Thursday, November 29, 2007

More Silent Night Ruiminations . . .

How did word of this favorite Christmas carol get spread? Read on to find out:

New Year's Eve at St. Nicholas Church, Oberndorf, 1818. That night, December 24, the song fills St. Nicolas Church at Midnight mass. Mohr sings tenor, Gruber bass, and the church choir joins the refrain of each verse, while mohr accompanies on the guitar. By the time the last notes die away, the worshipers are a-buzz with joy and wonder at the song. On Christmas Day, the song is being hummed and sung in dozens of homes around Oberndorf. "Silent night, holy night."

And in Oberndorf, they would sing their beloved carol again and again each Christmas. The song might have stayed right there had it not been for an organ builder named Karl Mauracher, who came to repair the pipe organ at Arnsdorf in 1819 and made several trips to Oberndorf over the next few years, finally building a new organ for St. Nicholas in 1825.

Whether Mauracher found the music and lyrics on the organ or they were given to him by Gruber, we don't know. But he carried the song to the Ziller Valley east of Innsbruk, where he shared it with two local families of travelling folk singers, the Rainers and the Strassers, who began to sing it as part of their regular repertoire. The following Christmas of 1819, the Rainer Family Singers sang "Stille Nacht" in the village church of Fügen (Zillertal).

Three years later they sang it for royalty. Emperor Francis I of Austria and his ally Czar Alexander I of Russia were staying in the nearby castle of Count Dönhoff (now Bubenberg Castle). The Rainer Family performed the carol and were invited to Russia for a series of concerts.

In 1834 the Strasser Family Singers sang "Silent Night" for King Frederick William IV of Prussia. He was so taken with what the Strassers called their "Song of Heaven," that he commanded it to be sung by his cathedral choir every Christmas Eve. It spread through Europe and in 1839 the Raniers brought the song to America as the "Tyrolean Folk Song." Since then it has been translated into over 300 languages and dialects.

Various English translations blossomed, but the definitive English version of the song was penned by Rev. John Freeman Young and first published in The Sunday-School Service and Tune Book (1863).

One more to go . . .

Christmas hints for caring for a live, cut tree:
  • Remove about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of trunk from the base and get in water as soon as possible. Don't cut at an angle (too hard to secure tree in stand). Don't remove outer layers of bark (this layer takes up water most efficiently).
  • If you can't place tree in stand right away, place in a large bucket of water and store in a cool place.
  • Choose a stand with adequate water capacity for your tree. (minimum of 1 gallon of water)
  • Check water level in stand daily. Don't let water line fall below the bottom of the trunk.
  • Don't add anything to the water. Clean fresh water is the best way to keep the tree fresh.
  • Use a tree skirt; helps evaporation, helps keep needles from water, and helps keep Fido out of it.
  • Position tree away from heat ducts or any heat source. Not only is it a fire hazard, it can dry out your tree prematurely.
  • Use low-heat lights to keep tree from drying out.

Tomorrow I'll announce the winners of our November contest!

Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles. --Unknown


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