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Silent Night, Holy Night

A song conquers the world from Zillertal!

Every year, people around the world sing the soothing Christmas classic "Silent Night". Without the great help of musical families from Zillertal, the story of what’s possibly the world’s most famous song would have been a very different one though.

In 1819, the widely known Zillertal organ builder Karl Mauracher travelled to Oberndorf bei Salzburg to conduct a repair. While there, he stumbled upon the lyrics and sheet music for the carol "Silent Night" by Joseph Mohr and Franz Xaver Gruber and took a copy back to Fügen with him. After studying and performing the song with the church choir, the Zillertal musical dynasties Rainer and Strasser incorporated it into their repertoires at the start of the 19th century and took it from Zillertal to Europe and the world. In their colourful folk costumes, they performed Tirolean songs in squares and on global stages from Paris to London and St. Petersburg.

Worth knowing
  • The first ever performance was in Oberndorf bei Salzburg in 1818.
  • Lyrics: Joseph Mohr; guitar accompaniment: Franz Xaver Gruber
  • The first performance outside Salzburg was in Fügen parish church in 1819.
  • Musical families from Zillertal took the song from Fügen out into the world. The most famous of these were the Rainer and Strasser families.
  • The carol originally had six verses rather than just the three usually sung today. Even now, this original version is still sung at Christmas mass in Fügen.
  • Today "Silent Night" is sung in hundreds of languages, including several regional African ones. Several films tell the story of where the eternal, immortal carol began.
  • An old Zillertal custom – the song is specially for Christmas and may only be sung on or after Christmas Eve.
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