Silent Night

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Silent Night

Silent Night is a traditional and popular Christmas carol. The original lyrics of the song Stille Nacht were written in German by the Austrian priest Fr. Josef Mohr and the melody was composed by the Austrian headmaster Franz X. Gruber. The version of the melody that is generally sung today differs slightly (particularly in the final strain) from Gruber's original.

History

The carol was first performed in the Nicola-Kirche (Church of St. Nicholas) in Oberndorf, Austria on December 25, 1818. Mohr had composed the words much earlier, in 1816, but on Christmas Eve brought them to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for them. The reason for this is unclear, since guitars were normally associated with drinking— perhaps Mohr simply wanted a new carol for the Midnight Mass, but tradition has it that the organ at the Nicola-Kirche was not working that night (a popular version of the story claims that mice had eaten out the bellows).

Silent Night Museum and Memorial Chapel in OberndorfThe Nicola-Kirche was demolished in the early 1900s due to flood damage and due to the fact that the town's centre was moved up the river to a safer location, with a new church being built there close to the new bridge. A tiny chapel, called the "Stille-Nacht-Gedächtniskapelle" (Silent Night Memorial Chapel), was built in the place of the demolished church and a nearby house was converted into a museum, attracting tourists from all over the world, not only but primarily in December.

The original manuscript has been lost, however a manuscript was discovered in 1995 in Mohr's hand and dated by researchers at ca. 1820. It shows that Mohr wrote the words in 1816 when he was assigned to a pilgrim church in Mariapfarr, Austria, and shows that the music was composed by Gruber in 1818. This is the earliest manuscript that exists and the only one in Mohr's handwriting. Gruber's composition was influenced by the musical tradition of his rural domicile. The melody of Silent Night bears resemblance to aspects of Austrian folk music and Yodelling.

Another popular story claims that the carol, once performed, was promptly forgotten until an organ repairman found the manuscript in 1825 and revived it. However, Gruber published various arrangements of it throughout his lifetime and we now have the Mohr arrangement (ca. 1820) that is kept at the Carolino Augusteum Museum in Salzburg.

English lyrics

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 

Silent night, holy night, 
Shepherds quake at the sight. 
Glories stream from heaven afar, 
Heav'nly hosts sing Alleluia; 
Christ the Savior is born; 
Christ the Savior is born. 

Silent night, holy night, 
Son of God, love's pure light 
Radiant beams from Thy holy face, 
With the dawn of redeeming grace, 
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth; 
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth. 
Original German lyrics
from an 1860 autograph (Autograph VII) by Franz Gruber
Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! 
Alles schläft; einsam wacht 
Nur das traute heilige Paar. 
Holder Knab im lockigten Haar, 
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh! 
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh! 

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! 
Gottes Sohn! O wie lacht 
Lieb´ aus deinem göttlichen Mund, 
Da schlägt uns die rettende Stund, 
Jesus in deiner Geburt! 
Jesus in deiner Geburt! 

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! 
Die der Welt Heil gebracht, 
Aus des Himmels goldenen Höhn 
Uns der Gnaden Fülle läßt seh´n 
Jesum in Menschengestalt, 
Jesum in Menschengestalt 

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! 
Wo sich heut alle Macht 
Väterlicher Liebe ergoß 
Und als Bruder huldvoll umschloß 
Jesus die Völker der Welt, 
Jesus die Völker der Welt. 

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! 
Lange schon uns bedacht, 
Als der Herr vom Grimme befreit, 
In der Väter urgrauer Zeit 
Aller Welt Schonung verhieß, 
Aller Welt Schonung verhieß. 

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! 
Hirten erst kundgemacht 
Durch der Engel Alleluja. 
Tönt es laut bei Ferne und Nah: 
Jesus, der Retter ist da! 
Jesus, der Retter ist da! 
The modern German version has a few minor differences, and only the first, second, and sixth verses are usually sung.

Translations

It is believed that the carol has been translated into over 300 languages around the world, and it is one of the most popular carols of all time. It is often sung without musical accompaniment. It is given special significance in the Lutheran church. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

The words to Silent Night were written in the afteernoon of Christmas Eve in 1818 in a small village in the Australian Alps by a Catholic preist, Joseph Mohr. The church organist, Franz Gruber (1787-1863), composed the music. As the chuch organ needed repair, Gruber wrote the music for a bass, tenor, and two guitars. The song was first performed at midnight services that same evening. A chord-melody arrangement of this song is presented below in the key of G. The song is played in a gentle 3/4 time.

   G                                   D7  
E-----0-----|-----|-----0-----|-----|--5--5--|---2---|
B--3-----3--|--0--|--3-----3--|--0--|--3-----|---1---|
G--0--------|--0--|--0--------|--0--|--5-----|---2---|
D--0--------|--0--|--0--------|--0--|--4-----|---0---|
A--2--------|--2--|--2--------|--2--|--------|-------|
E--3--------|--3--|--3--------|--3--|--------|-------|
  Si-  lent  Night, Ho-   ly   Night  All is   calm

   G              C                     G    
E--3--3--|-----|--0--0--|--3—-2-—0--|-----0-----|----|
B--0-----|--3--|--1-----|--1--1-----|--3-----3--|--0-|
G--0-----|--0--|--0-----|--0--0-----|--0--------|--0-|
D--0-----|--0--|--2-----|--2--2-----|--0--------|--0-|
A--2-----|--2--|--3-----|--3--------|--2--------|--2-|
E--3-----|--3--|--------|-----------|--3--------|--3-|
  all is bright‘Round yon vir – gin  moth-er and child

   C                    G                     D7
E--0--0--|--3—-2-—0--|-----0------|-----—-|---5---5--|
B--1-----|--1--1-----|--3-----3---|---0---|---3------|
G--0-----|--0--0-----|--0---------|---0---|---5------|
D--2-----|--2--2-----|--0---------|---0---|---4------|
A--3-----|--3--------|--2---------|---2---|----------|
E--------|-----------|--3---------|---3---|----------|
  Ho – ly in – fant so ten-der and  mild    Sleep in 

   D#o        Em    A7    G          D7         G 
E--8--5—-2-|--3—-|--7--|--3—------|----------|------||
B--7--4--1-|--0--|--5--|--0—-3—0--|--3--1----|------||
G--8--5--2-|--0--|--6--|--0--0-0--|--2---—2--|---0--||
D--7--4--1-|-----|--5--|--0--0-0--|--0-------|---0--||
A----------|--2--|--0--|-----2-2--|----------|---2--||
E----------|--0--|-----|-------3--|--2-------|---3--||
 heav-en-ly peace----    Sleep in heave-en-ly  peace 

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