Silent Night: A Song for the World (2021) Movie Script

-[soft music] -[wind whooshing]
["Silent Night" playing ]
[Narrator] December the 24th, 1818.
A young priest, Joseph Mohr,
sets out from Oberndorf to visit his friend, Franz Gruber.
Together, these devout young men
will put Joseph's poem, entitled "Silent Night", to music.
The young priest has modest ambitions.
He simply wishes to sing some words of hope
to his local parish that night at Christmas mass.
[light orchestral music]
Franz Gruber is a teacher, organist,
and sacristan in Arnsdorf,
a small community just north of Salzburg.
As evening descends, he anxiously awaits the arrival
of his friend.
Franz knows just how perilous the long trek
through the winter snow can be.
[light orchestral music]
[knocking on door]
For two passionate musicians, it doesn't take long
to find the perfect melody for Joseph Mohr's divine words.
Franz Gruber has no inkling
that he has just created history.
He would later write in his diary,
"It is only a simple composition,
without any special meaning."
[choir singing in foreign language]
It was Christmas 1818,
at a time of bitter desperation and need,
Joseph and Franz performed "Silent Night, Holy Night"
for the first time during Christmas mass.
They were accompanied by a solo guitar,
for their fellow Austrians
suffering terrible hardship following the Napoleonic Wars,
this was indeed a song of peace and of hope.
Joseph Mohr seems to be guided by a divine hand
to the Salzburg Alps, where he wrote the poem of his life.
With Franz Gruber, he created a song
that would eventually be shared each Christmas
by more than two billion voices around the world.
But it would take many years for the world's chorus
to join Joseph's gentle message of hope.
117 years would pass,
but having reached out via Hamburg, across the Atlantic,
to choirs in New York, and eventually California,
"Silent Night" would find one timeless voice.
[light acoustic guitar music]
By 1934, Bing Crosby is already the best-selling
recording artist in the world.
At this time, Bing's home is near Palm Springs,
in the small oasis of Rancho Mirage.
Meanwhile, his recording technology business
can be found on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.
The building is still there today.
I grew up thinking it was a Bing Crosby song.
And we knew it in English from Bing Crosby,
and we knew it in Spanish,
because those were the two languages
that were the most famous, I would say, in America.
But every school child around the world
will sing this song in their language.
And that's how you know the song
has just completely transcended popular culture
into world history.
[Hugh] It will be a chance meeting
that leads Bing Crosby
to record "Silent Night".
One Sunday, in the late autumn of 1934,
Bing and his brother Larry are busy preparing
for his annual Christmas radio special.
At the time, this is 1934,
Bing Crosby was the most successful singer in the world.
And everyone knew Bing's voice, but people tend to forget
that Bing was a pioneer in the music recording technology.
If you wanted the best recording equipment in town,
you had to go to Bing Crosby Enterprises,
which is run by Bing and his brother, Larry.
Please accept my apology, Larry, this morning,
for this intrusion.
But I have a proposal for Mr. Crosby.
Is he at home this morning?
Oh, father.
It's been a while.
-What can I do for you? -I have a proposal for you.
Do you have a minute?
Richard Ranaghan was a Columban father, a missionary.
And he was shooting a film in China using
a hand-crank camera.
And it wasn't turning out well at all,
and he proudly wanted
to title it "The Cross and the Dragon."
But the footage was not good, it was inadequate.
So he knew he had to make a pilgrimage
to the only man that could save the film.
Well, Father, we should be able to knock that out.
And maybe add a musical pattern,
so people will know what it's about.
You mean a soundtrack?
You wanna use this film to raise money for the mission.
Might as well add a background, too.
Say, uh, maybe you could sing a song.
"Silent Night".
Could you perhaps sing "Silent Night"?
Well, Father, sacred songs are a little
out of my league for a crooner like myself, you understand.
Mr. Crosby, the recording will only be heard
at the parishes.
Finally, Ranaghan talks Bing into recording the song.
No special vocal arrangements, nothing fancy,
Bing just sang it as he would any other song.
And fate played its part because it
was the most successful song for Bing that year.
And the third most successful single
of all time.
Holy night
All is calm
All is bright
Round yon virgin
Mother and child
Holy infant
So tender and mild
What the song has meant in the annals of history,
to so many people,
was something I admittedly didn't know
when I first recorded the song.
I was basing my understanding of the song on other artists
that I heard sing it.
It was a cover of another Christmas song, you know.
I didn't deep dive into the history of it
because I was so concerned about how we would make it new.
I wasn't thinking so deeply about the old with it.
And so, to learn about its roots in Salzburg,
to learn about its history through the course
of the last many generations, sends chills down your spine.
It's an incredible gift that keeps on giving
as a singer, to know about a story that deep
and that profound.
And-and inspires whenever I sing it in the future.
So, it's a lovely story.
There wasn't a cloud in the sky on April the 30th, 1818.
Bright and unseasonably hot for the time of year,
it was Ascension Day in Salzburg.
The city presented a glorious palette of festive colors,
but the flowers bent
to a strong southeasterly wind that day.
The Field Marshal, Prince of Wartenburg,
was about to visit the city.
The garrison troops gathered on the residenzplatz
were ready to salute his Royal Highness.
At any moment, the prince would arrive
to receive this festive honor.
Suddenly, there was cannon fire from Fortress Hohensalzburg.
[gun firing]
The crowd assumed it to be the first salute,
they looked 'round for their royal visitor.
But rather than the welcoming prince,
the cannon warned utter catastrophe.
-[gun firing] -[dramatic music]
[bell ringing]
The blaze started in a stable, and fanned
by the hot winds, it engulfed Salzburg in a firestorm.
After raging over four days and nights,
the eastern half of the city lies in ashes.
It will take 30 years to rebuild Salzburg.
And as if heaven-sent, "Silent Night" will emerge
from these ashes.
[singing in foreign language]
Literally, my first experience outside the US,
when I was a sophomore in high school, we went to Vienna,
that was the very first place we went.
And we literally met the Vienna Boys Choir,
and got to hear them sing, and it was so magical.
I mean, you have, like,
teenagers who aren't generally listening
to music like that, sobbing.
Like, because it was so beautiful.
And there's just something about-about the,
a boy singing like that, like, before they become men.
When you hear something that moves you, it moves you,
no matter what the language is.
And there's just some songs,
and I feel like "Silent Night" is one of those,
that when you sing, it doesn't,
it doesn't even, it's so weird,
it transcends the lyrics, it transcends the music.
It's the whole vibe of the song,
it's the melody that really just captures your heart.
And I think that's why I could be in Germany,
I could be in Japan, I could be anywhere in the world.
And if I start singing certain songs like that,
like "Silent Night", people sing along,
and then all of a sudden, there's this connection.
[light orchestral music]
[Hugh] Winter in the Tyrol
during the 1820s is a picture
of bleak beauty.
The romantic idyll is a cold reality
of long months spent huddled indoors.
It's here in the Alps
that we find a family quartet well-known
for spreading warmth and song across the Tyrol.
Eventually, they will become famous
for bringing "Silent Night" to Europe and beyond.
They are the Rainer siblings.
[singing in foreign language]
During the winter of 1822, Emperor Franz Joseph
of Austria and Czar Alexander I of Russia reside
at Fugen Castle.
One evening, the Rainer siblings are hired
to entertain the royal guests.
One of the songs they perform is "Silent Night".
[singing in foreign language]
The illustrious guests are so captivated
by their performance that the Czar extends the Rainers
an invitation to Russia.
From here, the siblings would go
on a concert tour across all of Europe.
[light orchestral music]
Word spreads about the Rainers' vocal talents.
Touring across Europe's major cities until 1839,
they will enchant audiences,
including King George IV of England.
[light orchestral music]
Silent Night
From Europe, the Rainer siblings cross the stormy seas
of the Atlantic, to arrive in New York
just before Christmas.
Feeling blessed for their safe journey,
the Rainers visit Trinity Church on Broadway.
Here, in this haven of tranquility,
the Rainers give thanks by singing "Silent Night"
for the first time in the United States.
Beckoning Israel's eye from afar
Where the Savior is born
Where the Savior is born
[light orchestral music]
Oh, hail
Silent night
Holy night
All is calm
All is bright
Round yon virgin
Mother and child
Holy infant
So tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
To ask, "When did I first hear 'Silent Night'"?
Is kind of like asking me,
"When did you first breathe in and out?"
It's part of us, isn't it?
I cannot remember.
That's so, that's such a crazy thought.
I just can't remember.
At the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
I've always been a little bit Christmas-obsessed.
So when it gets to the time, or even like a little bit close
to it, I'm just going for it,
like I make little hampers,
and I decorate my house and myself.
I mean, yes, there is the money-making thing.
We mustn't deny this fact.
Of course, it is.
You know, so is Valentine's Day and things like that.
But, so?
I don't care.
Make as much money as you like.
I'm having a fantastic time, and so is everyone else.
Christmas has morphed.
It's not just about Jesus and, you know, things like that.
There are a lot of wonderful stories in that.
And I like the idea of, you know, the starry night
and the Three Kings with their myrrh, and incense,
and lovely things.
And they're making this trek and this journey.
And this woman that, you know, is a virgin,
who's having a baby.
And it's like, ugh, it's so magical of a story.
[light orchestral music]
Oh, yeah
Silent night
Holy night
All is calm
All is bright
Round yon virgin
Mother and child
Holy infant
So tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
And it does make you think, well,
what about the people
that can't actually even buy a Christmas present
for their children?
Let's not forget about everybody else.
Because for some people,
Christmas is a crap time of year.
It's a very stressful situation,
where they're thinking, "Hang on a minute.
I've got four kids,"
and I can only really afford one present.
"And if we're gonna have Christmas dinner,
I can only get one present."
So, you know, this is something that is real.
[light orchestral music]
[Hugh] The Christmas carol of all Christmas carols
has an unforgettable melody.
A melody that, for most of us, is first shared
as children amongst loved ones.
"Silent Night" is so woven into our deepest feelings
of affection and nostalgia that it's no wonder it lives on
all over the world, as a folk song, a duet, for choirs,
for instrumentalists, or even as a stage play.
It always touches us in the same way.
And ye shall find
With interpretations of the song in over 300 languages,
it seems every corner of the world
has adopted "Silent Night" as its own.
But there's the one for every one
So, that, honestly, when I first start talking
about the show, "My Silent Night", it really,
it made it come alive for me when I came to Salzburg,
to be honest with you, and that's really when we went
to the original church.
I played on the original organ that he played on.
For me, I think I had to go experience the place
to get a sense of the place and time,
and that's what was wonderful for me.
And then, that's really when it started to come alive.
If every day is Christmas
That would be just fine
Because all the world is brighter
With the lights of Christmas time
If kindness is my weakness
And what was so meaningful to me
is the idea that "Silent Night"
was written in the German language,
instead of in Latin,
and that that was pretty revolutionary at the time,
and that it was meant to be for the people,
for common people in a time when there was a lot
of disruption, and there, they had just come out of a war.
And so, the idea that this song was an attempt
to use music to communicate hope and peace,
and the beauty that they saw in their religion,
and also in their community was foundational to the show.
[light orchestral music]
God and sinners reconciled
It's a universal phenomenon.
It's a universal message.
It's a song that has a place in people's hearts and minds,
and memories of family, and celebration,
and the holiday season.
It's just a song that brings up a lot
of family memories for a lot of people
all over the world.
It's an amazing piece of music
that has really stood the test of time.
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus Lord at thy birth
Jesus Lord at thy birth
[light orchestral music]
[speaking foreign language]
[Translator] Well, I was a kid.
I heard it, well, I heard it sung in the church too
during Christmas season.
But, above all, it was my uncle who played the harmonica,
and among the various songs that he played
for us whether in summer or during the Christmas season
was "Astro del Cielo", "Silent Night."
I've always found it very pure, in the melody.
Even if it's a simple song,
it still has a melody that's universal.
It has a pure melody.
[singing in foreign language]
[speaking foreign language]
I believe it is one of the most important songs
among the different Christmas songs, the more profound ones.
For my part, I changed the words
of the original version a bit, the Italian version.
Definitely not because they weren't beautiful,
but the words were a bit written in an old-fashioned way.
[speaking foreign language]
When I was asked to do the song in my way,
I felt it was a song that went
beyond the different religious beliefs.
This is a song about peace and hope.
[speaking foreign language]
But for me it's a star from heaven,
something that lights up the world and that brings light
to the people,
but I hope it also brings light into our minds.
And that this instills peace in our hearts,
but also in the depths instead of just in our hearts,
really in the depths of our hearts.
That is basically what I wrote.
Christmas is, of course, the annual celebration
of the birth of Jesus Christ.
For most Christians, the commemoration of the nativity
of Jesus is on the 25th of December.
And in the West, celebrations have always begun
on the previous evening, on Christmas Eve.
In many countries, though, Christmas is already heralded
by twinkling lights and festive markets
as early as November.
Salzburg exemplifies this tradition
with its 525-year-old Christkindlmarkt.
Indeed, Christmas markets can be traced back
to the late middle ages in the old Holy Roman Empire.
Today, Advent is still ushered in all over the world,
with a festive market bringing communities together
to buy presents, and to share food.
[light orchestral music]
[speaking foreign language]
[Translator] Christmas time in Salzburg
is simply fantastic.
I was here for my first Mozart Week.
A new production, "Lucio Silla", was being sung here.
And I was here during rehearsals.
It's so wonderful, so spiritual,
and it really is something very special.
[speaking foreign language]
In Mexico, Christmas time has a lot of music.
There's a lot of rhythm in the music.
The villancicos are important.
You celebrate with much joy, much happiness, and much light.
And Christmas spent with family and friends,
of course, is a wonderful time.
[light orchestral music]
My first Christmas recollection came with "Noche de paz."
It's a song that just comes when we're all together.
Noche de paz, noche de amor
[speaking foreign language]
Then, I went to a German school, and, of course,
I learned there that the original is in German.
And so, really this is perhaps
the most famous Christmas song there is.
[speaking foreign language]
Translated everywhere.
So, perhaps my first memory of Christmas music
is "Silent Night."
I mean, that became
Without words, it sounds, it does good, that melody.
And it lets us, it moves us really, really like a lullaby.
[speaking foreign language]
But it isn't a lullaby.
It also has something that let's our soul dance.
And then, again that note.
Those movements in the music.
And then, there is a return to that serenity.
And then, finally, it opens up like a flower.
And then, it's not quite finished.
It's not a heroic song.
Then, it comes back to Earth once more, to everyone.
[speaking foreign language]
It starts like a caress that goes on and on.
The chest opens up, the music emerges, and then,
once again, it comes back,
[speaking foreign language]
with everything that is brought by that message,
and the meaning that it has, and brings it back.
And in that sense, "Silent Night" is perfect as a title.
"Silent Night", it's fantastic.
[singing in foreign language]
So this is Christmas
What have you done
In smaller communities, Christmas
is a profoundly different experience,
to the bustling capitals of London or New York.
There, you certainly won't feel it's the silent time
of the year.
But it's always wonderful in its own special way.
So this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young
A very merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fears
So this is Christmas
It's a little colder, a little darker in England.
So, the Christmases feel more traditional.
But they make a good, they make a lot of effort here,
and there's a lot of-of Christmas feeling in parties
and people around, but, yeah, I think that I do,
you know, Christmas in Europe is pretty special.
And so happy Christmas
For black and for White
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fights
A very merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
The core of the song is actually is very intimate.
You know, it's about the people closest around you.
And feeling the connection with them on a holiday spirit,
and, you know, holidays are so beautiful
because it's a chance to start again, to wipe the slate,
and start a fresh new year.
And, obviously, this, predominantly,
is like a religious idea.
But I think it's been adopted by the secular world
as a sort of a great time to be together
and to be around people you love.
And give people gifts because you love them.
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young
The relevance is like beauty, relevance is in the ear
of the listener.
And people can take what they want.
From every song, you know, every song is,
bears the power of music in the way
that it can be a different song for me than it is for you,
so how it inspires and how it makes us
think about things, so I'm all for good songs
with good words and good music, good melodies
because I think that makes greatness.
War is over
If you want it
War is over
"Silent Night" is one of the songs
that is in everybody's DNA.
It's just, you don't even know why you know it,
but you just know it.
A bit like a Queen song.
It's just there in your system.
And you didn't realize it.
And I think, you know, it's so traditional that, I mean,
I can't even imagine a time where I didn't know it.
War is over
If you want it
War is over now
War is over
If you want it
War is over now
The list is endless of Christmas albums
I've done with Michael Buble and Josh Groban,
and Andrea Bocelli, Rod Stewart, Mary J. Blige,
Dolly Parton, Celine.
The strange thing,
or the great thing about "Silent Night"
is that I don't care where you grew up,
everybody knows and loves this song.
And it moves people in a way that is ineffable.
You can't put it into words,
it's sort of not describable.
It just, it's a religious experience,
without hitting you over the head too hard.
It's a simple song.
But it just has such an effect on people.
And, you know, we're so happy and lucky to have it
in our world.
[light piano music]
Silent night
Holy night
All is calm
All is bright
Round yon virgin
Mother and child
Holy infant
So tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep In heavenly peace
I think I've recorded this song
with so many different artists over the years.
And performed it on so many different stages
that this is what led me to start to understand
what the lyric meant, how spiritual and religious it was,
how comforting it was for a time
like the world is even going through now.
And how just apropos this song and the lyric really is.
Can't believe it was written that many years ago,
and still super relevant now, and will be relevant forever.
The one thing I always say about great songs,
you can do a million different versions, it all works.
Because the lyric and the melody are so great together,
that you could do, you could do a country version.
I'm sure people have done every version you can think of,
and it all works.
This version that they're working on now
is gonna be another crown jewel in the hat
for "Silent Night."
Greg and Shelea are killing the game.
Radiant beams
From thy holy face
With the dawn
Of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Silent night
Holy night
All is calm
And all is bright
Round yon virgin
Mother and child
Holy infant
So tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
I need a little peace oh, peace
Oh, peace
Heavenly peace
All you gotta do is say one word
And there is peace
The peace that passes all understanding, peace
Oh, you say it, I give you this peace
Of the world
Heavenly peace
Can't take it away
Oh, I need them peace
Lord, we need it
We need it, we need it, we need it
Heavenly peace
Sleep In heavenly
When you kind of researched the history of it,
I think the meaning comes in even stronger.
Now when hat I sing the lyrics,
it's gonna really be coming from a different place,
a deeper place.
A place of understanding,
and almost just awe and reverence.
You know, I grew up in a, in a Christian home,
and so, gospel music really
was the soundtrack to my childhood, you know?
So, being able to do "Silent Night" in this way
is so special for me.
Because I'm just gonna bring up,
I'm just gonna conjure up everybody I've listened to,
Aretha, Yolanda, like, I'm just bringing them all in.
Vanessa Bell Armstrong, you know,
just people I grew up listening to,
and just bring that beauty and magic to the song.
[light piano music]
[singing in foreign language]
"Silent night" is a very popular song
here in Korea as well.
I don't think there's anyone who doesn't know the song.
[singing in foreign language]
It's probably different for everybody.
But I do know that a lot of couples and lovers
in Korea like to celebrate Christmas Eve together.
So they go on dates,
and they come watch my concerts together.
And on Christmas Day, I believe,
is spent with their families.
I wish I had worn something warm
So the song "Sweater"
is written with the purpose of letting people know
that not always Christmas is celebrated
with just joy and happiness.
For example, when I heard the song,
it made me miss my great grandmother very much.
And I felt like this song could be something
that I can remind myself of her.
And "Sweater" I feel like it does that to people.
It just brings memories back to people whoever
they miss during the holiday season.
It's a great way to remember somebody that you used to love.
Though we're miles apart
I'll keep you in my heart
And I'll wear your Christmas sweater
On me tonight
Let it keep me warm
I'll be wrapped up tight
So no matter where you go
A little piece of you is close
I'll wear your Christmas sweater always
Stitch by stitch, oh, inch by inch
Oh, feeling close to you
After all that we've been through
Thread by thread
You wrap me up in red
Someday you'll be here
But until then
Now I'll wear your Christmas sweater
On me tonight
Let it keep me warm
I'll be wrapped up tight
So no matter where you go
A little piece of you is close
This old sweater feels so soft
And I'll never take it off
So I'll wear your Christmas sweater from '92
Love the way it looks and still smells like you
All day So whenever you're away
[light acoustic guitar music]
[singing in foreign language]
For me, Christmas has to be white, no?
So Christmas in Paris is that it makes sense.
They celebrate Christmas in a, in a very beautiful way
with all the lights.
It's a very, it's one of my favorite time of the year.
[singing in foreign language]
"Silent Night" is deeply linked with Christianity.
But to me, the song belongs to humanity.
It belongs to a lot of people,
to every single person regardless your religion
or your belief.
[singing in foreign language]
I'm from Indonesia.
So Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world,
so I'm from a Muslim family.
But my father who is a, who is an author,
who is a book writer, he wanted his children
to have a very open mind and super tolerant,
and he prefers, and that's why he put us
in a Catholic school.
So I did all my education with the nuns.
[singing in foreign language]
I just like that spirit.
I just really like the moment of, yeah.
Because we-we also spend Christmas in Indonesia, in Bali.
So it was a bit weird for my husband
because all of a sudden he was sweating and it's a, "Yay.
Merry Christmas."
[singing in foreign language]
The most important thing is, it's really the family.
It doesn't matter where you were.
[singing in foreign language]
This song can be lived and can be interpreted
in many ways, and still, you have the same essence.
Still you feel the same love.
I think that the song has nothing to do with a place
or a time.
It has something to do with spirit
and with connecting people together.
Because I think that everyone in the world
as we see now in this song, in "Silent Night",
there's plenty of versions, in all kind of languages,
all over the world, and it connects people.
And I think that's the purpose of the song
and that's what's great about it,
that it connects people together
and it brings everyone together.
And we should all remember the blessings that we have
in our life and count them
and we should also be focused on what we want in this life.
And we should also remember
that we are not the biggest thing in this world.
There is some kind of power that, you know,
takes care of us.
Ever since I was five years old, the school used
to take us every year to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
So, I'm used to, you know, walk the road that we took today.
And it always feels so magical and so spiritual
because after all, it's a Holy Land, and people
from all over the world come to walk this road
and to try to feel what this holy place makes you feel.
So yeah, I felt like, you know, like the magic
is all over me.
On Christmas time, the city is super festive and people
from all around the world come to, you know,
celebrate the birth of Jesus.
And that's where it happened in this exact place,
and it's beautiful.
It's beautiful to see how many people, you know,
celebrate one common thing.
[light acoustic guitar music]
[singing in foreign language]
Silent night
Holy night
Son of God
Love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
[speaking foreign language]
Well, the first time I heard the song
when I was maybe three years old,
and it was in Arabic since I'm Arab.
So that's the first version I've ever learned to sing.
And I wanted to, and a lot of people
in the world don't know
that it exists in Arabic because they don't know
that there are, you know, Christian Arabs.
And I was like, "Really?".
"Let me sing in Arabic and show you
that we have our own version."
And I love this version. I think it adds some
authentic spirit to the song,
and gives another, you know, point of view
to "Silent Night."
[choir vocalizing]
In 1816, Europe desperately tries
to survive the year without a summer.
Relentless snow, floods, and failed harvests
have put war-torn Salzburg on the verge of famine
and utter despair.
This is a forsaken city, a city of extremes.
Behind the facade of baroque architecture and its veneer
of nobility, is a community reduced to just 8,000
starving souls, a community without faith.
[choir vocalizing]
Young Joseph Mohr's quest
for faith began in the cavernous silence
of Salzburg Cathedral.
He begged his God for help.
But God remained silent.
So Joseph Mohr made a choice to leave the city
and seek his spiritual path elsewhere.
His quest took him three solid days' walk into the Alps
to Wagrain at the small village of Mariapfarr.
Rejuvenated with fresh hope, Joseph's thoughts began
to reach out towards a new resolve, to help others.
It wasn't easy for a young man grappling to find words
of courage and hope for his sermons, he'd become a priest,
but a priest without expression, Joseph almost gave up.
[light orchestral music]
Then one cold winter's night, Joseph steps outside
and looks up to the full moon and the canopy of stars.
Silent they may be,
but the endless stars give sudden
life-changing inspiration.
When all suffering is hushed and calmed, what remains
is silence.
Joseph understands then, silence is the divine voice
that he has been seeking, filled with emotion
and a renewed bond, he rushes back into his house.
His pen dips ink and he begins to write.
As the words flow through Joseph Mohr's pen, a poem forms.
[light orchestral music]
On that night in 1816,
Joseph Mohr writes a poem about this sacred silence.
But these words for "Silent Night" will emerge
as perhaps the oldest Christmas song in the German language.
[singing in foreign language]
Spreading across Europe
and around the world, another age-old Christmas song
emerges with "Silent Night."
Written in Latin by Cistercian monks, "Adeste Fideles"
is not only one of the oldest
but one of the most beautiful carols.
It has become beloved all over the world
in its English translation, "O Come, All Ye Faithful."
-[grand orchestral music] -[choir vocalizing]
O come all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant
O come ye
O come ye
To Bethlehem
Come and behold him
"O come All Ye Faithful" is about coming together,
you know, it's-it's an epic hymn to come together
to rejoice, to praise the Lord, you know,
at this time of year, the birth of a child, you know.
And with this arrangement,
we wanted to do something different.
O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord
Sing, choirs of angels
Angels sing in exultation
Sing, all ye citizens of Heaven above
Glory to God
Glory in the highest
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
Christ The Lord
Yea, Lord, we greet Thee
Born this happy morning
Jesus, to thee be
Glory given
Word of the Father
Now in flesh appearing
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
Christ The Lord
And I have quite a memory
of singing that song when I was boy, a soprano.
I would travel to Europe with a boys' choir
every few years.
The highlight of the trip was going to the Saint Nicholas
Parish or known as the Silent Night Chapel
in Oberndorf where that song was first performed.
And our choir filled this small chapel area
and we sang this amazing version of "Silent Night."
Well, the first time I ever heard of "Silent Night"
was actually when I heard a poem
by John McCutcheon called "Christmas in the Trenches."
And it tells one of the most beautiful stories ever
to come from the treachery of war.
It was one cold Christmas night in World War I
and the British and the Germans were entrenched
on the battlefields.
And one brave German soldier walked out into No Man's Land
with a white flag singing a song.
And they put aside their differences,
and it was the beauty of music in that song
that brought them together.
And ever since then that's been one
of my favorite Christmas songs
and one of the beautiful stories that I like
to share and sing.
Many stories have emerged in remembrance
of that Christmas miracle of 1914 in Belgium.
Along with voices from the trenches,
we learned a great deal from the diaries
of the British commanding officer,
Field Marshall Douglas Earl Haig.
And for Christmas, every British soldier
received a package from the King.
In this, he found an ornate brass Princess Mary box
with tobacco, a packet of cigarettes,
a portrait of Princess Mary, and a Christmas card
from the royal family.
Meanwhile, the German soldiers received a Christmas box
from their hometowns,
along with packages from their families with warm clothes,
food, alcohol, cigarettes, and letters.
For Germany, the later years of the war would be blighted
by chronic shortages, but that first Christmas,
the soldiers could still enjoy a few comforts from home.
The German high command also sent tens of thousands
of small festive trees to the front,
which were to be illuminated on Christmas Eve.
Today Earl Haig's account of this Christmas miracle is part
of the world's documentary heritage of UNESCO.
[soft orchestral music]
Jimmy was a soldier brave and bold
Stevie was an aid with hair of gold
Like an act of faith they were standing at the gate
Indecisiveness is the sloth in soldiery.
At the garden gate
Soldiering the call to kiss
Carry on.
You're the only girl that I adore
[knocking on door]
British legion, sir.
Your arrangements for the Newfoundland visit.
Ah, yes.
If you could sign here and here, sir.
Thank you, sir.
And a merry Christmas to you, sir.
Thank you.
Were you there in Belgium, Thomas?
No, sir.
Too late, sir.
When I was called up, Jerry had called it a day.
Missed all the fun.
Ah, yes.
Lucky you, hmmm?
I've just been reflecting on the fact that
it's almost 10 years since that first Christmas.
Friday, 4th of December, 1914.
I'd motored down to Sommermair to dine
with the king and the Prince of Wales.
The king seemed very cheery,
but inclined to think that all our troops
are by nature brave,
and is ignorant of all the effort
which commanders must make
to keep up the morale of their men in war,
and all the training which is necessary in peace,
in order to enable a company
for instance to go forward as an organized unit
in the face
of almost certain death.
[dramatic orchestral music]
I told him of the crowds of fugitives
who came back down the minen road.
During the [speaking foreign language] battle,
having thrown everything they could,
including their rifles and packs
in order to escape,
with a look of absolute terror on their faces,
such as I have never before seen
on any human being.
[dramatic orchestral music]
You see, we had,
we had no idea of the industrial scale of death in 1914.
No one,
no politician, no general,
only Satan himself could've foreseen
what was to come.
[dramatic orchestral music]
[Hugh] On Christmas Eve, 1914,
there's an almost ghostly calm in the British trenches.
The men are chilled to the bone by bitter cold
and the horrors of war.
[singing in foreign language]
For the German soldiers in their trenches,
it's traditional to sing "Silent Night" at Christmas.
The breeze picks up their voices,
carrying the song across No Man's Land
and into the enemy trenches.
Initially, the British consider whether the singing
is a trick.
Then, one of the British soldiers recognizes the carol
and joins in.
All is calm
All is bright
Round yon virgin
Mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
[dramatic orchestral music]
According to his diary, Field Marshall Haig
ordered the troops to be given as easy a time as possible
on Christmas day.
He noted that it was surprisingly mild
for mid-winter.
The sunshine prompts a German sergeant
to bravely test the peace
that has descended over the battlefield.
[dramatic orchestral music]
[speaking foreign language]
Instantly, the British are at combat readiness.
A British officer, however, recognizes the peaceful gesture.
All right, chaps, don't shoot him.
Don't shoot.
[Hugh] And he is immediately willing to reciprocate.
[dramatic orchestral music]
[speaking foreign language]
Happy Christmas.
Happy Christmas.
It's not so good underground.
Shall we greet?
Why not?
Jules, come!
We'll not fight today.
-No. -Christmas.
Chaps, come on.
We're not fighting today.
[dramatic orchestral music]
[Hugh] The Christmas truce of 1914
is the moment when "Silent Night"
becomes a true miracle.
This brief respite within manmade horror
reveals the most profound contradictions
of human nature.
The Scottish poet of the great war, Frederick Niven
would appeal for a return to the spirit of "Silent Night"
in his own poem, "A Carol from Flanders."
"Oh ye who read this truthful rime
From Flanders, kneel and say,
God speed the time when every day
Shall be as Christmas Day."
-[explosion booming] -[dramatic orchestral music]
[distant guns firing]
It is ironic, is it not,
that the abiding memory
of that war should be that moment of peace,
of humanity.
[dramatic orchestral music]
In 1915, when I was commander in chief,
there were calls for us to repeat that armistice,
and we,
I would not allow it.
You see,
it is no good for fighting morale
to see your enemy as human.
Of course, sir.
[dramatic orchestral music]
No good at all.
Like many great human endeavors,
"Silent Night" was born in 1818
out of dire circumstance.
In a country devastated by war and famine,
a young man looks to the sky for divine inspiration.
Taking up a pen, his words of peace and hope
become a verse.
His verse becomes a song,
and his song becomes a miracle.
"Silent Night" endures as long as the world
is conflicted, restless, and at war,
for as long as we need it.
Perhaps one day it will become a song of celebration,
when we have finally learned from history
to coexist in harmony,
to silence the voices of hate
and lay down the weapons of war,
but until then, at each Christmas,
we have a chance to reflect
on the profound gift carried to us
down the years by countless voices.
We can rejoice in their legacy
and join together in celebrating
the true spirit of Christmas.
So, when you hear the first notes of "Silent Night"
perhaps savor for a moment
the peace and harmony
that inspired Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber
back then, during the Christmas of 1818.
[singing in foreign language]
Silent night
Holy night
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia
Christ the Savior is born
Christ the Savior is born
Silent night
Holy night
Son of God
Love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus Lord, at thy birth
Jesus Lord, at thy birth
Silent night
Holy night
Here at last
Healing light
From the heavenly kingdom sent
Abundant grace for our intent
Jesus, salvation for all
Jesus, salvation for all
Silent night
Holy night
Sleeps the world in peace tonight
God sends his Son to earth below
A Child from whom all blessings flow
Jesus, embraces mankind
Jesus, embraces mankind
Jesus, embraces mankind