One of the fun things about our recent Danube river cruise was getting a chance to share our dinner table with other passengers. We noticed that the highest percentage of travelers were also Americans, but the next largest group seemed to be British. We enjoyed dining with a few different British couples, and one thing that was mentioned more than once was that this year was the 100th anniversary of the start of the first world war. Perhaps it came up in conversation so often because we visited Vienna, the seat of the Austro-Hungarian empire. You may know that the assassination of the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary is what prompted the start of WWI (although of course it is far more complicated than that). Still, it seemed as though this anniversary was a much bigger thing in England that it is here. I assume because we didn’t join the war until much later.
But why am I sharing this history lesson with you on Christmas? Well, hang on, I’m getting there I promise.
After Mr. Q and I returned home, we saw an advertisement for All is Calm, the Christmas Truce of 1914, which was playing at Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis. We were intrigued and decided to splurge on tickets.
All is Calm is based on the incredible true story of the truce between German and Allied soldiers on Christmas Day 1914. Here is a brief explanation of the truce from history.com.
Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task: the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man’s land between the lines.
The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.
During World War I, the soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate on the battlefield, but even a world war could not destroy the Christmas spirit.”
All is Calm is performed by Cantus, a men’s vocal ensemble with 9 members. The show is mostly music, with some narration by 3 actors who quote from letters and journals of real WWI soldiers. The music was incredible, just 9 men’s voices singing in amazing harmony. Some highlights were when they sang O’ Tannebaum and of course, Stille Nacht, which they sang with snow softly falling around them on the stage. My ultimate favorite was Minuit chrétiens (O Holy Night) sung in the original French.
So, while it wasn’t the Nutcracker or Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas Tour, for us it was a much more poignant reminder of the true meaning of the season. Peace on earth and good will towards men.