Forgotify, the Last Frontier: Holiday Edition

It may not be random, but it’s relevant. 

This column has been naughty this week: straying from the strict confines of random musical selections, this week features some more festive choices. By this time in December, we’ve already heard the same old holiday tunes about 47 million times, and things are starting to sound stale. For a bit of peace on earth (and goodwill to all women), take a listen to Franz Biebl’s arrangement of “Ave Maria,” performed here by a capella group, Chanticleer.

Many people who celebrate Christmas are of an atheist or agnostic perspective and don’t put much stock in the story of a teen mother running from the cops to give birth to a baby boy in a barn. The trouble with being a musician (or a music enthusiast) who doesn’t consider themselves to be religious is the fact that a great deal of amazing, emotional music is written about Christianity, due to the simple fact that the Church had the money. If you were a composer, you had to write about God in order to get paid. Though this piece of music was written in the 1960s, it still stands that composers know who their bread and butter audiences are, and those audiences are sitting in church pews.

This arrangement of a familiar religious text integrates the Angelus prayer from the Catholic tradition to create a new piece of music. When we’ve heard 27 versions of “Silent Night,” this can be a welcome diversion.

In 2010, this piece of music was the subject of intense legal action surrounding the issue of playing an instrumental version of the piece in a public school. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case, but not before Justice Alito wrote an opinion damning Franz Biebl’s version as virtually unknown and “relatively obscure” in comparison to the wider known arrangement by Franz Schubert, proving that you don’t have to be a music lover to be appointed to the highest court in the United States.

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