24 December 2010

Silent Night

190 years ago, the carol "Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht" was heard for the first time in a village church in Oberndorf, Austria. The congregation at that Midnight Mass in St. Nicholas Church listened as the voices of the assistant pastor, Fr. Joseph Mohr, and the choir director, Franz Xaver Gruber, rang through the church to the accompaniment of Fr. Mohr's guitar. On each of the six verses, the choir repeated the last two lines in four-part harmony.
On that Christmas Eve, a song was born that would reach the hearts of thousands of people throughout the world.
It’s been translated into at least 44 languages and sung by untold millions every December from small chapels to great cathedrals.
During World War I, the carol was sung simultaneously in English and German by troops during the Christmas truce of 1914, as it was one of the few carols that soldiers on both sides of the front line knew.
The song has been recorded by over 300 artists, particularly successful in hit versions by Enya (sung in Irish), Andrea Bocelli or Bing Crosby.

Susan Boyle, the Scottish former church volunteer who first appeared on Britain's Got Talent and stunned the judges silly, offers us a beautiful version of Silent Night in her her record-breaking debut album I Dreamed a Dream.
Listen and enjoy.

If you feel like doing a fill in the gaps activity based on this widely-known song, click on its name.
Come on now, it's very easy!

13 December 2010


John Lennon was born in Liverpool in the autumn of 1940.

His early years were certainly not easy. His father worked away for long periods on a ship, and essentially he was raised by his aunt. As he did not have the guidance of his parents in his formative years, it is perhaps understandable that John Lennon became disruptive at school.
The turning point in his life though came when he developed a strong interest in skiffle, a type of rock and roll music, during his teenage years.
It was while playing for a skiffle band he had formed at school that he met Paul McCartney. The two struck up an immediate friendship, and developed a fine partnership, writing and composing songs. After performing under several band names the pair, along with George Harrison and Pete Best, settled on calling themselves The Beatles. The drummer, Pete Best, was replaced later by Ringo Starr, and soon afterwards The Beatles were signed by George Martin for EMI records.
Lennon and McCartney were the creative force behind the group, and the amount of quality material they produced was amazing. They began touring the world and were hugely popular, especially in the US.
Around 1966, Lennon met Yoko Ono. Although the couple were immediately attracted to each other, John was married to Cynthia Powell and they had a child.
John and Yoko eventualy married in 1969. In those early years together, they devoured a fair quantity of psychedelics such as LSD, and stories of violence towards one another were in the press.
In 1970, Paul McCartney left the Beatles, causing tension between himself and John. A year later Lennon released the hugely popular ‘Imagine’ album. Together he and Yoko campaigned for world peace. Calling for an end to the Vietnam War offended the American government deeply, and he nearly lost his green card as a result.
From 1975 to 1979, John Lennon produced no music of any real quality, preferring to stay at home with his young son Sean, whom Yoko had borne. If he had known what was to follow it is highly likely that he would have stuck with that peaceful lifestyle.
Unable to repress the musical genius inside himself, he wrote the excellent album ‘Double Fantasy’. On December 8, 1980, he was accosted by a young man outside his apartment in New York and asked to sign a copy of the album. When John returned to the apartment later that day, that young man, called Mark Chapman, shot and killed him.
Chapman received a life sentence for his madness, but the rest of the world lost a unique musical genius. Lets all be glad at least, that John gave us a taste of his magic.

"Imagine" ,which is one of his best-known songs, first appeared on his 1971 album, Imagine.

Lennon commented that the song was "an anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic song, but because it's sugar-coated, it's accepted."

Yoko Ono commented "It's not like he thought, 'Oh, this can be an anthem,'"Imagine" was "just what John believed -- that we are all one country, one world, one people. He wanted to get that idea out."

Since its release, "Imagine" has appeared on many lists of favourite songs and influential songs; e.g. it is listed as the 3rd greatest song on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

If you want to enjoy this mythical song you can watch the video below.
You can also practise your listening and vocabulary skills with the following activities that I have found at Mª Jose´s Blog.

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