The song has been recorded by many singers across many music genres. The version sung by Bing Crosby in 1935 is the ‘fourth best-selling single of all-time’. The song was first performed on Christmas Eve of 1818 at St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, a village in the Austrian Empire on the Salzach River in present-day Austria. In 1816, at Mariapfarr, a young priest called, Father Joseph Mohr, who had come to Oberndorf the year before wrote the lyrics of the song "Stille Nacht. Before Christmas Eve, Mohr brought the words to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for the Christmas Eve mass, after river flooding had damaged the church organ. The church was eventually destroyed by repeated flooding and replaced with the ‘Silent-Night-Chapel’.
It is unknown what inspired Mohr to write the lyrics, or what prompted him to create a new carol. Over the years, because the original manuscript had been lost, Mohr's name was forgotten and although Gruber was known to be the composer, many people assumed the melody was composed by a famous composer, and it was variously attributed to Haydn, Mozart, or Beethoven. However, a manuscript was discovered in 1995 in Mohr's handwriting and dated by researchers as c. 1820. It states that Mohr wrote the words in 1816 when he was assigned to a pilgrim church in Mariapfarr, Austria, and shows that the music was composed by Gruber in 1818. This is the earliest manuscript that exists and is the only one in Mohr's handwriting. The first edition was published by Friese (de) in 1833 in a collection of ‘Four Genuine Tyrolean Songs’.
For me, the heart and focal point of all Christmas is while the priest serves Holy Communion at Midnight Mass, and as the parishioners queue at the altar to receive the holy bread and wine, the church organist plays ‘Silent Night’ as the church choir and all parishioners sing this most traditional song. We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Love and peace Bill and Sheila xxx