Von Himmel Hoch

I think it’s reasonable to say our family is somewhat musical. Overall, there’s a fair number of us who can sing on key, plunk a tune on an instrument, or at least appreciate the gathering together and making of music.

At Christmas, this family musical-ness is epitomized by one particular piece—the German Christmas Song.

The German Christmas Song (actually titled “Von Himmel Hoch Da Komm Ich Her: Weihnachtsfantasie für Klavier,” by Ferdinand Keller) is a medley of carols many of us grew up playing on the piano. As kids, the octave tremolo in the intro marked the maturation of our handspan. The full keyboard run in the finale highlighted our developing technique. Every year my grandmother Ruth requested that someone—anyone—play the German Christmas Song.

Does anyone know the history of this piece? From where did we get it?

The arrangement must be old. I researched Ferdinand Keller and the publisher Robert Lienau and they’re both from the 19th century. All I know is that we’ve always been playing this piece.

In our house, pulling the German Christmas Song out from the piano bench marks the beginning of the holiday season. I love this time of year! I also love the personalization of the song, how each of us plays it according to our own skill, style and interpretation.

This year, we’re going to ask Sarah to play the German Christmas Song. Sarah is Ruth’s great-granddaughter (Dave’s daughter) and she’s much, much more than somewhat musical.

Thanks Sarah! You play beautifully!

And here it is—the German Christmas Song. Click here to hear to listen! While you’re listening, share your memories of this special piece.


Sarah is relishing her senior year of high school at Powers Catholic High School in Flint, MI. She keeps extremely busy with piano, organ, drama and all the other activities that come with high school. Her goal for college next fall is to study piano.

Need music for the German Christmas Song?
As far as I know, “Von Himmel Hoch Da Komm Ich Her: Weihnachtsfantasie für Klavier,” by Ferdinand Keller, is no longer in print. Instead, I searched high and low online for copyright ownership to the arrangement. I found nothing. I also scanned through English translations of German copyright laws (my understanding of such is extremely limited however).

Because of its age, I’m going by the assumption that its beyond copyright ownership. Thus, I’ve posted a pdf copy of the music here.

If anyone finds I’m wrong in posting this, please let me know. I want to be respectful to copyright laws and intellectual property. In the meantime, Merry Christmas to all and have fun playing the music!