*under construction*

02 December 2008

Christmas Eve Sarajevo

I feel much like the White Rabbit - behind and panicked. "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye! I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!" I'm behind the proverbial 8-ball and can't seem to get in front of things or into the spirit. I've climbed trees for the perfect foliage and berries for the garland, I've baked, and then decided to put together some Christmas music for the Blog. Several pieces I wanted, I couldn't find, and then I remembered the piece with the deeply moving story behind its creation - Christmas Eve Sarajevo.

I remember the first time I heard it -- last year, just before Christmas, I was driving down the 5 -- destination: Cedros Trading Center for the perfect gift for Poor Tired Husband. The most beautiful piece came through the speakers - an instrumental melody of Carol of the Bells and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - after the haunting and beautiful cello intro, it became quite clear that the piece was far from traditional - it was very intriguing, and became very intense. I cranked the dial up, and sped down the freeway, palms drumming on the steering wheel, hair flying as my head nodding to the intense beat, I was completely lost in the rock band/orchestra music that shook my Jeep -- I'm sure the inhabitants of any car I surged past looked at me with ... concern.

After the music ended, the Deejays explained that the piece was about a lone cello player -- playing a forgotten Christmas carol in war-torn Sarajevo. That the rock band represented one of the warring sides ... the orchestra, the other, and the cello represented the lone cellist - sitting between the gunfire, playing Mozart and Beethoven on his cello.

It was such a powerful image, such a powerful piece, and the story behind the music deeply moved me. I went home and researched the story. I then went immediately to Barnes and Noble and bought the CD containing the piece I had just heard. I thought it would be filled with other such moving pieces -- I was wrong, but it was worth the money to at least have that one song.

Well, last night, I was pleased to find the music available online, and I've put it on my randomly playing Blog Music here - hopefully it will hit on one of your visits here. In the meantime, here's the moving story of the Cellist of Sarajevo:

"We heard about this cello player born in Sarajevo many years ago (Vedran Smailovic) who left when he was fairly young to go on to become a well-respected musician, playing with various symphonies throughout Europe. Many years later, he returned to Sarajevo at the height of the Bosnian War only to find his city in complete ruins.

I think what most broke this man's heart was that the destruction was not done by some outside invader or natural disaster—it was done by his own people. At that time, Serbs were shelling Sarajevo every night. Rather than head for the bomb shelters like his family and neighbors, this man went to the town square, climbed onto a pile of rubble that had once been the fountain, took out his cello, and for 22 days, played Mozart and Beethoven as the city was bombed.

He came every night and began playing Christmas carols from that same spot. It was just such a powerful image—a man dressed in evening tails and perched on a fire-scorched chair silhouetted against the cannon fire, playing timeless melodies to both sides of the conflict amid the rubble and devastation of the city he loves. Some time later, a reporter traced him down to ask why he did this insanely stupid thing. The man said that it was his way of proving that despite all evidence to the contrary, the spirit of humanity was still alive in that place.

The song basically wrapped itself around him. We used some of the oldest Christmas melodies we could find, like "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Carol of the Bells" (which is from the Ukraine, near that region). The orchestra represents one side, the rock band the other, and the single cello represents that single individual, that spark of hope."

I'm now officially in the real spirit of the season. Finally.

1 comment:

jerseygirl211 said...

Beautiful story Isa, thank you for sharing it with us. My favorite Christmas song has become MARY DID YOU KNOW. No matter who sings it, from Kenny Rogers to Clay Aiken, to me it sounds beautiful. I'll have to add it to my playlist.