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Silent Night

With the Christmas season fast approaching, I thought it appropriate to begin this blog with my favorite Christmas carol, "Silent Night". This song was originally composed for the guitar, and has inspired many legends in it's nearly two centuries of popularity. This version is my own work, and is not especially true to the original, nor does it follow the version in the LDS hymnal.

Click the song link in the list at right. You will find the files for Silent Night and Silent Night study guide, as well as About the Tablature. Click on the link, then on the file name to download it. All the files are in .pdf format, so you will need Adobe Reader to view them. Adobe Reader is a free download from You will be able to view, download, and print the documents, but not edit them, unless you have Adobe Acrobat. It's the best I can do on short notice, while I'm building my online archive.

Both the lyrics and the music to "Silent Night" are in the public domain.

The Legends

In late December, 1818, Father Joseph Mohr, pastor of the Church of St. Nicolas in Oberndorf, Austria, wanted a Christmas carol he could play on his guitar. Some romantics say the church organ was broken, and could not be fixed before Christmas. Historians tell us that Father Mohr had composed the lyrics two years earlier. What we do know is that his friend, Headmaster Franz Xavier Gruber did compose the melody we now know, and that “Silent Night” was first performed in public on Christmas Eve, 1818, in Father Mohr’s church. It has since been translated into 300 languages and dialects, making it one of the most popular songs of all time.

Another legend of “Silent Night” is that it stopped a world war, at least temporarily. The legend is that on Christmas Eve, somewhere in Flanders, a German soldier, miserable and homesick, began singing “Schtille nacht”. An English soldier in the facing trenches joined in accompaniment in his own language. Soon, soldiers on both sides of No Man’s Land were singing. Leaving their trenches, they joined in an impromptu truce that lasted all night and all Christmas day, along hundreds of miles of trenches, much to the chagrin of the generals, who wanted their soldiers to continue fighting “The Great War.”

There is as much truth in this as there is in most legends. There was an unofficial truce in World War I, exactly one hundred years after Father Mohr composed his immortal song. Troops on both sides did sing their own versions of “Silent Night” together, most likely because it was the only Christmas carol they all knew. There had been many sporadic attempts to agree on a temporary truce, all along the front, for most of the month of December, 1916, as the trench-dwelling enemies at the front had much more in common with each other than either side had with their own generals, many miles to the rear. Newspaper reports from the front speak of the enemy soldiers gifting each other with delicacies sent from home, and even joining in No Man’s Land to sing together, and help each other bury the dead. In this atmosphere, it is very likely that “Silent Night” did play a part.

The Music

Guitarists with experience in reading tablature probably will not need to use the study notes, which I originally wrote for classical guitar students who were not familiar with tab. References to the p, i, m, and a fingers means, thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers of the right hand. These are common abbreviations in classical guitar music. They stand for the Spanish words pulgar, indicio, medio, and anulario. This arrangement of Silent Night is my own, and follows neither the LDS Hymnal nor Gruber's original exactly. But it's very pretty.

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