On the eve of the holiday. The story of the popular Christmas carol "Silent Night"
Music always accompanied winter holidays. They were celebrated cheerfully, festively and solemnly. The status of Christmas, as one of the main holidays in the Church calendar, implied the need for composing music to accompany it.
"Christmas carol" – is a concise and polysemantic concept. Different musical directions are mixed in it - folk and church music, ancient and contemporary, English, German, Spanish, Russian and Ukrainian.
Christmas songs and carols roll round from our childhood and go alongside through the whole life.
Christmas music sounds everywhere: in the churches, in the street, in our houses when we gather around a festive table. Christmas carols have undergone many changes throughout their centuries-old history, they are especially popular in the Western countries.
The story of creation of one of the most popular Christmas carols - "Silent Night, Holy Night" is rather interesting. According to one of the versions, the accent was on the wonderful inspiration that came down from heaven upon the priest Joseph Mohr on the Christmas Eve, and then descended upon the organist Franz Xaver Gruber, the author of the music.
... Shortly before Christmas, the church organ came out of action, and the saddened priest went roaming the snow-covered mountain slopes in search of peace of mind and wondering – what to do? How to celebrate the Christmas liturgy without music?! Entering one of the houses, Father Mohr saw the baby in the cradle and the mother bending over him. This scene enchanted him with the naiveté and grandeur; he imagined vividly what was happening in Bethlehem. Returning back, he wrote the lyrics of the song in one breath and took it to the organist Franz Gruber, who lightning-fast wrote the most unpretentious melody, designed for guitar accompaniment.
It is considered proved today that the text of "Silent Night" was created in 1816. Joseph Mohr was only 24 years old at that time. After graduating from school, he earned his living as a singer and accompanist. Guitar was his favorite instrument. In 1815, at the age of 23, Mohr graduated from a seminary in Salzburg and was ordained a priest. Then Father Josef Mohr was sent to small town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, where he assisted the abbot in St. Nicholas church (nowadays, the chapel is built at that place to commemorate the creation of the carol "Silent Night). Franz Gruber was the organist in that church, as well as the school teacher in the neighboring village of Arnsdorf. He was the man whom Father Josef Mohr addressed on the Christmas eve with the request to write music for his poem "Silent night". It was on December 24, 1816. The triumphant march of "Silent Night" across countries and continents started at that day.
It is interesting that Russia played an important role in increasing the popularity of the song. Thus, the Emperor Alexander I heard this carol in 1822 during his visit to Austria. As the legend implied, the artists were so worried during the performance in front of august personages (Austrian Emperor Franz I was present at the concert as well) that they could sing only when they were hidden behind a curtain. Nevertheless, Alexander I was so pleased with the performance, that after the concert, the Emperor hugged the performers and invited them to come to Russia, where the Russian public heard the "Silent Night" for the first time.
Paradoxically, the more popular “Silent Night” became, the fewer people in the world (and even in Austria itself, where it appeared) remembered who the authors of the masterpiece were. Practically from the very beginning of its triumphal procession around the world, the carol was considered a folk Tyrolean song. By the fifties of the 19th century, studies were being conducted to establish authorship, and the music of the song began to be attributed in turn to Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Mozart or other eminent musicians.
… Famous artists from many countries were singing Christmas carol "Silent Night" during the years. A marvelous tenor, whom many experts consider the best voice of the 20th century - Mario Lanza (1921- 1959), executed the most heartfelt and profound performance of the carol. The performance of this composition by Bing Crosby (1903-1977), an American singer and actor, one of the most successful performers, a master of pop-jazz crooning* is considered the most popular in the world.
Among the Russian-language performances, first, it is worth paying attention to the version performed by Ivan Rebrov (surname at birth - Hans-Rolf Rippert, 1931 - 2008). Ivan Rebrov was the stage name of the German singer (bass) with four octaves voice range. He performed Russian songs and romances, folk songs of many other countries, operatic repertoire and religious music.
UNESCO declared "Silent Night" an intangible cultural heritage in 2011.
Metal disc by Polyphon Musikwerke with the recording of this melody is stored the Museum Collection. Of all the famous Christmas songs "Silent Night", perhaps, is the most gentle and intimate. A prayer for peace and quiet sounds unostentatiously in it.
* Crooning manner of singing - from English “croon” - hum in a low voice, quietly and sincerely. Crooner - a vocalist, adhering to the principles of swing phrasing. Initially they performed accompanied by big bands. The so-called crooning manner of singing included many elements: traditions of blues and Hawaiian music, Broadway musicals and bel canto. The characteristic features of the "crooning" are a casual sound production, a narrative and elegant presentation of material, hints and imitation of conversation in pauses between the verses. The timbre of the voice also plays a special role.