Song From Heaven

Carol singers

Are the children singing Christmas carols where you live?  They are here and even after all these years, Good King Wenceleslas sounds just wrong sung in the middle of summer.

I then got to thinking about some of the other Christmas hymns/carols we sing.  Do you know the story of Silent night?

We are told that on 24 December 1818 in a little village in the Austrian Alps, Father Joseph Mohr sat alone in his study reading the Bible.  A knock on his door summoned him up into one of the higher Alps to christen a boy child born that day.  He returned to his home and noticed that the hillside was alight with candles of the faithful going to Midnight Mass.  It is recorded that with the birth of the child and the lights in the valley, he felt as if a true Christmas miracle had come to pass.

Apparently, following the church service he returned to his study and tried to put down what had happened and how it had affected him.  By morning he had a poem and on Christmas Day his friend, Franz Xavier Gruber, a music teacher put the words to music.  That day in church the priest and the teacher sang the hymn unaccompanied as the organ was once again out of order.

In the village was a family of four children who sang together all the time and this new song quickly became a favourite.  In the next few years it was heard in the surrounding valleys as their parents were glove-makers and travelled to the fairs.

After hearing the children singing to entertain themselves while at the fair in Liepzig, the Director General of Music in the Kingdom of Saxony, invited them to attend a concert in the Gewandhaus (the ancient guild house of the drapers of Leipzig).  After the concert the Director General of Music, rose and invited them up to the stage.  They sang the hymn that Father Mohr had written following which there was complete silence before rapturous applause broke out. Presumably the children then sang the rest of their repertoire.

The King and Queen were in the audience and requested to receive them.  They asked the children to come to the castle to sing their song.  So on Christmas Eve in 1832 in the Royal Saxon Court in Pleissenburg Castle, at the end of the Christmas services, the four young Strasser children sang:

“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!”

And this song, composed by a humble village priest in a tiny village in the Austrian Alps has gone on to become one of the best known and best loved carols to be sung at Christmas all around the world.

Happy Holidays

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15 responses to “Song From Heaven

  1. it is such a beautiful, gentle, song! thank you for sharing this, i did not know its history. One person, in a small village, one December night, has impacted millions for years to come. Who knew?

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  2. Isn’t it a lovely true story. And for many years after the tradition of singing the song on Christmas Eve in the teacher’s house was kept alive by his son and grandson. Fantastic.
    Happy Christmas Joss to you and yours. Look forward to reading more about you in the coming months.

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  3. I didn’t know the history of Silent Night. I’m glad you shared it.

    I’ve never heard anyone caroling in our neighborhood, but the Cub Scouts sang at two retirement homes last weekend. (They liked the second one best because they served cookies and lemonade when the show was over :))

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    • It’s never too soon to get the littlies involved with the aged and the fact that they were rewarded is good too.
      The Salvation Army and of course, church choirs are the only ones who sing carols around here. It was very different when we lived in the UK many years ago.
      Happy Christmas Janna.:)

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  4. I’ve never really thought about there being a story behind the carolls, thanks. 🙂

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  5. Hi Judith….this is slightly off topic…but not really, as I think about it…
    I’m guessing you are far enough from ChristChurch that you didn’t feel the aftershocks? …. my heart goes out to the people in the ChristChurch area…. even though it sounds like damage was limited, I’m sure nerves are frayed and fear keeps resurfacing. I had added this page to the other blog I’m part of… my friend is there in Christ Church now…and his neighbors in the first quake suffered the saddest loss that can be…my heart goes out to them all… the page…a wish for loving kindness… http://reflectionsfromafriend.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/1222-may-you-be-healthy-and-safe/ May we all be able to sleep with a sense of calmed nerves, peace and ease….

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    • Kathy thanks for this comment. People were beginning to settle down again after the major after shocks that continued well into June/July. Now they are once again faced with the destruction, homes destroyed, liquefaction in the streets. So it will not be a very happy Christmas for many of them. The eastern suburbs are once again the hardest hit. Our thoughts are with them now!
      Calm and peace may be difficult to come by in Christchurch at present.
      Thanks for the link to your other blog and the links from there. We are about 300 kms from Christchurch and this time didn’t feel any quake. But we did have a 5.8 a few weeks ago – little or no damage and thank goodness, no major injuries.

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  6. I just saw the news of an earthquake there. I hope all is well with you.

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    • Patti thanks. Yes we are all well and out friends in Christchurch seem to have escaped the damage and turmoil this time.:)

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      • So glad to hear from you, Judith, and with good news, too! We’re at our daughter’s for a couple days, I’d better get some sleep, the little ones will be up early. I’ve never heard the story behind Silent Night. Many of the old hymns and carols have interesting stories of inspiration.

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  7. How interesting – thank you for sharing the story of this Christmas carol.

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  8. Thanks for sharing this, Judith. I can’t hear Silent Night without turning into a puddle of tears…it always reminds me of my maternal grandparents.

    Hope you had a lovely Christmas!

    Wendy

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