SSND connection with ‘Silent Night’

The song “Stille Nacht,” or “Silent Night,” is known worldwide for its peaceful words and serene composition. But few know it was simply written as a song to play easily on the guitar.

Reverend Josef Mohr was a young Austrian priest who wrote the six-stanza poem in 1816 celebrating the birth of Christ. After two years of struggling to write his own music, Rev. Mohr turned to his friend, Franz Gruber, an organist and schoolteacher, to help. Although Rev. Mohr’s request came on Christmas Eve day, Gruber composed a score to match the lyrics, arranging it for guitar for midnight Mass that evening.

Sister Francelda AmenOn December 24, 1818, “Silent Night” made its worldwide debut, as Rev. Mohr sang tenor and played guitar, while Gruber sang bass and the choir joined in for the two-line refrain.

Although Gruber characterized his work as “a simple composition,” the song has been translated into over 50 languages from its original German.

Although Gruber died in 1863, the story did not end there. His descendants immigrated to the United States, settling in Quincy, Illinois. One of his great granddaughters was Sister Francelda Amen, School Sister of Notre Dame. She attended the 150th anniversary of “Silent Night” in Oberndorf, Austria, along with several other of Gruber’s ancestors, as a guest of honor. As an elementary school teacher, Sister Francelda carried on her relative’s heritage by teaching music.

Photo courtesty of SSND Archives.

 
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