It had been a ‘Silent Night’ indeed when this beloved song was first composed. If not for a broken pipe organ, the world likely would have been without its most popular 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 likely sheer desperation instead of inspiration that motivated him.
As Father Mohr prepared for Christmas Eve Mass within his church inside the small Austrian village of Oberndorf, someone learned that the church’s ancient organ was from commission. With only some days to travel and the nearest repairman a couple of days journey away, it appeared as though Mass would have to commence without musical accompaniment.
Feeling thwarted in the efforts to plan an unforgettable Christmas, Fr. Mohr set going to manufacture another plan. This was in the midst of all of his regular parish duties, such as the blessing of a newborn infant. On this particular call, Fr. Mohr was suddenly struck by the words as to what is now referred to as “Silent Night,” or “Stille Nacht” in the native tongue. Quickly, in order to not lose the lines which were rapidly filling his brain, he finished his call and raced home. Here he penned four stanzas, the first of 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 were able to finagle from him the reality that, along with his organ prowess, Gruber have also been 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 two men composed the song that will provide music for Oberndorf’s Christmas Mass.
It had been unlikely at the time that either Mohr or Gruber had any inkling from the impact they would have on history. Actually, the song disappeared into near obscurity for a decade. It was then that Lyrics To Silent Night Here fell to the hands of the Strasser group of Zillertal Valley.
The 4 young, musically-trained Strasser children spent many one hour drumming up business for parents’ glove-making business by singing before the shop. In a manner not unlike a modern day talent agent discovering some secret talent in 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,” considering that the Strasser children sounded a great deal such as a choir of angels whenever they performed it. They sang so beautifully, in fact, the Strassers were invited to execute it before kings and queens.
The Nativity Story is remarkable in their utilization of music, which includes traditional tunes from the season such as Veni Emmanuel, Carol of the Bells, and Silent Night–some choral and some instrumental–introduced in a tasteful, tjuotf way, and along with a genuine 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 may 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 right after the Strasser children began performing “The Song from Heaven.” Afterward, he declared that it ought to “get first devote all future Christmas concerts” in the domain of his rule. Whether it really was or otherwise isn’t certain. Precisely what is certain is that “Silent Night” breached King Frederick’s bounds to become loved around the world.