- Click the button below to download the Silent Night music handout
(access to lesson material will require a FREE membership)
“Silent Night” (German) is a popular Christmas carol. The original lyrics of the song Stille Nacht were written in German by the Austrian priest Father Josef Mohr and the melody was composed by the Austrian organist Franz Xaver Gruber. In 1859, John Freeman Young 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. Today, the lyrics and melody are in the public domain. (Source Wikipedia)
The Christmas Story of the hymn “Silent Night”
A young assistant pastor strolled through the snow-covered village of Oberndorf, Austria. In a few days it would be Christmas Eve, but Josef Mohr knew there would be no music in his village to herald the great event.
Pausing, Mohr gazed at the scattered lights in the village. The sight of this peaceful town, wrapped in a blanket of snow, stirred his imagination.
It was on such a clear and quiet night as this that he imagined hosts of angels singing out… an incredible melody. The young cleric sighed heavily as he thought, “If only we here in Oberndorf could celebrate with glorious music.”
Standing there, his mind filled with visions of the first Christmas on earth, Josef Mohr suddenly became aware that the disappointment was fading from his heart; in its place surged a great joy. Vividly, he saw a great star. The image seemed to shape itself into the words of a poem he had written in 1816 when he was assigned to a pilgrimage in the small Alpine village of Mariapfarr, Austria.
The next day he showed the poem to Franz Gruber, the village organist, who said, “These words should be sung at Christmas, but we have no organ here – what could we use for accompaniment?”
Wait, “My Guitar,” said Gruber.
Franz Gruber studied the poem, then softly strummed the melody that came to him. Next he put the words to the melody and sang them. When he finished, his soul was ablaze with its beauty. Mr. Gruber’s beautiful music added the final touch to the poem Mohr had written two years earlier.
On Christmas Eve, 1818, in a small Austrian village, the Oberndorf choir, accompanied only by a guitar, sang for the first time the immortal hymn that begins, “Silent Night…. Holy Night.”