1. Entertainment
Send to a Friend via Email

"Silent Night"

History of an American Folk Song

By

Christmas wreath

Christmas wreath

photo: Getty Images

History of "Silent Night"

"Silent Night" is actually an Austrian hymn titled "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht." The lyrics were a poem composed by a young priest named Joseph Mohr in 1816. It was two years later when Franz Gruber wrote the melody and a guitar part so that Mohr could have the song played at Christmas mass. The carol was first sung in America by an Austrian family singing group in 1839.

"Silent Night Lyrics"

While the original version of "Silent Night" composed by Mohr had six verses, the English language version contains only three verses. The lyrics talk about the birth of Christ in very poetic language, imagining perhaps a lullaby his mother would have sung to him ("Sleep in heavenly peace").

The third English verse is perhaps the most reverent and poetic:

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love's pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth

Who has performed "Silent Night"?

There is no way to count or document the amount of times that "Silent Night" has been performed—whether in church services or by roving carolers, families, communities, or individuals. However, several folk and roots artists have recorded notable versions through the years. Artits like Brenda Lee (purchase/download), John Denver (purchase/download), and Harry Belafonte (purchase/download) have all recorded memorable versions of "Silent Night."
  1. About.com
  2. Entertainment
  3. Folk Music
  4. Intro to Folk Music
  5. Folk Songs
  6. Silent Night - Christmas Carol History of Silent Night

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.