A memorial plaque still hangs on the wall of an old school in the Austrian town of Arndorf. The inscription tells that within these walls two people – teacher Franz Grubberi priest Joseph Morv – in one impulse wrote the beautiful hymn “Silent Night, Wonderful Night…”, receiving inspiration from the Creator of the worlds. This immortal work will turn 2018 years old in 200. And many will be interested in the history of its creation.
The night that reigned in the teacher’s apartment
In Teacher Grubber’s poor apartment the lamps were not lit; it was a pitch black night. Little Marichen, the only child of the young couple, passed away into eternity. My father’s heart was also heavy, but he tried to come to terms with the loss that had befallen them. But the inconsolable mother could not cope with this blow. She did not utter a word, did not cry, remaining indifferent to everything.
Her husband consoled her, exhorted her, surrounded her with care and tenderness, and offered her something to eat or at least drink water. The woman did not react to anything and slowly faded away.
Driven by a sense of duty, Franz Grubber came to the church on that pre-Christmas evening, where a holiday was being held for the children. With sadness, he peered into their happy faces and then returned to his gloomy apartment.
The star who gave inspiration
Franz, trying to dispel the oppressive silence, began to tell his wife about the service, but in response – not a word. After fruitless attempts, I sat down at the piano. His musical talent kept in his memory so many beautiful melodies of great composers that draw hearts to heaven, delighting and consoling. What should a grieving wife play this evening?
Grubber’s fingers randomly touched the keys, and he himself looked for a sign in the sky, some kind of vision. His gaze suddenly stopped at a distant star that shone in the dark sky. From there, from the heights of heaven, a ray of love descended. He filled the man’s heart with such joy and unearthly peace that he began to sing, improvising an amazing melody:
Silent night, wonderful night.
Everything is asleep… Just not sleeping
Reverend young reader…
Full text and notes for choir – HERE
And, lo and behold! The inconsolable mother seemed to awaken from the grief that had gripped her heart. A sob burst from her chest, and tears flowed down her cheeks. She immediately threw herself on her husband’s neck, and together they completed the performance of the birthed anthem.
Christmas Eve 1818 – Psalm’s birthday
That night, Franz Grubber, through a blizzard and bad weather, rushed 6 kilometers to Pastor Mohr. Joseph, having reverently listened to the improvisation, immediately wrote the heartfelt words of the song based on its motives. And together they sang a Christmas carol, which was later destined to become famous.
Full text and notes for choir – HERE
On Christmas Day, the authors of the psalm performed it for the first time before parishioners in St. Nicholas Cathedral. And everyone clearly felt that they knew these words and melody well and could sing along, although they were hearing them for the first time.
“Silent Night” spread very quickly throughout the cities of Austria and Germany. The names of its authors remained unknown (they themselves did not seek fame). While celebrating Christmas in 1853, Prussian King Frederick William IV was shocked to hear “Silent Night.” The court accompanist was ordered to find the authors of this song.
How was this done? Grubber and More were not famous. Joseph by that time died a beggar, not having lived even 60 years. And they could have been looking for Franz Grubber for a long time, if not for one incident.
On the eve of Christmas in 1854, the Salzburg choir rehearsed Silent Night. One of the choristers named Felix Grubber sang it differently, not like everyone else. And not at all as the choir director taught. Having received the remark, he politely replied: “I sing the way my father taught me. And my father knows better than anyone how to sing correctly. After all, he composed this song himself.”
Fortunately, the choir director knew the accompanist of the Prussian king and he knew the order… Thus, Franz Grubber lived the rest of his days in prosperity and honor.
Victorious procession of an inspired Christmas hymn
Back in 1839, the Tyrolean Singers of the Reiner family performed this amazing Christmas carol in America during their concert tour. It was a huge success, so they immediately translated it into English, and “Silent Night” has since been heard everywhere.
At one time, an interesting testimony was published by Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian mountaineer who traveled in Tibet. He decided to organize a Christmas party in Lhasa. And he was simply shocked when students from British schools sang “Silent Night” with him.
The night is quiet, the night is holy…
This wonderful Christmas hymn sounds on all continents. It is performed by huge choirs, small groups and individual vocalists. The heartfelt words of the Christmas Good News, together with the heavenly melody, win the hearts of people. The inspired psalm is destined for a long life – listen to it!