by Roger Thomas

This content is part of a series.

Silent Night (3 of 3)
Series: Songs of Christmas
Roger Thomas
Luke 2:1-14

Introduction: ''Silent Night is a lifesaver.'' That's what Country music star Travis Tritt calls the favorite Christmas carol. Tritt explains that he spent many years playing out-of-the-way joints before he made it big in the music industry. The seedy bars and nightclubs he started out in were often dangerous places. Drunken fans would start fights over the smallest matters. However, Tritt says he discovered a surefire way to restore peace in such situations.

Just when the bar fights would start to get out of hand and bikers reached for the pool cues and rednecks headed for the gun racks, he would signal his band to start playing Silent Night. Even if it were the middle of the July, he would start singing Silent Night. It always worked. The bar would grow quiet. The fights would stop. He says, ''Sometimes they'd even start crying, standing there watching me sweat and play Christmas carols.'' (Twang! The Ultimate Book of Country Music Quotations, compiled by Raymond Obstfeld and Sheila Burgener (Henry Holt and Company)

Many interesting stories have developed around the origins of ''Silent Night.'' Not all of them are completely true, according to music historians. For example, one version claims that Pastor Joseph Mohr of St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Germany, wrote the words on Dec. 24, 1818. He did so, the story says, to have a song to sing by guitar-accompaniment on Christmas Eve. He needed to use guitar because his church pipe organ malfunctioned when mice had eaten through the bellows.

Joseph Mohr did write the lyrics-two years earlier, while serving at another church. On Christmas Eve 1818, he did decide he wanted a new carol for the midnight service. The organ worked fine. He just wanted something a bit different. He went to his friend, Franz Gruber, a schoolteacher, the church's organist and choirmaster, to ask for help in setting his poem to music. In a few short ...

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