The Christmas season—and a pending Christmas concert—has seen me waxing melodic on the holiday’s wonderful music. As such, today’s TBT is predictable (if anyone were interested in predicting such a thing): it’s a look back at a short post about the 200th anniversary of the classic carol “Silent Night.”
Like “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night” is one of my favorite carols. It’s sweet and simple, but can also be rocked up (the 6/8 time signature and three-chord structure lend the tune to bluesy interpretations, and I’ll occasionally slide in some blue notes when playing the song instrumentally).
It looks like it won’t make it into our Christmas program this year—a rarity—but I’ll be sure to make room for it next year. Its more operatic cousin, “O Holy Night,” will be our finale, though. I’ve always linked the two tunes mentally because of their similar names and themes (and they’re both in 6/8). “O Holy Night” really lends itself to a hard rock interpretation, as my annual “O Holy (To)Night” cover version attests.
Without further adieu, here is Christmas 2019’s “‘Silent Night’ turns 200” (now closing in on 201):
One of my favorite Christmas carols, “Silent Night,” turns 200 this Christmas season.
The carol was originally written as a poem in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars by a village priest, Joseph Mohr, in the village of Oberndorf, Austria, in 1816. Two years later, Mohr approached the town’s choirmaster and organist, Franz Xaver Gruber, to set the poem to music. Gruber agreed, and the carol enjoyed its first performance to a small congregation, which universally enjoyed its simple sweetness.
Since then, the humble hymn has spread far and wide, and is probably the most recognizable Christmas carol globally today. It’s been covered (likely) thousands of times; it’s certainly become a staple of my various Christmas performances.
This simple, sweet, powerful carol beautifully tells the story of Christ’s birth, as well as the import of that transformative moment in history, that point at which God became Flesh, and sent His Son to live among us.
As much as I enjoy classic hard rock and heavy metal, nothing can beat the tenderness of “Silent Night”—except the operatic majesty of “O, Holy Night,” objectively the best Christmas song ever written.
Merry Christmas, and thank God for sending us His Son, Jesus Christ.