The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Silent Night, Holy Night

Words: Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!, Rev. Joseph Mohr, 1816
Verses 1-3 translated by Bishop John Freeman Young (1820-1885)
Text: Rev. J. Freeman Young,  Carols for Christmas Tide (New York: 1859), No. 1
Verses 4-6 translated by Silent Night Historian William C. Egan
(Reproduced through the kind permission of Mr. Egan)

Music: "Stille Nacht," Franz Xaver Gruber (1787-1863), circa 18181
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML
Source: Silent Night -- The Original Sheet Music
Cyber sheet music by Frank Peterson
Sequenced by Douglas D. Anderson

Version VII from Franz Gruber2
Melody Only: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML
Soprano and Alto: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML
Note that the chorus repeats the last two lines of each verse.
Sequenced by Douglas D. Anderson

O. Hardwig, ed., The Wartburg Hymnal (Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House, 1918), #113
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML
This is an example of a "modern" tune and arrangement.
Harmonization: Unknown
Sequenced by Douglas D. Anderson

See Notes and Links to Translations of "Stille Nacht"

1. Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright,
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child!
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!

2. Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight!3
Glories stream from Heaven afar,
Heavenly Hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour, is born!
Christ, the Saviour, is born!

3. 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!

4. Silent Night, Holy Night
Here at last, healing light
From the heavenly kingdom sent,
Abundant grace for our intent.
Jesus, salvation for all.
Jesus, salvation for all.

5. Silent Night! Holy Night"
Sleeps the world in peace tonight.
God sends his Son to earth below
A Child from whom all blessings flow
Jesus, embraces mankind.
Jesus, embraces mankind.

6. Silent Night, Holy Night
Mindful of mankind's plight
The Lord in Heav'n on high decreed
From earthly woes we would be freed
Jesus, God's promise for peace.
Jesus, God's promise for peace.

1. From the 1855 Franz Xaver Gruber manuscript for soprano, alto, choir and organ. Gruber created this arrangement while serving as choirmaster in Hallein, Austria. Sheet music at Silent Night -- The Original Sheet Music (http://stillenacht.tripod.com/ , accessed December 31, 2006) created by Frank Petersohn. Return

2. Source: Josef Gassner, “Franz Xaver Gruber's manuscripts of Silent Night, Holy Night, with a short history of the carol,” from Alois Schmaus and Lenz Kriss-Rettenbeck, Silent Night, Holy Night: History and Circulation Of A Carol (Innsbruck-Munich: University Press, 1968). Return

3. Some editors substitute: Shepherds first saw the light. Return

Note: the punctuation of the lyrics in the musical score differ from the punctuation given in the text as found in J. Freeman Young's Carols For Christmas Tide (1859). I have followed the punctuation and capitalization as given in the text. A scan of the original can be found below.

Editor's Note:

This translation, and the translations of others, are frequently "improved" by the editors of the assorted hymnals and carol collections. Some additional and alternate verses are noted below. One example of such a minor change occurs in  Hezekiah Butterworth's The Story of the Tunes (1890, p. 198) where the last two lines in first verse are changed to: "Falls a heavenly peace."

A few other examples:

Fourth Verse, Anonymous, erroneously attributed to Bishop Young:

4. Silent night, Holy night,
Wondrous star, lend thy light
With the angels let us sing
Alleluia to our King
Christ the Savior is here,
Jesus the Savior is here!

Alternate Second Verse from The Methodist Hymnal (1932):

2. Silent night, holiest night!
Darkness flies, all is light!
Shepherds hear the angels sing;
"Allelujah! Hail the King!
Jesus, the Savior is here,
Jesus, the Savior is here."

Alternate Fourth Verse: Wings of Song (Unity Village, MO: Unity Books, 1984)

4. Holy light, perfect light,
Christ of God, Oh, how bright
Doth Thy Spirit shine always!
Healing, blessing man each day
With Thy heavenly love,
With Thy heavenly love.

Alternate Fourth Verse: Book of Worship for United States Forces (1974)

4. Silent night, holy night,
Wondrous star, lend your light
With the angels let us sing
Alleluia to our King
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Graphic Line

Sheet Music from Rev. J. Freeman Young, ed., Carols for Christmas Tide (New York: Daniel Dana, Jr., 1859), #1
SATB: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

High Resolution: Cover, Silent Night

The Sunday-School Service and Tune Book: Selected and arranged by John Clark Hollister5 (New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, 1863; hymn #15, page 34)

A. B. Goodrich, ed., A New Service And Tune Book For Sunday Schools (New York: Gen. Prot. Episc. S. S. Union and Church Book Society, 1863, New Edition, Enlarged, 1866), # 147, p. 133.

Sheet Music for "Holy Night" from Charles L. Hutchins, ed., The Sunday-School Hymnal and Service Book (Published by the Editor, Medford, Mass., 1871, 1878). Carol 17, pp. 198-9.

Sheet music from the Sunday School Book, General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Philadelphia: Lutheran Book Store, 1873, 1883), No. 65, p. 114.
Special acknowledgement was made to Rev. A. B. Goodrich for using tunes and hymns from his New Service and Tune Book for Sunday-Schools.

Sheet Music from J. P. McCaskey, ed., Franklin Square Song Collection, No. 1. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1881, p. 129.

Attribution is to "Michael Haydn." This is, presumably, Johann Michael Haydn (1737-1806), younger brother of Franz Joseph Haydn. See Wikipedia: Michael Haydn (accessed February 28, 2007). The words are identical to the Young translation; the score is substantially the same. The attribution to Haydn occurs with considerable frequency even after proof that Gruber was the author in the 1880s.
Also found in J. P. McCaskey, Favorite Songs for School and Home (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1899), p. 173.

 Sheet Music "A Child's Carol," "Original Melody. Harmony by A. Haupt" from J. H. Hopkins, ed., Great Hymns of the Church Compiled by the Late Right Reverend John Freeman Young (New York: James Pott & Company, 1887), #50, p. 81.

This is the only 19th century attribution of lyrics by Rev. Young, an oversight that would not be corrected until 1957 by the Rev. Byron Edward Underwood. See Note 5, below.

Sheet Music from Rev. Charles Lewis Hutchins, Carols Old and Carols New (Boston: Parish Choir, 1916), #28
Melody Line: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

3 Part Harmony: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

Sheet music of Carl Reinecke arrangement from "A Hymnal as Authorized and Approved for Use by the General Convention" by Episcopal Church, 1916, Page 696.

Sheet Music from O. Hardwig, ed., The Wartburg Hymnal (Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House, 1918), #113
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML
This is an example of a "modern" tune and arrangement.
Harmonization: Unknown

Also found in William Lee Hunton, ed., Favorite Hymns (Philadelphia: The General Counsel Publication House, 1917), p. 32, together with one of the worse pieces of "Silent Night" fiction ever published (Mohr, widowed on Christmas Eve, wrote this carol to help comfort his now motherless children). A more knowledgeable individual who had checked out this book from the library wrote this in the margin: "Ha! Ha! What drivel!! He was a Roman Catholic priest!!" Sadly, this fiction and other fictions such as the one concerning mice and a damaged organ are repeated by researchers who fail to fully research the history of this carol.

Editor's Note:

In 1859, Rev. John Freeman Young published a 16-page pamphlet titled Carols for Christmas Tide. The first of the seven carols in this pamphlet was "Silent Night, Holy Night." The other six carols in this publication include: "Earth Today Rejoices," "Good Christian Men Rejoice," "Here Is Joy For Every Age," "Earthly Friends Will Change And Falter," "Royal Day That Chasest Gloom," and "Good King Wenceslas." This is the first known publication of Rev. Young's now famous translation.

At that time, Rev. Young was serving as an assistant minister at Trinity Church in New York, where he would serve until his consecration as second Bishop of Florida in 1867. As early as 1863, Young's translation was being incorporated into the hymnals of the day. Within 10 to 15 years, his translation would be incorporated into the hymnals — especially the Sunday School hymnals — of most of the major US denominations.

One of the first public performances of "Silent Night" occurred the next year, but not in New York, where Young's pamphlet was published. On Christmas Eve, 1860, a choir of boys from Advent Church in Boston performed two carols on the sidewalk in front of the Daily Advertiser newspaper. The story that appeared in the Daily Advertiser was re-printed in the January 5, 1861, edition of Dwight's Journal of Music, a widely read and influential publication.

Christmas Carols. Singing carols is something rather unusual in New England, and when we read of the medieval carols, and the “yule log” at a time when

“A Christmas gambol oft would cheer.
A poor man's heart through half the year.”

it delights us to imitate the goodly German or English holiday customs with all their domestic festivities. Our Christmas Eve [1860] was gladdened by a serenade in front of the Advertiser office last evening, a genuine carolling, which, according to the ancient custom of singing canticles at Christmas, was intended to recall the songs of the shepherds. The following are the two carols with which we were favored:–

Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright, ... [all 3 verses printed]

Earthly friends will change and falter,
Earthly hearts will vary: ... [the complete carol printed]

These carols were sung by a choir of boys from the Advent Church, Green Street, who performed their parts finely. We wish them all a “Merry Christmas” and many happy returns of their annual carollings. – Daily Advertiser.

Source: Dwight's Journal of Music. Vol. XVIII, No. 14. (Boston: Saturday, January 5, 1861), p. 327; originally printed in the Daily Advertiser on Dec. 25, 1860.

Note: The Church of the Advent occupied a building on Green Street (both now gone) from 1847 through 1863. The church's present building at the corner of Mt. Vernon and Brimmer Streets was substantially complete in 1888.

Also note that both of these carols occurred in Rev. Young's 1859 pamphlet; "Silent Night" was the first carol, while "Earthly Friends" was the fifth carol. The words printed by the Daily Advertiser were identical to the words printed in Young's pamphlet. As such, it's possible that the choir was reading from Young's pamphlet.

Silent Night, Holy Night Earthly Friends Will Change And Falter

Verses 1 through 3, above, are reproduced from Bishop Young's 1859 pamphlet, including punctuation and capitalization. These verses correspond to verses 1, 6 and 2 of Stille Nacht. High Resolution scans from Bishop Young's 1859 publication: Cover, Silent Night

Mr. Egan's translation correspond to verses 3, 4, and 5 of the original. His translation was posted to the Christmas International Group at Yahoo.com on May 17, 2007. This translation was created at the request of Austria's Silent Night Society in 2006 (link below). His translation, together with Bishop Young's translation, is combined in the original order created by Rev. Mohr and distributed by the tourist office in Oberndorf, Austria on this page: Silent Night, Holy Night. For more information, see these posts by Mr. Egan to the Christmas International Group:

Previously, most sources believed that first publication Bishop Young's version occurred in 1863 (which was also the year of the death of Franz Gruber) in The Sunday-School Service and Tune Book: Selected and arranged by John Clark Hollister4 (New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, 1863; hymn #15, page 34). Below the title, a single line of text gave the only attribution: "From the Third (unpublished) Part of 'Hymns and Music for the Young.' By permission of the Author."5 However, Rev. Young's name did not appear on the page; neither did the names of Mohr or Gruber. This would be a harbinger; Young's relationship to his famous translation would remain largely unknown until Underwood's 1957 article. Hollister accurately reprinted the music and the translation; this would not always be true, as evidenced above. Hymns and Music For The Young - Part First was published in 1860. It is believed that "Silent Night" was to be included in the "Part Third" of this series, which was never published.

But although Young's name did not appear on the "Silent Night" page, it did appear on another. In addition to this hymn, Hollister reproduced four other hymns from Young's Hymns and Music For The Young:

The first three have only the following attribution: "From 'Hymns and Music for the Young,' by permission of the author." However, "All Thy Works, O Heavenly Father" had that attribution, plus one other: Rev. J. F. Young. This, then, is the only clue which might have led the careful scholar from Hollister's "Silent Night" to John Freeman Young. Evidently, few made the connection. However, that connection alone would have been an unsupported leap, as "Hymns and Music for the Young" contained other hymns not authored by Bishop Young.

What did make the case was J. H. Hopkins's 1887 publication Great Hymns of the Church Compiled By The Late Right Reverend John Freeman Young (New York: James Pott & Company, 1887). On page 81, Hymn 50, Young's name was identified as author of the translation (although the author of the original lyrics is listed as "Anonymous"). This would be, however, the last association of the name and the hymn until Rev. Byron Edward Underwood's 1957 article, "Bishop John Freeman Young: Translator of 'Stille Nacht.'" See note 5 below.

In time, Young's translation would arguably become the most popular of the English "translations" of Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!

For additional information, see Notes About Silent Night, Holy Night. For additional biographical details, see John Freeman Young.

Note:

4. At the time, Mr. Hollister was Superintendent of the Sunday-School of St. Paul's Church, New Haven, CN. Return

5. Rev. Byron Edward Underwood, the author of  "Bishop John Freeman Young: Translator of 'Stille Nacht'", The Hymn (official publication of The Hymn Society), October 1957, pp. 123-130). This is a significant article in the history of the John Freeman Young translation. Because it is under copyright, it is not reproduced here. I was able to review a copy obtained on inter-library loan. Return

Correction:

I had previously been under the mistaken impression that Bishop John Freeman Young had been the author of the hymn "Wonderful Night." However, in Great Hymns of the Church (J. H. Hopkins, ed., New York: James Pott & Co., 1887), credit for the lyrics is given to Dr. Joh. Frederick Meyer (1772-1848); the translation was provided by the Rev. Milo Mahan, D. D.; the tune "Christmas Eve" was composed by Dr. Conrad Kocher.

Doug Anderson
January 18, 2007

Public Domain Recordings:

A Garritan Community Christmas for MP3s:
    Silent Night, Dan Powers
    Silent Night, David Morehead
    Silent Night, Sam Ferrara

Instrumental sheet music to this and 12 other carols may be downloaded from Sally DeFord Music, http://www.defordmusic.com/carolsforpiano.htm (site accessed September 30, 2006). An MP3 of this arrangement is also available at that page.

Ron Clancy, author of the Christmas Classics series of Christmas carol books, has now created a number of "The Story Behind The Music" YouTube videos recounting the histories of numerous Christmas carols, including this carol.

The Stories Behind The Music Of
Silent Night

 

Recommended!

For links to all of Clancy's carol videos, go to
Christmas Classics Videos

I do not have any financial or other relationship with Ron Clancy, The Christmas Classics, or YouTube.

 


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