It was a ‘Silent Night’ indeed when this beloved song was composed. If not for a broken pipe organ, the world likely might have been without its most favored Christmas carol. Perhaps it was that very silence that motivated the Reverend Joseph Mohr to pen those now-famous words in 1818. At the time, it was most likely pure desperation rather than inspiration that motivated him.
As Father Mohr ready for Christmas Eve Mass in the church inside the small Austrian village of Oberndorf, someone found that the church’s ancient organ was out of commission. With only some days to go and the nearest repairman several days journey away, it appeared as if Mass would have to commence without musical accompaniment.
Feeling thwarted within his efforts to organize an exciting Christmas, Fr. Mohr set going to manufacture another plan. This is in the midst of most of his regular parish duties, like the blessing of a newborn infant. On this particular call, Fr. Mohr was suddenly struck through the words to what is now called “Silent Night,” or “Stille Nacht” in the native tongue. Quickly, in order never to lose the lines which were rapidly filling his brain, he finished his call and raced home. Here he penned four stanzas, the very first in which reads in English:
Silent Night, Holy night, All is calm, all is bright, Round yon’ virgin, Mother and child. Holy infant so tender and mild, Sleep in Heavenly peace.
As he had set his words to parchment, he called upon his colleague, Franz Gruber, the musician who trained the parish choir. He managed to finagle from him the reality that, along with his organ prowess, Gruber was also a guitar player. Gruber emphatically informed him, however, that his guitar skills were lower than proficient. Undeterred, Mohr presented the text to his new poem to Gruber. Rounding up a dusty, little-used guitar, the 2 men composed the song that would provide music for Oberndorf’s Christmas Mass.
It absolutely was unlikely during the time that either Mohr or Gruber had any inkling from the impact they could have on history. Actually, the song disappeared into near obscurity to get a decade. It absolutely was then that Cool Silent Night Lyrics fell to the hands from the Strasser group of Zillertal Valley.
The 4 young, musically-trained Strasser children spent many an hour or so drumming up business for his or her parents’ glove-making business by singing in front of the shop. In a manner not unlike a modern day talent agent discovering some secret talent within the unlikeliest of places, “Silent Night” was introduced to the Strassers. Rearranged from two-part to four-part harmony, the Strasser children were catapulted to instant renown making use of their rendition. Valley residents renamed it “The Song From Heaven,” since the Strasser children sounded a great deal like a choir of angels when they performed it. They sang so beautifully, actually, the Strassers were invited to perform it before kings and queens.
The Nativity Story is remarkable in its utilization of music, including traditional tunes of the season such as Veni Emmanuel, Carol of the Bells, and Silent Night–some choral plus some instrumental–introduced in a tasteful, tjuotf way, and combined with an authentic score with by Mychael Danna that includes a distinctly middle-eastern flavor. You might like to read Jonathan Broxton’s more detailed report on the film’s music.
It might have been a king who placed “Silent Night” indelibly on the lips of Christendom. King Frederick William IV of Prussia heard it sung some 22 years after the Strasser children began performing “The Song from Heaven.” Afterward, he asserted that it must “get first devote all future Christmas concerts” in the domain of his rule. Whether it really was or otherwise isn’t certain. What exactly is certain is that “Silent Night” breached King Frederick’s bounds to become loved around the world.