O come all ye faithful.
Sung by St. Margaret’s All Boys Choir.
“Silent Night” is a popular Christmas carol, composed 1818 in Austria. It was declared an intangible cultural heritage by the UNESCO in March 2011.
The song was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at the St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf bei Salzburg. The small town on the Salzach river, part of the former Archbishopric of Salzburg, had just passed to Austria in 1816. The young priest Father Joseph Mohr had come to Oberndorf the year before, he had already written the original lyrics of the song “Stille Nacht” in 1816 at Mariapfarr, the hometown of his father in the Salzburg Lungau region, where he had worked as a coadjutor.
The melody was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, schoolmaster and organist in the nearby village of Arnsdorf. Before Christmas Eve, Mohr brought the words to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for the church service. Both performed the carol during the mass on the night of December 24.
In his written account regarding the composition of the carols, Gruber gives no mention of the specific inspiration for creating the song. According to the song’s history provided by Austria’s Silent Night Society, one supposition is that the church organ was no longer working so that Mohr and Gruber therefore created a song for accompaniment by guitar. Silent Night historian Renate Ebeling-Winkler Berenguer says that the first mention of a broken organ was in a book published in the United States, The Story of Silent Night (1965) by John Travers Moore. There is evidence that a radio play of this version was performed as a Hallmark Theatre Broadcast in 1948.
Some believe that Mohr simply wanted a new Christmas carol that he could play on his guitar. The Silent Night Society says that there are “many romantic stories and legends” that add their own anecdotal details to the known facts.