It had been a ‘Silent Night’ indeed when this beloved song was 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 as opposed to inspiration that motivated him.
As Father Mohr ready for Christmas Eve Mass in his church inside the small Austrian village of Oberndorf, someone found that the church’s ancient organ was away from commission. With only some days to travel as well as the nearest repairman a few days journey away, it appeared as if Mass would have to commence without musical accompaniment.
Feeling thwarted in the efforts to organize an exciting Christmas, Fr. Mohr set planning to manufacture another plan. This was in the middle of all his regular parish duties, like the blessing of a newborn infant. With this particular call, Fr. Mohr was suddenly struck from the words as to what is currently called “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 very 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.
When 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 fact that, as well as his organ prowess, Gruber was a guitar player. Gruber emphatically informed him, however, that his guitar skills were lower than proficient. Undeterred, Mohr presented the phrase 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 was unlikely during the time that either Mohr or Gruber had any inkling of the impact they would have on history. Actually, the song disappeared into near obscurity to get a decade. It was then that Silent Night Lyrics fell into the hands in the Strasser group 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 while watching shop. In a manner not unlike a modern day talent agent discovering some secret talent within the unlikeliest of places, “Silent Night” was exposed 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 like a choir of angels when they performed it. They sang so beautifully, in reality, the Strassers were invited to do it before kings and queens.
The Nativity Story is remarkable in the usage of music, including traditional tunes of the season like Veni Emmanuel, Carol from the Bells, and Silent Night–some choral plus some instrumental–introduced in a tasteful, tjuotf way, and coupled with an authentic score with by Mychael Danna that includes a distinctly middle-eastern flavor. You might want to read Jonathan Broxton’s more detailed report on 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 ought to “get first place in all future Christmas concerts” within the domain of his rule. Whether or not this really was or not isn’t certain. Precisely what is certain is the fact that “Silent Night” breached King Frederick’s bounds to get loved around the world.