It had been a ‘Silent Night’ indeed when this beloved song was initially composed. If not for a broken pipe organ, the world likely could have been without its most popular Christmas carol. Perhaps it was that very silence that inspired the Reverend Joseph Mohr to pen those now-famous words in 1818. During the time, it was most likely pure desperation instead of inspiration that motivated him.
As Father Mohr prepared for Christmas Eve Mass within his church in the small Austrian village of Oberndorf, someone discovered that the church’s ancient organ was from commission. With just a few days to visit and the nearest repairman a few days journey away, it appeared like Mass will have to commence without musical accompaniment.
Feeling thwarted within his efforts to plan a memorable Christmas, Fr. Mohr set planning to manufacture another plan. This was in the midst of all his regular parish duties, such as the blessing of a newborn infant. On this particular call, Fr. Mohr was suddenly struck from the words from what is currently known as “Silent Night,” or “Stille Nacht” in his native tongue. Quickly, in order to not lose the lines that have been rapidly filling his brain, he finished his call and raced home. Here he penned four stanzas, the initial 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, as well as his organ prowess, Gruber was a guitar player. Gruber emphatically informed him, however, that his guitar skills were less than proficient. Undeterred, Mohr presented the text to his new poem to Gruber. Rounding up a dusty, little-used guitar, both men composed the song that could provide music for Oberndorf’s Christmas Mass.
It was unlikely during the time that either Mohr or Gruber had any inkling from the impact they might have on history. In reality, the song disappeared into near obscurity for any decade. It absolutely was then that #1 Silent Night Lyrics – Amazing!! fell into the hands of the Strasser family of Zillertal Valley.
The four young, musically-trained Strasser children spent many one hour 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 brought to the Strassers. Rearranged from two-part to four-part harmony, the Strasser children were catapulted to instant renown using their rendition. Valley residents renamed it “The Song From Heaven,” since the Strasser children sounded so much like a choir of angels whenever they performed it. They sang so beautifully, in fact, the Strassers were invited to perform it before kings and queens.
The Nativity Story is remarkable in their utilization of music, which include traditional tunes in the season like Veni Emmanuel, Carol from the Bells, and Silent Night–some choral and a few instrumental–introduced in a tasteful, tjuotf way, and coupled with an authentic score with by Mychael Danna that has a distinctly middle-eastern flavor. You may want to read Jonathan Broxton’s more in depth overview 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 right after the Strasser children began performing “The Song from Heaven.” Afterward, he stated that it should “be given first place in all future Christmas concerts” inside the domain of his rule. Whether it really was or otherwise not isn’t certain. What is certain is the fact “Silent Night” breached King Frederick’s bounds to become loved the world over.