Saturday, January 3, 2009

Songs in My Head Saturday

These two songs have been in my head all week, since I watched
Joyeux Noël, the story of the Christmas Eve of 1914, in the Western
Front in France in World War I, when the Scottish, German and
French troops have a time of truce and share moments of peace
and friendship.

This first one is Bist du bei mir sung by Natalie Dessay and
Rolando Villazón, whose voices were used in the film. The
words in English loosely translate:

If you are with me, I will go joyously to my dear and eternal rest.
Ah, how joyful would be my end if your loving hands closed my
faithful eyes.

I am only too thankful my sons were home with me this Christmas.
My heart goes out to all of those whose loved ones are in harm's way
in Iraq. Peace and safety to them.

Hymne des Fraternises, with a montage of the film.


  1. May we learn how to live together and solve our problems without war. Thanks for the posting.

  2. Beautiful.

    The sentiment of the soldiers for the unauthorized Christmas cease fire, the music, and the movie.


  3. Thank you for that. All military families appreciate daily when our sacrifices are recognized. Peace on earth and goodwill to men.

  4. Lovely songs. May that truce of peace and friendship spread from one day to every day.

  5. what haunting melodies. i'm sure your sons were so happy to be home with you and all the very delicious food!

    hope, peace, love and joy to all america's children off in iraq!

    thanks, willow!

  6. This is one of my favorite Christmas movies - so touching,so beautiful - yet I knew little about the music except that I loved it...thanks for a wonderful, if sad, morning interlude....How do you find these wonderful bits on you tube?

    I will never understand war...

  7. Bist du bei mir Another one of my favorites!

  8. Both of those songs are the kind that can easily remain in my mind, especially if I associate them with the Christmas Truce of 1914. I’ve been fascinated by that story since I first heard it some 40 or so years ago. That war could stop—enemies come together in No Man’s Land—play soccer—join their voices in Christmas carols—is amazing. The saddest part of the story (other than they began killing one another, of course) is that the Allies high command issued an order before Christmas 1915 that any solder observed trying to contact or fraternize with Germans was to be immediately executed.

    Willow, I don’t know if you are familiar with the song below. It is high on my favorites list:

    Christmas in the Trenches
    [John McCutcheon]

    My name is Francis Tolliver, I come from Liverpool.
    Two years ago the war was waiting for me after school.
    To Belgium and to Flanders, to Germany to here
    I fought for King and country I love dear.
    'Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung,
    The frozen fields of France were still, no Christmas song was sung
    Our families back in England were toasting us that day
    Their brave and glorious lads so far away.

    I was lying with my messmate on the cold and rocky ground
    When across the lines of battle came a most peculiar sound
    Says I, "Now listen up, me boys!" each soldier strained to hear
    As one young German voice sang out so clear.
    "He's singing bloody well, you know!" my partner says to me
    Soon, one by one, each German voice joined in harmony
    The cannons rested silent, the gas clouds rolled no more
    As Christmas brought us respite from the war
    As soon as they were finished and a reverent pause was spent
    "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" struck up some lads from Kent
    The next they sang was "Stille Nacht." "Tis 'Silent Night'," says I
    And in two tongues one song filled up that sky
    "There's someone coming toward us!" the front line sentry cried
    All sights were fixed on one long figure trudging from their side
    His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shown on that plain so bright
    As he, bravely, strode unarmed into the night
    Soon one by one on either side walked into No Man's Land
    With neither gun nor bayonet we met there hand to hand
    We shared some secret brandy and we wished each other well
    And in a flare-lit soccer game we gave 'em hell
    We traded chocolates, cigarettes, and photographs from home
    These sons and fathers far away from families of their own
    Young Sanders played his squeezebox and they had a violin
    This curious and unlikely band of men

    Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more
    With sad farewells we each prepared to settle back to war
    But the question haunted every heart that lived that wonderous night
    "Whose family have I fixed within my sights?"
    'Twas Christmas in the trenches where the frost, so bitter hung
    The frozen fields of France were warmed as songs of peace were sung
    For the walls they'd kept between us to exact the work of war
    Had been crumbled and were gone forevermore

    My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell
    Each Christmas come since World War I, I've learned its lessons well
    That the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame
    And on each end of the rifle we're the same

  9. Beautiful. I must get this soundtrack!
    I am very glad your two sons were with you this Christmas!

  10. A lovely Willow way to start the weekend ...


  11. Nick, thank you! I just listened to "Christmas in the Trenches" on YouTube and it is so very touching.

  12. "Joyeux Noël" is a beautiful movie. It rehumanizes the people so thoughtlessly sent out as cannon fodder, making their own decision to stop killing the "enemy" who, after all, are people too. The same people sitting at the bottom of their trenches wondering if they will survive that Christmas to be with their family some day.
    Bist du bei mir is a very moving song, and the voices are just lovely.

    Excellent choice, excellent choice.

  13. wonderful sentiment. happy you had your sons, i know how hard it is to have to wonder and worry about them.. so to have them, in arms reach must have been a piece of heaven on earth! God bless them, and you!

  14. Hello Willow and Happy New Year,

    I hadn't heard of this film or of the song Nick set down. I must explore further. Beautiful sentiments, both.

    Villazon has a marvellous voice. A worthy successor to Domingo.

  15. I will be adding this to Netflix it looks wonderful.

  16. Lovely post and beautiful songs. I just noticed that S&G are on your stereo. Hmmm... divine!

    Greetings from London.

  17. Thank you for sharing these lovely songs. The 2nd video has some great images too.

  18. Beautiful! I haven't seen that movie yet, but Joe and I were both talking about it, and now I want to make sure we get to see it. Thanks for the reminder. I was always moved to think that that really happened... If only we'd come to a time with no wars...

  19. The first song had a special place in Richard Powers' "The Time of our singing". It is lovely and poignant.

  20. The film sounds beautiful, Willow. I will have to find your songs directly on You Tube as I can't open film clips on Blogger- (I need to add some kind of widget I think!)

    It's nice to see the photo of your favourite mug - I've often wondered what it is like when you've mentioned it!

  21. Willow, I loved the movie. For me it raises the question, what is an ememy? Someone who, under different circumstances, could be a friend. What a difficult position a soldier is in every day.

  22. Oh, you are good at this blogging great information! Both clips with beautiful music and wonderful poignant scenes...thank you! I agree,I'm grateful my boys are not in this war and wish all these "wars" end in peace soon.

  23. Beautiful, Willow. Thanks for the post and for reminding me of such a wonderful film as Joyeux Noel. I haven't been able to bring myself to watch it again since I saw it a few years ago.

    When I saw the film it brought to mind a Christmas card my sociology teacher gave me in high school (1971). He signed it "Peace in Our Time - Mr. Siler." I never forgot that sentiment and think about it frequently.

    Prayerfully someday there will be peace in our time.

  24. I will have to check this film out. I missed.

    Comment on your sidebar.
    Simon and Garfunkle rule! I was a fledgling poet in the 60's/70's and Paul Simon was my poet god!


  25. I am visiting you from Nick's blog and can't thank you enough for reminding me of this stirring and beautiful film. It touched our lives on many levels; your blog post is wonderful! Sending *Peace*Love*Light* to All oxo

  26. Both songs are absolutely lush and gorgeous. I have read all about this informal truce. So wild to be having dinner together and then back at shooting each other.

    I'd like to see this movie sometime.

  27. "Bist du bei mir" is very moving although I hardly understand any German.
    This may be shocking, but I can't get used to World War One being shown in colour.

  28. Thanks for the mug shot Willow! You might have started something....

  29. I wasn't going to post but went back and listened to the songs. Hymne des Fratemises blew me away and I will find a copy of Joyeux Noel somehow to watch. Thank you for a belated Christmas gift... and as I lay down to sleep this night I will be praying for the poor Palestinians.

  30. We also watched this film over Christmas - it was on the BBC so it meant there were no breaks for adverts - lovely. It's a haunting sad film and I agree with you about the music. Thanks for putting the songs up, willow.

  31. Lovely! Although I rather like fighting with the Germans:) My ex husband is German:)

  32. LOVE Bist Du bei Mir - but I never knew it was in a film. I play it (organ) a lot at weddings. Such a lovely melody!

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  35. I cry. Because the suffering from that war is still fresh in the french region where I live. A lady I know lost her dad in the The WWI and she stills speaks of him. A whole generation that grew up without a father, uncle etc.

  36. Thanks for the movie recommendations. I live in Paris and have never heard of Joyeux Noel!

  37. I am glad I am not the only one sometimes haunted by songs that aren't pop anthems, but real songs!

  38. Melodies that bring us back to a distant past lest we forget. Thanks for posting this, Willow.

  39. Joyeux Noël was a great movie. I cried a lot during that one! My nephew returned from his 2nd tour in Iraq in November (thank God!), but my prayers are with all who are still there. ~Lori


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)