In early December 1818 Joseph Mohr, the Koadjutor (assistant priest) of the St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf bei Salzburg in Austria, gave a poem he had written to his friend Franz Gruber, schoolmaster and organist in the nearby village of Arnsdorf. He asked Mr. Gruber if he would write music for his poem, that he might write it for two solo voices with guitar accompaniment.
Because of the church organ being broken Mohr desperately wanted music to be part of the Christmas Eve service. On Christmas Eve 1818 Mohr and Gruber performed the song that they had written, the song which has become one of the most beloved of Christmas carols, "Stille Nacht", in English, "Silent Night."
In 1859, John Freeman Young (second Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Florida) published the English translation that is most frequently sung today. The version of the melody that is generally sung today differs slightly (particularly in the final strain) from Gruber's original, which was a sprightly, dance-like tune in 6/8 time, as opposed to the slow, meditative lullaby version generally sung today. The carol has been translated into roughly 140 languages.
Autograph of the carol by Franz Xaver Gruber (ca. 1820).
Please join me in taking a moment to celebrate the 194th anniversary of this wonderful song. Hum along with the following video, sing it with your family this evening before going to bed, go to the Christmas Eve service this evening at your church and be part of it through the carol, my wife and I will be. Please enjoy.
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh...Sleep in Heavenly peace.