First Performance of ‘Silent Night’ | History Hit

First Performance of ‘Silent Night’

History Hit

24 Dec 2017

On Christmas Eve 1818, “Silent Night! Holy Night!” was performed for the first time by Franz Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr in St Nicholas church in Oberndorf near Salzburg,

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht

Joseph Mohr wrote the words to Silent Night in 1816 in the form of a poem. On Christmas Eve 1818, Mohr, an assistant priest at St Nicholas, sought the help of the organist Franz Gruber. He asked Gruber to put his poem to music so that it could be performed with a guitar.

Dan joins Martyn Rady to discuss one of history's most thrilling families, the Habsburgs. Ruling for almost a millennium, their imperial vision was perhaps best realised in Emperor Frederick III's AEIOU motto: Austriae est imperare orbi universe, "Austria is destined to rule the world."
Listen Now

At St Nicholas that night, Mohr and Gruber sang the new composition, with Mohr playing the guitar. They were joined by the church choir, who repeated the last two lines of each verse.

Franz Xaver Gruber: the composer of the melody accompanying Joseph Mohr’s lyrics.

Legend has it that Mohr was forced to create the new carol because the organ at St Nicholas was broken. The story goes that the organ pipes were nibbled by mice! However this is just a story.

Nevertheless, it is true to say that on Christmas Eve in 1818, one of our best loved carols was born.

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Halleluja,
Tönt es laut von fern und nah:
Christ, der Retter ist da!
Christ, der Retter ist da!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb’ aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund’.
Christ, in deiner Geburt!
Christ, in deiner Geburt!

The carol was translated into English by priest John Freeman Young of Trinity Church, New York City.

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,
Heavenly 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.

With an unrivalled arrange of monuments - ranging from grand royal tombs to the grave of The Unknown Warrior - and spectacular architecture spanning nearly 1,000 years, join Dan Snow and Sir David Cannadine as they explore Britain's greatest church.
Watch Now


Title Image: The chapel in Oberndorf ©Gakuro

Tags: OTD

History Hit