The melody brings a blissful smile to some people’s faces, whereas others are humbled by it. For many people the song inspires a festive spirit, yet for others it releases unexpected tears of suppressed emotion.
“Silent Night” is the most famous Christmas carol and has been translated into over 300 languages. It has been sung by opera singers, jazz legends and pop stars alike. It is a piece of our cultural heritage that is not constrained by borders, nationality or religion. In this respect, the song is itself a small miracle, whose secret magic will probably never be fully understood.
This special carol, composed in Salzburg exactly 200 years ago by the curate Josef Mohr and the teacher Franz-Xaver Gruber, was first performed on Christmas Eve in 1818. By happy coincidence, the organ builder Carl Mauracher from Fügen heard the song and took it home with him to the Ziller Valley. From here the song travelled through Europe and then to America. And for this reason, the Kröll family singing trio from Mayrhofen travelled to America in November to perform the song in the location of its American premiere – in front of the Hamilton Memorial next to the Trinity Church on Wall Street, downtown Manhattan, New York.
From the beginning it was an unusual day. Our producer Toni had lost his passport somewhere in the huge city of New York but, through a small wonder, it was found and handed in. So we started the day with a positive feeling. The first tears started to well up in us as we rehearsed “Silent Night” in our hotel room, with a view over the 9/11 memorial. So much misery and sorrow took place in exactly this place. Filled with thoughts of those who lost their lives, we continued to rehearse for our performance at the Trinity Church that evening.
We arrived at Wall Street in the late afternoon. We watched the many buses, cars, emergency vehicles with blue flashing lights and crowds of people, bustling along the pavements never looking left or right. There was such a cacophony of sound that I stood still for a moment and wondered if anyone would actually be able to hear us when we sang “Silent Night”. Dusk was beginning to fall and the Trinity Youth Choir, in their long, red robes, assembled before the Hamilton Memorial next to the Trinity Church. We approached the memorial and felt warm in our hearts despite the icy wind. It was as if we could feel the energy of our ancestors from the Ziller Valley.
At exactly 5.30pm we received the signal to start singing. The noise of the traffic was still deafening and I was certain that nobody would hear us. But suddenly, I was able to tune out all of the background noise and focus only on the sound of the guitar and the voices of me and my sisters as we sang “Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright….”
It was as though the bold and bright city of New York stood still for three minutes, as if this song of songs had wrapped the city in a silk coat of melody. Even though we were performing the song a month early, in this moment we truly felt the spirit of Christmas around us.
We wish you all a very merry Christmas in the company of family and friends and, of course, a silent and holy Christmas Eve!
Gerlinde, Elisabeth und Christiane - the Kröll family singers