Thursday 24 December 2015

Joseph Mohr's "Stille Nacht" (Silent Night)

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
Sleep in heavenly peace.

It was Christmas Eve of 1818 and Pastor Joseph Mohr of Obendorf, Austria, had a dilemma:  his church organ had been destroyed by a recent flooding of the nearby Salzach river.  How would he get music for the Christmas service at St. Nicholas Kirche?

Mohr grabbed a poem he had written two years before and headed to the nearest village where the church organist, Franz Gruber, lived.  Gruber proceeded to write the hymn Stille Nacht, but with guitar accompaniment. 

The hymn was performed many times over the next several decades.  John Freeman Young wrote the English version, of three verses rather than the original six, in 1859.  Today, the carol has been translated into 140 languages.  The Christmas carol was simultaneously sung by German and English soldiers during the Christmas Truce of 1914.  To listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing Silent Night, visit

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