The home and grave of Franz Gruber*
The home and grave of Franz Gruber

Silent Night, Holy Night is probably the most famous Christmas carol in the world and the season of the Nativity without it is almost inconceivable - yet it is only 190 years old this year (2008) and began, not with some famous composer, but with an emergency in a village church and an appeal for help to a schoolmaster who had some minor musical ability.

In this film I tell the story of the famous carol, but I must admit to being a bit disappointed. When I first read the story I imagined a sleepy little village on a hillside, with a tiny rustic church steeped in snow - not the bustling town on the wide plain of the Salzach with a magnificent baroque church and an organ that would do any cathedral proud! Such, alas, is Oberndorf bei Salzburg where the famous carol was written and first performed in 1818.

Hallein, which has made somewhat of an industry out of the carol - far more than Oberndorf has done - is merely the place where the composer lived the last years of his life and where he is buried, rather oddly, outside his own front door.