The Battle of the Songs: A Classic Christmas Battle Between Two Orchestras [25 Days of Holiday Songs]

Welcome to another round of The Battle of Songs. We are continuing on the theme of Christmas songs. This time, I picked two different covers of a traditional song. These two versions were written in minor keys, which, to people’s surprise, I am a big fan of. I do love songs in minor keys as they are, as I believe, express more deep emotions. 

Enough of my rambling, you are probably asking what the song is? Well, click to find out!

Mannheim Steamroller – God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

We start the battle off with Mannheim Steamroller’s version of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”, The song starts off all mellow with a trumpet lead playing the opening verse. Then, at the 25-second mark, there is a dramatic pause for a couple of seconds with the drums playing a small solo. Then, the song spirals into different melodies and different directions with various instruments. Somehow, in this mass array, the different themes and instruments come together to create a unified song.

I discovered Mannheim Steamroller when I was in my high school years. I love their Christmas songs and, along with their rendition of “Carol of the Bells”,  their “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” is one of my favorite instrumental tracks to play during the holiday seasons. I just love the dramatic effects with the phrasing of each section and by the instrumentation. 

(Note: Mannheim Steamroller gets brownie point because they originated from Omaha, Nebraska, my hometown.)

Trans-Siberian Orchestra with Savatage – Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24

Next up is Trans-Siberian Orchestra with Savatage and their song “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24”. Now, I am cheating a little bit because this song isn’t really just “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”. It also features “Carol of Bells”. Well, it mostly features “Carol of Bells” and just one line from 
“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”. But, it counts in my rule book as 
Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Mannheim Steamroller are the most well-known modern orchestras that have great Christmas music. Besides, having these two bands battling with their own rendition of 
“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” sounds fun, right?

What I love about the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is that they aren’t a classical orchestra, but feature both classical and modern instruments. And, 
“Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” shows this off well with a heavy metal guitar lead. Many people don’t know is that I love heavy metal. People think I love just like bubblegum pop, but I love metal too. I have been listening to Ozzy Osbourne’s album No More Tears and System of the Down all this week.

The reason why I like metal is that of the dramatic and soul-searing riffs performed by the lead guitarist. It created a thrill and excitement for me. And that is what I feel when I listen to the metal guitar solo in 
“Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24”. 

The other section to listen to is the piano break in the middle of the song. The way how the piano goes down the scale in a dramatic effect is eye-opening and just wow!

The story behind the song is inspiring. You can read an excerpt from Christianity Today where band member Paul O’Neill explained about the song:

We heard about this cello player born in Sarajevo many years ago who left when he was fairly young to go on to become a well-respected musician, playing with various symphonies throughout Europe. Many decades later, he returned to Sarajevo as an elderly man—at the height of the Bosnian War. only to find his city in complete ruins.
I think what most broke this man’s heart was that the destruction was not done by some outside invader or natural disaster—it was done by his own people. At that time, Serbs were shelling Sarajevo every night. Rather than head for the bomb shelters like his family and neighbors, this man went to the town square, climbed onto a pile of rubble that had once been the fountain, took out his cello, and played Mozart and Beethoven as the city was bombed.

He came every night and began playing Christmas Carols from that same spot. It was just such a powerful image—a white-haired man silhouetted against the cannon fire, playing timeless melodies to both sides of the conflict amid the rubble and devastation of the city he loves. Sometime later, a reporter tracked him down to ask why he did this insanely stupid thing. The old man said that it was his way of proving that despite all evidence to the contrary, the spirit of humanity was still alive in that place.

The song basically wrapped itself around him. We used some of the oldest Christmas melodies we could find, like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Carol of the Bells” part of the medley (which is from Ukraine, near that region). The orchestra represents one side, the rock band the other, and single cello represents that single individual, that spark of hope.

What Will It Be?

Now it is your turn to vote! Who will be the victor of the first-ever “Battle of the Songs”? Tell me in the comments below! Also, tell me why you choose a particular version! I can’t wait to hear what you guys think!

I am also part of The “Battle of the Bands” blog collection. After you vote, please visit the other battles from this blogger circle. There are really interesting battles!

🎄 Visit TOSSING IT OUT by clicking HERE.
🎄 Visit MIKE’S RAMBLINGS’by clicking HERE.
🎄 Visit CURIOUS AS A CATHY by clicking HERE.
🎄 Visit JINGLE JANGLE JUNGLE by clicking HERE.
🎄 Visit ANGELS BARK by clicking HERE.
🎄Visit THE DOGLADY’S DEN by clicking HERE.


  1. Breimeier, Russ. “A Christmas Story.” Christian History | Learn the History of Christianity & the Church, Christianity Today, 26 Feb. 2014,

119 thoughts on “The Battle of the Songs: A Classic Christmas Battle Between Two Orchestras [25 Days of Holiday Songs]

  1. rhianwestbury says:

    I’ve never heard of either of these songs. But I do love that you mention that the Trans-Siberian Orchestra feature both classical and modern instruments x

  2. Welcome to BoTB with your ‘Battle of the Songs’ this month! Did you play along on the first? I’m a bit whacked out with the craziness I was thrown into at the end of November. I’m rebounding but I ain’t going to lie to you I’m slow going right now. That being said, please be patient with me.:)

    You pitted two excellent versions against one another with two equally wonderful bands. Mannheim Steamrollers while furtastic just didn’t quite do it for me this morning. Maybe another day it would be a different story. My vote goes to Trans-Siberian Orchestra! I love their full instrumental assemble peppered heavily mind you with rock vibes!! 🙂

    I hope you’ll stop by to give your opinion and vote in my mid-month BoTB on Saturday! Of course, you’re welcome to visit anytime. 😉 Have a joyful and blessed day.

    PS: I loved the TSO backstory! Very inspiring cellist!

  3. successunscrambled says:

    Ever tried to enjoy the season without music? I think not. There is something about the music that is essential for the holiday spirit.

  4. luciwest says:

    Hadn’t heard either of these songs and didn’t know either of the bands/orchestras. So besides this battle of the songs being a fun idea, I also got exposed to new-to-me stuff. Thank you!

  5. Although I REALLY love both, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version has always been my all-time favorite Xmas song. I saw them live and it was definitely a bucket-list-worthy show!

  6. I just love these Christmas songs and to tell the truth I can’t say which orchestra is better, as both of them are just awesome. They’ve moved me into a Christmas mood! 🙂

  7. Joanna says:

    This “battle” reminds me when one of my favorite bands, Scorpions, played together with the Orchestra of Berlin. It was so amazing, rock and classic on the same stage. So my vote goes for the Transsiberian orchestra.

  8. I would also go with the Trans Siberian Orchestra, but something else caught my eye! Reading about you listening to Ozzy Osbourne gave me a flash back to like 9th grade, when I listened to “I just want you” on repeat for like 2 months. Those were the days! 🙂

  9. Eileen Mendoza Loya says:

    I would vote for the Mannheim Steamroller version. I don’t know why but it just appealed to me better. I love the part when I heard individual instruments at one point.

  10. Ok. I DEFINITELY prefer the Trans-Siberia orchestra. I love how it increases in tempo as it gets to carol of Bells. Also helps that I love those carols too. Beautiful!

  11. I really enjoyed listening to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra with Savatage. I like the mix of modern instruments and classical orchestra! I love all this holiday cheer you’re spreading!

  12. Nancy_ycnan says:

    Wonderful sharing! Thank you very much for this amazing article. What a good post and I love your good written I will show this to my friends.

  13. Arlee Bird says:

    I tend to like music in a minor key as well for the reason you suggest–the music is more haunting which causes me to reflect more on a variety of things.

    Two great choices. I’ve never had any TSO in my collection, but I got on a Steamroller kick back in the eighties. Have listened to them in a long while so it was refreshing to hear this music again.

    Give my vote to Mannheim Steamroller.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

  14. Rachel says:

    I don’t know why, but somehow concerts at Christmas are always so much more magical than other times of the year! All the instruments and elegance of a Christmas orchestra is beautiful!

  15. alison says:

    What fun to compare christmas songs and different genres. Trans-Siberian Orchestra definitely has a great beat and fun to listen to.

  16. Hello; so nice to see a new regular at BOTB. 🙂 This is a terrific battle between orchestras. I have to vote for Trans Siberian however. I’m a “heavy metal” kind of gal. 😉 Cheers!

  17. Samantha Immer says:

    I love all the background story! It makes the songs even more special. I have so many memories growing up listening to TSO; I feel like I will always be biased towards them 🙂

  18. Matija Antonić says:

    I am sorry I heard the first 50 seconds of the trans-siberian orchestra and I didn’t need to hear yn more nor any other song, the begging is smooth, the transition is done perfectly, the choice of music, everything is perfect, they are the winners for me.

  19. Princess Quinn says:

    Hearing songs like this makes me very happy. I love the jam and music coordination. I have definitely enjoyed listening.

  20. Two very tough choices for me. I’ve always loved Mannheim Steamroller and had to have ALL of the Fresh Aire albums when they came out. But then, I learned of TSO, and I fell in love with them as well. So who do I vote for?

    I think Christmas time is a time for nostalgia, so I’m going to vote for Mannheim Steamroller – but honestly, I could vote either direction on any other given day. Today’s vote : Mannheim Steamroller

    #BattleOfTheBands : Christmas Edition

  21. JL Prince says:

    I can’t choose either! They are both my favorite types of Christmas music to listen to. They do a great job with pepping up the classics for sure!

  22. Music is timeless. But, it has its own categories. Classic and contemporary Christmas songs have always been a hit in the musical industry! This is such a fun share 🙂 perfect for the holidays

  23. Stephen T. McCarthy says:

    Merry Christmas, AMY.
    I almost didn’t even see that you had posted a Battle this time. Glad I scrolled down a little bit on your blog.

    As others have said, this is a tough Battle because both versions bring the power and majesty. And ‘God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen’ ranks high on my list of favorite Christmas songs.

    And incidentally, I too am a fan of music in minor keys. Something in me really resonates to that.

    I’m not normally a fan of Heavy Metal music at all. But T-S O doesn’t get too crazy here with pointless (and cliche) guitar solos, like most Heavy Metal groups do. They keep it under control and don’t wander off too far from the basic melody.

    When push comes to shove, like so many others here have done, I’m going to side with T-S O. What little I have been exposed to their music, I like them pretty well.

    ~ D-FensDogG @ STMcC Presents ‘BATTLE OF THE BANDS’

  24. I don’t even have to listen to tell you that my choice is easily TSO. Besides, Christmas Eve/Sarajevo is probably my absolute favorite Christmas song. I would love to see it live one day!

  25. Gervin Khan says:

    Both songs are really beautiful and it so hard for me to choose which is good or not because during these holidays season any kind or type of Christmas songs really makes me happy!

  26. Elizabeth O says:

    I know you are tired of my non committed way of refusing to choose. As I said on your last challenge, I see all holiday music as special as they hold memories for many families including my own.

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