Monday, December 24, 2018

Today in Music (1818): “Silent Night” performed for first time

Stille Nacht, Heilge Nacht (Silent Night, Holy Night)

Joseph Mohr (words, Franz Gruber (music), John Freeman Young (English translation)

Writer(s):Joseph Muhr, Franz Gruber (see lyrics here)

First Charted: December 16, 1905 (Haydn Quartet)

Peak (all versions): 2 PM, 19 GA, 30 HR, 2 AC, 54 CW, 16a RB, 8 UK, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 30.0 US (Bing Crosby)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions – all versions): 3.0 radio, 186.26 video, -- streaming

Silent Night

Bing Crosby with the Guardsmen Quartette

First Charted: December 21, 1935

Peak: 7 US, 30 HR, 19 GA, 8 UK, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 30.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, -- video, -- streaming

Awards (Mohr/Gruber):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Bing Crosby):

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

We might never have heard this popular Christmas carol if it hadn’t been for mice rendering a church organ useless. Popular accounts have suggested that mice ate out the bellows of the organ SF at Nikolaus-Kirche (Church of St. Nicholas) in Oberndorf, Austria. WK Father Joseph Mohr was concerned about having music for the 1818 Christmas Eve service. He’d written a poem called “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” and presented it to his friend Franz Xaver Gruber, a headmaster and amateur composer, hoping he could do something with it for guitar. SF The pair gave the first public performance of the song with only Mohr’s guitar accompaniment at the service. SF

Since then, the song has become one of the most popular in the world, having been translated into more than 44 languages. WK However, it is John Freeman Young’s English translation published in 1859 that is the most frequently sung today. WK

It became the most recorded song of the first half of the 20th century. PM In Britain, it is the most recorded Christmas song of all time. SF To date, it has been recorded by more than 300 artists including Elvis Presley, Simon & Garfunkel, Linda Ronstadt, Boyz II Men, Stevie Nicks, Tori Amos, Mannheim Steamroller, Mahalia Jackson, Andrea Bocelli, Sinead O’Connor, and Brad Paisley. WK

The best known version is the 1935 recording by Bing Crosby with sales estimated as high as 30 million. PM Bing proved to be successful with a few other tunes as well; he sold over 300 million records with well over 300 charted songs over 35 years time (1928-63) and landed 36 songs at #1, more than any other recording act in history. PM


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First posted 7/8/2012; last updated 12/20/2023.

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