It’s an awesome sound…a sound which leaves no room for human voices…
I can still remember the musicologist Karl Haas saying these words in his thick German accent as the mighty church bells of Zurich, Switzerland faded into the distance. Haas’ nationally-syndicated radio program, Adventures in Good Music included a special annual Christmas Eve episode, The Story of the Bells, which featured the distinct sounds of bell ringing in cities across Europe. I have great childhood memories of listening to this episode each year, hot chocolate in hand.
Here at The Listeners’ Club, we’ve continued this annual tradition. This year, let’s go to Salzburg, Austria, the birthplace of Mozart, where ornate baroque domes and spires seem to compete for attention on the skyline. Let’s start with the intimate sounds of the Salzburg’s Carillion playing Silent Night. This familiar melody was composed eleven miles up the Salzach River in the town of Owandorf ba Soizburg. According to legend, Franz Gruber composed this melody out of necessity after his organ broke down at St. Nicholas parish church. Silent Night was first performed in this intimate church with guitar accompaniment on Christmas Eve, 1818.
Now, here are the full bells of the Salzburg Cathedral: