This song has a very special meaning to my family. My Mom and Dad both majored in music and we grew up listening to them sing hymns in church. My Mom has a beautiful soprano voice. And every year when the family sang Silent Night for Christmas, she sang a soprano obbligato solo over the final verse of Silent Night.
Thirteen years ago, my Mom, who is also our SOE Dean, Dr. Parker, for those who don’t know, was diagnosed with having cancer tumors in her mouth. She was going to have surgery after Christmas in 1998 to remove the cancer and there was uncertainty to how this would leave her voice and ability to speak following the surgery. So that year as we sung Silent Night, we all faded our singing in the final verse of Silent Night as Mom sang her part, she scanned over us all when we stopped singing and noticed we were all crying. We all wondered if we would ever hear her sing again. Actually, we didn’t even know if she would be able to talk or teach again. They did end up removing ¼ of her tongue and she had to get speech therapy to not sound like she was drunk when she talked. :) So our Christmas in 1999, following her surgery, we couldn’t get through the song without tears once again… but this time because of happy tears… as she was still able to sing her part!
This sentimental story doesn’t even end here. Our sister, Amy, was the only one who “inherited” Mom’s Soprano voice. We made plans to record Amy singing Mom’s Silent Night obbligato part to give it to her as a Christmas present in Christmas of 2000. But Amy had mono that year throughout the holidays and into Christmas. So she wasn’t able to sing in the studio, and she barely even came out of her bedroom for opening presents and singing our Christmas carols in 2000. For those who don’t know, Amy died January 2001. So we never got that recording.
Mom sings her part every year for our School of Education Christmas luncheon and often tells the story of this special song. Over the past 13 years, I’ve yet to get through her singing her part without tears. This year we finally recorded some of this part (though we missed the end) with a cell phone at our Christmas luncheon. We’ll have to get the full recording in the future. - Mom singing… Silent Night…
Obbligato Solo (click here)
'Neath the silent stars a town is sleeping, Shepherds on the hills, their watch are keeping,
Their flocks are safe within the fold, Secure from danger, want, or cold,
Silent, silent night, Holy, holy, night
Sleep in peace, Silent holy night, Sleep in peace