Sunday, December 20, 2009

Silent Night

Have you ever heard the story of a 19th Century Austrian priest who sang a new song on Christmas Eve, accompanied by guitar because the organ wasn’t working? That story has always been dear to my heart, but it can’t be verified and some claim that it may not be true.

The lyrics to Silent Night were written by Father Joseph Mohr in 1816 and the music was written by Franz Xavier Gruber. The original song (Stille Nacht) was first sung in the Nikolaus-Kirche (St. Nicholas Church) Oberndorf, Austria, on Christmas Eve, 1818. Written in German, it has been portrayed as more lively than the current meditative version. The melody is said to resemble yodeling tunes, which were popular in Austria at that time.

Silent Night was sung during the Christmas truce of World War I because it was one of the few Christmas carols that both sides knew. The music and lyrics are now public domain, which means that they are not protected by copyright laws, but many of the different arrangements of the song are still under copyright. Favorites include Simon and Garfunkel singing while the news is playing in the background and an arrangement by Mannheim Steamroller.

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