Hymn #134: Silent Night, Holy Night

           Joseph Mohr (1792-1848) was assistant priest at Oberndorf an de Salzbach, Austria, when he wrote this text on Christmas Eve, 1818, after the organ had broken down.  The repairman, Karl Mauracher, helped to circulate the hymn throughout Tyrol as a “Tyrolean folk song.”  Its origins were not clarified until 1854 when Gruber sent a letter to Berlin with a detailed account of the song.

            Joseph Mohr was born December 11, 1792, in Salzburg, Austria.  His father was an army mercenary and was often away from home.  Joseph was helped by a kind priest and joined the Roman Catholic priesthood in 1815.  He died December 4, 1848, after serving various parishes.

            Franz Gruber (1787-1863) quickly composed the tune STILLE NACHT in 1818 and played it on the guitar for the Christmas Eve service at St. Nikolaus Church.  Gruber and the pastor, Joseph Mohr, sang the stanzas, and a choir repeated the last two lines in four-part harmony.

           Franz Gruber, son of a linen weaver, secretly studied violin and, later, the organ.  When he substituted for a sick organist, his father recognized his talents and allowed him to continue his musical training.  Although he wrote more than ninety compositions, he is remembered for this one hymn tune.