03 December 2011

The Story Behind TSO's "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24"

In putting together my list of Christmas videos for this blog, I tried to include a variety of types of music:  some classical, some contemporary, some choral, some instrumental, etc.  I have fairly eclectic tastes in music, so many different types of music appeal to me for a wide variety of reasons.  But then I suppose that's kind of the point of music, really.  It speaks what we cannot.  As Victor Hugo once said, "Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent."

Tonight's musical selection is "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  I've always loved the arrangement, but I figured that something as specifically titled as "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo" had to have a story behind it.  So I did a little research and discovered that the song originated when TSO heard a story about a cello player who was born in Sarajevo.  The cellist left the country when he was young and went on to play throughout Europe as a well-respected musician.  Many years later he returned to Sarajevo as an elderly man, and was distraught over the destruction of the city wreaked by his own people.

Instead of taking shelter from the nightly bombings, apparently this elderly man went into the town's main square to where a fountain used to be and climbed atop the rubble.  He took out his cello and proceeded to play classical music while the city was being bombed.  He returned to play every night, eventually switching from Mozart and Beethoven to Christmas carols.  Paul O'Neill of TSO states "it was just such a powerful image -- a white-haired man silhouetted against the cannon fire, playing timeless melodies to both sides of the conflict amid the rubble and devastation of the city he loves."  Pretty intense, indeed.  Eventually a reporter who'd also heard this story tracked down the man and asked him why he'd done such a crazy and stupid thing.  The man replied that it was his way of proving that "the spirit of humanity was still alive in that place, despite all evidence to the contrary."

Music, in all its forms, is a very powerful expression of who we are or who we choose to be.  With that in mind, enjoy the video.

Breimeier, Russ (2003-12-22). "Interview with Paul O'Neill on ChristianityToday.com". ChristianityToday.com. Retrieved 2011-12-3.


  1. I love the Trans-Siberian Orchestra! I took my niece and son to see their Beethoven's Last Night concert, and we were blown away by how good they are live. Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 was a great choice.

  2. Thanks! I love them too. I got to see them once in Memphis, but we were practically on top of the mega speakers, so it was a little harder to enjoy, but we got to see them again last year in Atlanta, and the concert was FABULOUS!

  3. hmmmm. encouraging. Especially in a season of cultural and intellectual marshmallow fluff.