Die teks, musiek en werking van “stille nag” (1818)
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The 200th centenary of the popular Christmas carol, Silent Night, is celebrated this year. It was first performed in a small town in Austria, on Christmas Eve in 1818. Sung originally in German, it is now sung in many languages all over the world. In this article an analysis from a phenomenological-analytical perspective – taking into consideration aspects regarding the structure of the text, metre, isotopy, address, temporality, the (fragmented) reception of the text, the relationship between text and tune, as well as other related aspects – is discussed. The phenomenological-analytical method is then used to analyse two versions in the Afrikaans language. These versions are compared to the German text and to each other, followed by an evaluation of their “effectiveness” as translations. It is found that the older text in Afrikaans is more coherent and consistent with regard to the original version, whereas the newest version is more fragmented and also has a more “dogmatic” slant. The views of various international hymnologists regarding the Wirkungsgeschichte (the history of the working) of the carol, are discussed and interesting possibilities for the popularity of the carol are provided, such as that the tune in itself, but also the good relationship between the text and the tune could be contributing to its popularity. It is found that the carol has a working over the two centuries that rises above certain “weaknesses” in the text and the simple nature of the tune and that it speaks deeply at pastoral, koinonial, missional and other theological levels.