It had been a ‘Silent Night’ indeed when this beloved song was first composed. If not for a broken pipe organ, the world likely could have been without its most favored Christmas carol. Perhaps it was that very silence that inspired the Reverend Joseph Mohr to pen those now-famous words in 1818. At the time, it was most likely sheer desperation rather than inspiration that motivated him.
As Father Mohr ready for Christmas Eve Mass within his church inside the small Austrian village of Oberndorf, someone found that the church’s ancient organ was away from commission. With only a few days to go and also the nearest repairman a couple of days journey away, it appeared as if Mass will have to commence without musical accompaniment.
Feeling thwarted in his efforts to plan an exciting Christmas, Fr. Mohr set planning to manufacture another plan. This was in the midst of all of his regular parish duties, including the blessing of a newborn infant. About this particular call, Fr. Mohr was suddenly struck through the words as to what is currently known as “Silent Night,” or “Stille Nacht” in the native tongue. Quickly, in order not to lose the lines which were rapidly filling his brain, he finished his call and raced home. Here he penned four stanzas, the initial 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.
When 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 truth that, along with his organ prowess, Gruber have also been a guitar player. Gruber emphatically informed him, however, that his guitar skills were under proficient. Undeterred, Mohr presented the phrase to his new poem to Gruber. Rounding up a dusty, little-used guitar, both men composed the song that would provide music for Oberndorf’s Christmas Mass.
It had been 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 for a decade. It was then that #1 Silent Night Lyrics – Amazing!! fell to the hands of the Strasser family of Zillertal Valley.
The 4 young, musically-trained Strasser children spent many an hour or so drumming up business for parents’ glove-making business by singing before the shop. In a manner not unlike a contemporary talent agent discovering some secret talent in the unlikeliest of places, “Silent Night” was brought 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 lot such as a choir of angels whenever they performed it. They sang so beautifully, in fact, the Strassers were invited to do it before kings and queens.
The Nativity Story is remarkable in its usage of music, which include traditional tunes from the season like Veni Emmanuel, Carol from the Bells, and Silent Night–some choral plus some instrumental–introduced in a tasteful, tjuotf way, and along with an original score with by Mychael Danna that includes a distinctly middle-eastern flavor. You might like to read Jonathan Broxton’s more in depth review of the film’s music.
It could 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 following the Strasser children began performing “The Song from Heaven.” Afterward, he asserted that it should “be provided first place in all future Christmas concerts” in the domain of his rule. Whether or not this really was or otherwise isn’t certain. What is certain is the fact that “Silent Night” breached King Frederick’s bounds to be loved the world over.