Silver Fir (Abies alba)
|English title||O Christmas Tree|
|Songwriter(s)||Ernst Anschütz, based on a 16th-century Silesian folk song by Melchior Franck|
"O Tannenbaum" (German: [oː ˈtanənbaʊm]; "O fir tree", English: "O Christmas 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 quality 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.
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". Below is the tune with the original German lyrics of the first verse:
Bilingual performance of the first verse by the U.S. Army Band Chorus
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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.
- Cornell University's Evening Song is sung to the tune of "O Tannenbaum" and is played nightly at the end of the evening chimes concert.
- The College of the Holy Cross's alma mater is sung to the tune of "O Tannenbaum"
- 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 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.
- "Opening Ode" of the Knights of Columbus.
Other notable recordings
- An early recording of the song was by the Nebe Quartett in August 1905.
- The English version of this song is sung in the 1960 Disney film, Swiss Family Robinson.
- A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – instrumental, arranged by Vince Guaraldi.
- Rock band They Might Be Giants released a German language version as a single in 1993.
- 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 (in 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.
- "They Might Be Giants - O Tannenbaum". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-07-26.
- 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 (in 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
- An early recording of the song, by the Nebe Quartett in August 1905.