It was the night before Christmas 1818, in the little village of Oberndorf, Austria.
Joseph Mohr, the vicar, had just read the Christmas passage from Luke chapter 2,
when a few verses inspired by the reading came into his mind. It would be pleasant,
he thought, if they could be used at the Christmas Eve service, and so he called
on the organist and handed him the verses.
Franz Gruber, the organist, thereupon composed a tune to which the verses could be
sung and that was how one of the greatest Christmas carols - Silent Night - was created.
That evening, the organ broke down but, not to be outdone, the vicar and the organist
sang the hymn as a duet. There the story might have ended had it not been for the
organ. When the instrument had been repaired, the organist sat down to test it and
played the tune composed by Gruber. He liked it and asked for a copy, which he took
back to his home town. There a ladies' choir added it to their repertoire and it
was included when they sang in other towns as well.
Gradually it became known by more and more people and it increased in popularity
until today it must surely be the most frequently sung Christmas carol. Moreover,
it is sung, not only in the language in which it was first written, but it has been
translated into others too, so that, all over the world, people are united at Christmas
in singing Silent Night in their own language.