montanari, accompanied by Wolfgang Tacke:
And here is the English translation for the lyrics of this song (as found on CPDL):
Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!
Ring, little bell, ring!
Let me in, you kids!
So cold is the winter!
Open the doors for me!
Don't let me freeze!
Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!
Ring, little bell, ring!
Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!
Ring, little bell, ring!
Brightly glow the candles,
Open your hearts to me,
I want to live there happily,
Devout child, how blessed!
Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!
Ring, little bell, ring!