The 200th anniversary of the timeless holiday song, Silent Night, is this year. The melody was written in 1818 by Franz Gruber with the text having been written two years previously by a young Austrian priest named Joseph Mohr. It was first performed on Christmas Eve in 1818 at a small Episcopalian parish in Austria. The priest, Joseph Mohr, wrote the lyrics on a whim and then gave it to Gruber who was serving as music director of the parish and asked him to set the lyrics to music with a solo guitar accompaniment. Silent Night is not only beautiful, but it is moving because of its simplicity and 6/8 tempo which creates a rocking feeling almost like a lullaby. A couple of traveling performance families took the song on the road the following year in 1819, and eventually, it made its way to the ears of both rulers, Franz 1 of Austria and Alexander 1 of Russia who both cherished the understated tune. In 1839, it crossed the Atlantic and had its first performance in New York City.
In 2017 when James and I were in the beginning stages of planning our album, we decided to record Silent Night, knowing the 200th Anniversary was coming up the following year. We both grew up with the tune, as most Westerners have. Although the text is of a religious nature, Silent Night is a song that we believe, is for everyone. After James and I compared stories of our memories on the hymn, we discovered our experience was nearly the same. On Christmas Eve, Silent Night was always the last song played at our final services. Our family churches would dim all of the house lights in the sanctuary so that only the enflamed candles scattered about and the Christmas tree on the altar would light up the building. We would sing all three verses and then be asked by the worship leader to simply drone the tune using the oo vowel on the final verse. Along with everyone else in the church, I would leave feeling moved and inspired by the moment and utterly filled with the Christmas spirit.
In our quest for coming up with a conceptual music video for the song, we decided to seek the help of an animator instead of inserting ourselves in the video. We both believe the song is universal in its nature, despite its sacred text. The concepts of peace and light and love are all things we could use a little more of. To me, a Silent Night is a peaceful night where everything is right in the world, if only for a few moments. It is that holiday spirit that floods us all and makes us want to be fair and kind to one another. Never mind the fact that some of us were fighting over televisions at Black Friday sales just a few weeks previous. On Christmas Eve when we hear Silent Night everything seems okay in the world.
Our music video is about acceptance and forgiveness and spreading joy to all who are open to it. There is nothing greater we can do for humanity in times like these. Silent Night is a perfect song that embraces all that kindness and humility can offer. We continue to hope and pray that one day our world will be restored to a place where all is calm and all is bright.
Please enjoy our celebration of one of the worlds most iconic songs and have a wonderful holiday season!
Love, Branden & James