Around this festive time of year I always think it is worth reminding folk of our delightful, (if we say so ourselves!), war-time German Christmas Carols CD: Kriegsweihnachten which always starts to fly out of the door during this pre-festive run-up to the holidays…
Over the 25 years we have been operating our WW-II German Archive we have been very fortunate in that in amongst the many welcome ‘phone calls that our production office receives from WW-II veterans, musik collectors & enthusiasts, there have often emerged interesting suggestions for themes as to new German-based CD albums that we could also possibly produce.
Indeed a number of our archival musik CDs have come about precisely because of such helpful customer suggestions namely: Instrumental Marches of Adolf Hitler’s Elite Musikkorps 1935-45, which was indeed suggested by many of our customers who actually prefer ‘purely instrumental’ German Marching music only, as opposed to those with choirs also singing on them..!
Over the years as the Tomahawk’s studio producer I have always tried to research and then re-master our original CD collections to have a balanced mix of instrumental tracks & German soldier songs, (this latter of which I’m an avid collector myself), as sung by the accompanying Regimental Musikkorps choir, however it wasn’t until we started getting such direct requests for an instrumentals-only album that we would indeed set about researching such a new music production.
So it was with our war-time German Christmas Carols…but original pre-1945 78rpm schellacks ‘don’t grow on trees’..and as we only work with the genuine material it was a case of going into research mode and putting the word out amongst ourGerman contacts to see what may be in various archives or private collections.
But it is not just finding such historical records, it is the nerve-wracking business of getting them shipped back to the UK in one piece; many is the time we’ve waited nervously, after many months of searching, for a box to arrive from Leipzig or Frankfurt, only to open it up to find just black dust: a number of schellacks within having exploded in transit and shattered into a zillion pieces! So finding the original material is only half the battle..!
However when we actively set out to produce an original collection of the very emotional & emotive Christmas Carols that we knew existed, we were extremely lucky in that after a reasonably short time of searching within Germany, we located a terrific selection of Third Reich Carols on schellack in just one private collection and that actually became available for Tomahawk Films to purchase..and not only were we able to secure the treasured haul, but it also arrived back here in ‘Blighty’ in one piece… the heavens be praised..!
So into production we went and in addition to producing a quite soul-stirring collection as a Tomahawk Musik CD, (thanks to studio engineer ‘Woody’s’ great suggestion,) we were also able to incorporate a small historical introduction on the CD which, wearing my other professional hat as a TV voice-over artiste, I narrated..(as indeed I have also done with a number of our other Tomahawk audio titles that also have a little more of an historical story to tell… and where it would help ‘set the scene’ for the listener).
Obviously Christmas is very important in the German psyche and actually lays claim to many of the seasonal traditions: from trimming the Tannenbaum (Christmas Tree) to the Advendskranz (Advent Wreath); also the eve of December 6th (Nikolaustag), festivities when the Reich’s children would place a boot by the fireplace and St Nikolaus, the Patron Saint of Children, would visit each house, noting misdeeds in his Book of Sins and leaving out sweets for those good, twigs for those bad!.
For the soldiers at the Front it was also a very emotional time as they would make traditional wooden gifts to send home in the packs of comrades lucky enough to get leave, whilst their loved ones back home across the Reich would be hanging up Advenzkranz of holly & four red candles, lighting one each Sunday whilst the children used the Advent calendar to count down to Christmas Eve, the day Germany actually celebrates Christmas and the Weihnachtsmann arrives bearing gifts.
Meanwhile back at the Front, the troops would decorate their trees for bunker and prepare a goose for the table along with traditional ‘Dresden Stollen’, (a heavy, fruit-filled bread) as they listened to these heart-rending carols, played on wind-up gramophones in fox-holes or broadcast via Soldatensender (Forces Radio), and so remind them of happier, pre-war Christmas’ at home..
..and this beautiful ‘Kriegsweihnachten’ CD contains 12 of those beautiful & highly emotive schellack recordings including, of course, ‘O’Tannenbaum’ and ‘Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht’… and is a totally unique accompaniment to your family Christmas… enjoy!
Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2012