More good Christmas music (12/24/20): The most beloved carol

Every day between now and New Year’s Day I’m selecting tunes or carols you won’t hear on FM Radio but they are certainly deserving of airplay.


The original text, “Stille Nacht,” was written in German in 1816 by assistant preacher Joseph Mohr (1792-1848) in Mariapfarr, a small village in the Lungau region of present-day Austria. That’s according to a document written by Mohr himself which was not discovered until 1996. In 1817, when Mohr moved 100 kilometers to Oberndorf, a small village in the Salzach valley near Salzburg, he took the text with him.

Mohr, who was deeply commited to social issues, got to know the village school teacher and organist Franz Xaver Gruber (1787-1863). They quickly discovered that they made a good team. Just before Christmas, they realized that the church organ no longer functioned. Years later, Gruber wrote that that was how the Christmas song came about.

“It was on December 24, 1818 that the then-assistant priest Mr. Josef Mohr at the newly established St. Nicolas parish in Oberndorf handed a poem over to substitute organist Franz Gruber, requesting a fitting melody for two solo voices without choir but with guitar accompaniment.”

The new song thus sounded out during midnight Mass on December 24, 1818 – in a humble Christmas atmosphere. Mohr sang tenor and Gruber sang bass, both accompanied on guitar.

Lots of artists have done “Silent Night.” Including a disco ensemble.

Considered the world’s prime disco big band during the 1970’s, The Salsoul Orchestra, utilizing whole sections of instruments including up to 18 violinists combined funk, Philly soul, and Latin music.

I know what you’re thinking. A disco version of “Silent Night”? Sacrilegious. Except, they didn’t do it disco-style.

So short, but so sweet. Listen.

I’ve written many times about my lifelong parish. St. Anthony’s on Milwaukee’s near south side. In my view, it’s the most beautiful church in all of Milwaukee (with all due respect to the Basilica crowd). Attending Mass here provides an exquisite experience that includes a marvelous pipe organ and choir.

As usual I was ushering at the 10:00 a.m. Mass on Christmas Day, 2012.

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