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Poetry to music

December 2, 2010
Times Leader

ONE OF the most loved Christmas songs was born on Dec. 24, 1818.

Joseph Mohr, assistant priest at the newly established parish of St. Nicola in Oberndorf, Austria, showed a poem to the church's organist Franz Xaver Gruber.

Mohr, who is thought to have written those lyrics just two years prior, asked Gruber to compose a tune for soprano, tenor and choir. The accompaniment was to be provided by a guitar.

The carol was primarily performed at the church for the next several years, mostly going unheralded until making its way to New York in 1839 amd then to the rest of the world when Christian missionaries were responsible for getting the song to all continents at the turn of the century. Today, translations into over300 languages and dialects are known.

This great song got its start in a poor, cold, drafty little mountain church. And it was written for a guitar because, as legend has it, a mouse had chewed through the bellows of the church organ, ironically silencing the music for the Christmas Mass. However, the colaborationi between the young priest and the church organist saved the day.

At midnight Mass, Mohr and Gruber along with a small choir of children, took center stage and held the "world premier" of one of the world's most beloved Christmas tunes which has been recorded by nearly every singer who has ever produced a Christmas album and is sung at nearly every church on earth during the holiday season.

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 Saviour is born

Christ, the Saviour 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



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