Silent Night

Silent Night

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"Silent Night" is a popular Christmas carol
Christmas carol
A Christmas carol is a carol whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas or the winter season in general and which are traditionally sung in the period before Christmas.-History:...

. The original lyrics
Lyrics are a set of words that make up a song. The writer of lyrics is a lyricist or lyrist. The meaning of lyrics can either be explicit or implicit. Some lyrics are abstract, almost unintelligible, and, in such cases, their explication emphasizes form, articulation, meter, and symmetry of...

 of the song "Stille Nacht" were written in Oberndorf bei Salzburg
Oberndorf bei Salzburg
Oberndorf bei Salzburg is a town in the Austrian state of Salzburg, about 17 km north of the City of Salzburg. It is situated on the river Salzach in the Flachgau district.-Overview:Its twin sister-town across the Salzach Bridge is Laufen in Bavaria...

, Austria, by the priest Father Joseph Mohr and the melody was composed by the Austrian headmaster Franz Xaver Gruber. In 1859, John Freeman Young
John Freeman Young
John Freeman Young , translator of the Christmas hymn Silent Night, became the second bishop of Florida in 1867. He had earlier served as an ecumenical envoy to the Russian Orthodox Church.-References:...

 (second Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Florida) 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, which was a sprightly, dance-like tune in 6/8 time
Time signature
The time signature is a notational convention used in Western musical notation to specify how many beats are in each measure and which note value constitutes one beat....

, as opposed to the slow, meditative lullaby
A lullaby is a soothing song, usually sung to young children before they go to sleep, with the intention of speeding that process. As a result they are often simple and repetitive. Lullabies can be found in every culture and since the ancient period....

 version generally sung today. Today, the lyrics and melody are in the public domain
Public domain
Works are in the public domain if the intellectual property rights have expired, if the intellectual property rights are forfeited, or if they are not covered by intellectual property rights at all...


A version recorded by Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby
Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby was an American singer and actor. Crosby's trademark bass-baritone voice made him one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century, with over half a billion records in circulation....

 is one of the fewer than thirty all-time singles
Single (music)
In music, a single or record single is a type of release, typically a recording of fewer tracks than an LP or a CD. This can be released for sale to the public in a variety of different formats. In most cases, the single is a song that is released separately from an album, but it can still appear...

 to have sold 10 million (or more) copies worldwide.


The carol was first performed in the Nikolaus-Kirche (Church of St. Nicholas) in Oberndorf
Oberndorf bei Salzburg
Oberndorf bei Salzburg is a town in the Austrian state of Salzburg, about 17 km north of the City of Salzburg. It is situated on the river Salzach in the Flachgau district.-Overview:Its twin sister-town across the Salzach Bridge is Laufen in Bavaria...

, Austria, on December 24, 1818. Mohr had composed the words two years earlier, in 1816, but on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25...

 brought them to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar
The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

 accompaniment for the church service.

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.

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.

The Nikolaus-Kirche was demolished in the early 1900s as a result of flood damage and because the town's center was moved up the river to a safer location, with a new church being built in the new town, close to the new bridge. A tiny chapel
A chapel is a building used by Christians as a place of fellowship and worship. It may be part of a larger structure or complex, such as a church, college, hospital, palace, prison or funeral home, located on board a military or commercial ship, or it may be an entirely free-standing building,...

, 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 handwriting 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
Mariapfarr is a municipality in the district of Tamsweg in the state of Salzburg in Austria....

, Austria, and shows that the music was composed by Gruber in 1818. This is the earliest manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

 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
Folk music
Folk music is an English term encompassing both traditional folk music and contemporary folk music. The term originated in the 19th century. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers....

 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 Museum Carolino Augusteum
Salzburg Museum
Housed in the Neuen Residenz , the Salzburg Museum is the museum of artistic and cultural history for the city and region of Salzburg. It originated as the Provincialmuseum and was also previously known as the Museum Carolino-Augusteum.-Origins:The Salzburg museum was set up in the early 1800's,...

 in Salzburg.

The carol has been translated into over 44 languages. It is sometimes sung without musical accompaniment.

The song was sung simultaneously in French, English and German by troops during the Christmas truce
Christmas truce
Christmas truce was a series of widespread unofficial ceasefires that took place along the Western Front around Christmas of 1914, during the First World War...

 of 1914, as it was one of the few carols that soldiers on both sides of the front line knew.

The song has been recorded by over 300 artists, particularly successful in hit versions by Enya
Enya is an Irish singer, instrumentalist and songwriter. Enya is an approximate transliteration of how Eithne is pronounced in the Donegal dialect of the Irish language, her native tongue.She began her musical career in 1980, when she briefly joined her family band Clannad before leaving to...

 (sung in Irish), Andrea Bocelli
Andrea Bocelli
Andrea Bocelli, is an Italian tenor, multi-instrumentalist and classical crossover artist. Born with poor eyesight, he became blind at the age of twelve following a soccer accident....

 (sung in Italian), Stevie Nicks
Stevie Nicks
Stephanie Lynn "Stevie" Nicks is an American singer-songwriter, best known for her work with Fleetwood Mac and an extensive solo career, which collectively have produced over forty Top 50 hits and sold over 140 million albums...

, Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby
Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby was an American singer and actor. Crosby's trademark bass-baritone voice made him one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century, with over half a billion records in circulation....

, Mahalia Jackson
Mahalia Jackson
Mahalia Jackson – January 27, 1972) was an African-American gospel singer. Possessing a powerful contralto voice, she was referred to as "The Queen of Gospel"...

, an acoustic version by American R 'n' B group Boyz II Men
Boyz II Men
Boyz II Men is an American R&B vocal group best known for emotional ballads and a cappella harmonies. They are the most successful R&B group of all time, having sold more than albums worldwide. In the 1990s, Boyz II Men found fame on Motown Records as a quartet, but original member Michael McCary...

, and an instrumental version by Mannheim Steamroller
Mannheim Steamroller
Mannheim Steamroller is an American music group founded by Chip Davis and Jackson Berkey, known primarily for its modern recordings of Christmas music. The group has sold 28 million albums in the U.S. alone.-Beginnings:...

. The Mannheim Steamroller backs narratives known as "The God Song" or "God's Silent Night" which have been distributed to radio stations across the USA. Simon & Garfunkel recorded an ironic version of the song
7 O'Clock News/Silent Night
"7 O'Clock News/Silent Night" is the twelfth and final track on Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, a 1966 album by Simon and Garfunkel. The track consists of an overdubbing of two contrasting recordings: a simple arrangement of the Christmas carol "Silent Night", and a simulated "7 O'Clock News"...

 in which a depressing radio news report is overheard in the background. Sergio Franchi
Sergio Franchi
Sergio Franchi was an Italian tenor.Franchi was born in Cremona, Italy. His father wanted him to become an electrical engineer, so he studied both music and engineering simultaneously. The family moved to South Africa in 1952, where Sergio worked part-time as a draftsman, while continuing to study...

 recorded a version sung in Italian ("Santa Notte") on one of his earliest recordings for Durium Records
Durium Records
Durium Records was the name of two United Kingdom-based record labels.-Durium :Durium Records was a United Kingdom-based record label of the 1930s. Its product and marketing were similar to that of the United States record company Hit of the Week Records...

 for Canadian distribution. It was recorded on Franchi's Billboard Top 40 RCA Victor Abum, The Heart of Christmas. There have been choral recordings by the King's College Choir
Choir of King's College, Cambridge
The Choir of King's College, Cambridge is one of today's most accomplished and renowned representatives of the great British choral tradition. It was created by King Henry VI, who founded King's College, Cambridge in 1441, to provide daily singing in his Chapel, which remains the main task of the...

 and the Vienna Boys' Choir
Vienna Boys' Choir
The Vienna Boys' Choir is a choir of trebles and altos based in Vienna. It is one of the best known boys' choirs in the world. The boys are selected mainly from Austria, but also from many other countries....

. Other recordings include Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey is an American singer-songwriter, record producer, and actress. She made her recording debut with the release of her eponymous studio album in 1990, under the guidance of Columbia Records executive Tommy Mottola, whom she later married in 1993...

 from Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas (Mariah Carey album)
Merry Christmas is a holiday album and fourth studio album by American singer Mariah Carey. Released by Columbia Records on November 1, 1994, the album features both cover versions of popular Christmas tunes, including some original material...

(1994); Linda Ronstadt
Linda Ronstadt
Linda Ronstadt is an American popular music recording artist. She has earned eleven Grammy Awards, two Academy of Country Music awards, an Emmy Award, an ALMA Award, numerous United States and internationally certified gold, platinum and multiplatinum albums, in addition to Tony Award and Golden...

 from A Merry Little Christmas (2000); Christina Aguilera
Christina Aguilera
Christina María Aguilera is an American recording artist and actress. Aguilera first appeared on national television in 1990 as a contestant on the Star Search program, and went on to star in Disney Channel's television series The Mickey Mouse Club from 1993–1994...

 from My Kind of Christmas
My Kind of Christmas
My Kind of Christmas is the first Christmas album by American recording artist Christina Aguilera. It was released on October 24, 2000.- Background :...

(2000), Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King"....

 from Elvis' Christmas Album
Elvis' Christmas Album
Elvis' Christmas Album is the fourth album by Elvis Presley on RCA Victor Records, LOC 1035, a deluxe limited edition, released in October 1957, and recorded at Radio Recorders in Hollywood. It has been reissued in numerous different formats since its first release...

(1957); Tori Amos
Tori Amos
Tori Amos is an American pianist, singer-songwriter and composer. She was at the forefront of a number of female singer-songwriters in the early 1990s and was noteworthy early in her career as one of the few alternative rock performers to use a piano as her primary instrument...

 from Midwinter Graces
Midwinter Graces
Midwinter Graces is the 11th solo studio album by singer-songwriter Tori Amos. Released on November 10, 2009 , through Universal Republic Records, it is the first seasonal album by Amos, and is also notable for marking her return to a more classical, stripped-down, baroque sound with various...

(2009), and Richard Marx
Richard Marx
Richard Noel Marx is an American adult contemporary and pop/rock singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer. He had a string of hit singles in the late 1980s and 1990s, including "Endless Summer Nights", "Right Here Waiting", "Now and Forever", and "Hazard"...

 from The Christmas EP
The Christmas EP (Richard Marx EP)
The Christmas EP is a holiday album by musician Richard Marx. It was released on November 1st, 2011. Marx plans on recording an additional seven songs to add to the five songs to make a full length album for release in 2012...


In 1943, the Austrian exile Hertha Pauli
Hertha Pauli
Hertha Pauli was an Austrian journalist, author and actress.- Biography :Hertha Ernestine Pauli was born in Vienna, the daughter of the feminist Bertha Schütz and the medical scientist Wolfgang Pauli...

 wrote the book Silent Night. A Story of a Song, in which she explained to American children the origin of the song. The book was illustrated by Fritz Kredel
Fritz Kredel
Fritz Kredel was a German graphic designer who was born in Michelstadt-im-Odenwald. In his early years, he studied under Rudolf Koch at Offenbach School of Design, and developed skills in woodcuts. Koch and Kredel collaborated on A Book of Signs and The Book of Flowers...


Westlife are an Irish boy band established on 3 July 1998. They are to disband in 2012. The group's line-up was Nicky Byrne, Kian Egan, Mark Feehily, Shane Filan, and Brian McFadden . The group are the only act in British and Irish history to have their first seven singles peak at number one...

 performed the song live in 2001. In 2006, Brad Paisley
Brad Paisley
Brad Douglas Paisley is an American singer-songwriter and musician. His style crosses between traditional country music and Southern rock, and his songs are frequently laced with humor and pop culture references....

 recorded the song for Brad Paisley Christmas
Brad Paisley Christmas
-Credits:*Jim "Moose" Brown - organ, keyboards*Randle Currie - steel guitar*Eric Darken - percussion*Stuart Duncan - fiddle*Kevin Grantt - bass guitar, upright bass*Aubrey Haynie - fiddle*Wes Hightower - background vocals*Mike Johnson - Dobro, steel guitar...

. In 2007, Damien Leith
Damien Leith
Damien Leo Leith is an Irish Australian singer–songwriter. He was the winner of the Network Ten music contest Australian Idol 2006Damien has also guest co-hosted 'The Morning Show' on Network Ten on 18 July 2011.He was born in Ireland and now lives in Australia with his Australian wife, Eileen...

 included a recording on a limited special Christmas edition of Where We Land
Where We Land
Where We Land is the first studio album by Australian Idol 2006 winner Damien Leith. It was released by Sony BMG in Australia on 18 August 2007, and in Ireland on 28 September 2007. Leith produced the album for seven months and created the album entirely with acoustic songs...

. In 2010 Annie Lennox
Annie Lennox
Annie Lennox, OBE , born Ann Lennox, is a Scottish singer-songwriter, political activist and philanthropist. After achieving minor success in the late 1970s with The Tourists, with fellow musician David A...

 included this track on her new album A Christmas Cornucopia
A Christmas Cornucopia
Metacritic gives A Christmas Cornucopia a weighted average score of 73 based on 9 critics, meaning "generally favorable reviews". Ian Wade of BBC Music gave the album a very positive review, saying "this collection could find itself becoming as much a part of the holiday season as arguments with...



  • Fredrik Sixten
    Fredrik Sixten
    Sven Fredrik Johannes Sixten is a Swedish composer, cathedral organist and conductor. Sixten was born in Skövde, Sweden. He earned his Bachelor of Arts at the Royal College of Music, Stockholm. He studied composition with Professor Sven-David Sandström and is now recognized as one of Sweden's...

     "Mary's Cradlesong" for soprano solo and mixed choir combines the tune sung by the choir and a poem by a Swedish author (also with an English translation).
  • Bertold Hummel
    Bertold Hummel
    Bertold Hummel was a German composer of modern classical music.- Life :Bertold Hummel was born November 27, 1925 in Hüfingen . He studied at the Academy of Music in Freiburg from 1947 to 1954, taking composition with Harald Genzmer, and cello with Atis Teichmanis...

    : Silent Night, 3 Variations (1974) for Speaker and mixed Choir a cappella.
  • Bobby Sherman
    Bobby Sherman
    Robert Cabot "Bobby" Sherman, Jr. , is an American singer, actor and occasional songwriter, who became a popular teen idol in the late 1960s and early 1970s.He graduated in 1961 from Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, California...

    's 1970 chart hit "Goin' Home (Sing A Song Of Christmas Cheer)" includes an interpolation of "Silent Night".
  • The Russian composer Alfred Schnittke
    Alfred Schnittke
    Alfred Schnittke ; November 24, 1934 – August 3, 1998) was a Russian and Soviet composer. Schnittke's early music shows the strong influence of Dmitri Shostakovich. He developed a polystylistic technique in works such as the epic First Symphony and First Concerto Grosso...

     arranged a sinister-sounding version in 1978 for violin and piano.
    Transcribed for violin and string orchestra by Eckart Schloifer in 2002
  • Deliverance performed a heavy metal
    Heavy metal music
    Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the Midlands of the United Kingdom and the United States...

     version on their 1992 album, What a Joke
    What a Joke
    What a Joke is a 1991 album by the Christian speed/thrash metal band Deliverance. It features many short "joke" songs, hence the title of the album. The album speaks out against those who think the idea of combining Christianity and heavy metal is evil, especially in the song "It's the Beat"...

  • Chuck Billy
    Chuck Billy (vocalist)
    Chuck Billy is an American vocalist, who is best known as the vocalist for the thrash metal band Testament.-Testament:Chuck Billy replaced Steve "Zetro" Souza, future Exodus vocalist, in the mid-1980s when the band was still called Legacy. Following his arrival, Testament released their first...

     with various other metal stars such as Scott Ian
    Scott Ian
    Scott Ian Rosenfeld , better known by the stage name Scott Ian, is an American musician, best known as the rhythm & lead guitarist for the heavy metal band Anthrax. Ian is also the guitarist and a founding member of the crossover thrash band Stormtroopers of Death...

     performed their arrangement of "Silent Night" in a death/thrash metal manner.
  • Professor RJ Ross
    Professor RJ Ross
    Professor RJ Ross is a smooth jazz and classic R&B singer and pianist. His debut solo album Face To Face was released by Music Force Media Group in 2008.-Early career:Ross's career began as a founding member of Detroit funk band Brainstorm...

    combined soul, jazz and original melodies to spice up "Silent Night" in his song "On This Silent Night".
  • Grammy Winner Darlene Koldenhoven recorded her four-part women's arrangement of "Silent Night" on her Heavenly Peace CD awarded Best Holiday Album 2007 by Broadcaster's worldwide.

External links