Monday Notes

Mariah Carey, Silent Night becomes a Gospel

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[Monday Notes no.78] Silent Night is a classic Christmas song, the original version entitled Stille Nacht is Austrian and dates back to the early 1800s. We hear how American singer Mariah Carey reinterprets the song, giving it a strong gospel flavour.

The piece opens with an introduction of piano and Hammond organ. The combination of the two keyboard instruments is not common in other musical situations and can be considered a characteristic feature of gospel music. Moreover, the harmony of the song, originally very simple and built on only three chords, is modified and enriched.

Silent Night tema riarmonizzato

We can observe some typical gospel progressions such as B♭ Cm7 B♭/D Eb (measures 12-13) or Gm7 C7 E♭m7(♭5)/G♭ B♭/F F7 B♭ (measures 19-23). Chords with a bass different from the root, also known as slash chords, are typical of gospel but also of Lutheran hymns, one of the elements at the origin of gospel music.

Mariah Carey performs the entire theme of Silent Night, enriching it with continuous variations and embellishments. On the coda of the song (minute 2’45”) we can instead hear an independent part, in which the soloist duets with the choir.

Coda Silent Night - Mariah Carey

Unfortunately, this part is barely touched upon, much unlike during a gospel concert when the soloists improvise for a long time. This lovely version of Silent Night is in fact a Christmas commercial operation, so after 3’40” the song is ended, in my opinion a little too hastily.

This song is an opportunity to send my best wishes to the friends who follow my Monday notes: thank you for your support, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

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