It was a ‘Silent Night’ indeed when this beloved song was composed. If not for a broken pipe organ, the world likely would 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. During the time, it was most likely sheer desperation as opposed to inspiration that motivated him.
As Father Mohr ready for Christmas Eve Mass within his church in the small Austrian village of Oberndorf, someone found that the church’s ancient organ was out of commission. With only a few days to visit as well as the nearest repairman a few days journey away, it appeared as if Mass will have to commence without musical accompaniment.
Feeling thwarted in his efforts to organize an exciting Christmas, Fr. Mohr set about to manufacture another plan. This was in the midst of all his regular parish duties, like the blessing of the newborn infant. With this particular call, Fr. Mohr was suddenly struck by the words to what has become known as “Silent Night,” or “Stille Nacht” within his native tongue. Quickly, so as never to lose the lines that were rapidly filling his brain, he finished his call and raced home. Here he penned four stanzas, the very first 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 was able 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 lower than proficient. Undeterred, Mohr presented the phrase to his new poem to Gruber. Rounding up a dusty, little-used guitar, the 2 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. In reality, the song disappeared into near obscurity for any decade. It had been then that Free Silent Night Lyrics fell into the hands from the Strasser group of Zillertal Valley.
The 4 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 talent agent discovering some secret talent inside 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 with their rendition. Valley residents renamed it “The Song From Heaven,” because the Strasser children sounded a great deal such as a choir of angels when they performed it. They sang so beautifully, actually, the Strassers were invited to execute it before kings and queens.
The Nativity Story is remarkable in the use of music, including traditional tunes from the season including Veni Emmanuel, Carol in the Bells, and Silent Night–some choral and a few instrumental–introduced in a tasteful, tjuotf way, and coupled with an original score with by Mychael Danna that has 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 after the Strasser children began performing “The Song from Heaven.” Afterward, he asserted that it ought to “be given first spot in all future Christmas concerts” inside the domain of his rule. Whether it really was or not isn’t certain. What is certain is the fact that “Silent Night” breached King Frederick’s bounds to be loved all over the world.