This Past Christmas Eve 2018 – 200 Years of Silent Night

WILLS POINT – If you sang “Silent Night” with at church or with your family on Christmas Eve, you probably did not realize that your rendition was specially timed.

Christmas Eve 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the first presentation of “Stille Nacht.” The words were originally penned as a poem in 1816 by Joseph Mohr. Two years would pass before Franz Gruber composed the melody that rings in our hearts today.

If you sang

Mohr was a young man serving as an assistant priest in a parish in the Austrian village of Ramsau when he wrote the poem. He became acquainted with Gruber who was an educated musician and an organist in two local churches near Oberndorfer. Following their collaboration on that same day, the two presented the now-familiar Christmas song at the Christmas Eve service 1818 at the St. Nicholas Church.

The original rendition was sung with guitar accompaniment by Mohr. There has been speculation for many years that the guitar came into play because the church organ was had been damaged by local flooding. Years later, the entire church was destroyed by floods. It was replaced in 1906 with  the Silent-Night Chapel. A celebration of “Silent Night” is held at 5:00 p.m. every Christmas Eve at the chapel.

Only one know autographed score is in existence today, having been discovered and authenticated in 1995.

Mohr originally wrote only three verses. He later added a verse thought to be one of thanksgiving for the end of military conflict that had plagued the area for years.

Silent night! Holy night!
Long we hoped that He might,
As our Lord, free us of wrath,
Since times of our fathers He hath
Promised to spare all mankind!
Promised to spare all mankind!

The popular English version we sing is not the only translation of the original. Another translation renders the third verse particularly beautiful as

Silent night! Holy night!
Brought the world peace tonight,
From the heavens’ golden height,
Shows the grace of His holy might
Jesus, as man on this earth!
Jesus, as man on this earth!

Although we reserve the song for the Christmas season, its truth rings clear no matter what time of year.

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