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Celebrating 200 years of Silent Night

A local Christmas service this year will give some little-known background knowledge about the popular Christmas carol Silent Night, composed 200 years ago. The event will also feature a string ensemble, a choir, carolling, and the singing of Silent Night in both English and German.

Elmira Mennonite Church pastor Fred Lichti penned this original performance. It tells the story of just how the song came to be, performed for the first time in an Austrian Church on Christmas Eve in 1818.

“The carol’s author, Joseph Mohr, was a priest in the Saltzburg area during the Napoleonic wars,” said Lichti. “He witnessed the withdrawal of troops in 1816-1817 and the poverty and economic hardships which accompanied almost twenty years of war.

“Referencing the context of his day and our own, two verses decry the plight of human conflict and call for peace on earth through the gift of the Christ.”

The Bing Crosby version of Silent Night is the third best-selling single of all time, right behind Crosby’s White Christmas in first and Elton John’s Candle in the Wind 1997/“Something About the Way You Look Tonight.

While only a portion of the song is typically sung, the performance will include every verse of Silent Night.

Elmira’s Gord Davis will direct the production that features around a dozen participants.

“Normally, people only sing three or four of the original verses. A couple of the verses don’t directly deal with the Nativity. I’m hoping to create a certain mood – a peaceful sort of mood,” said Davis. “The priest who wrote it was hoping that the birth of Christ would bring peace and hope to people after a war situation, that kind of a thing.”

Davis added this puts a new spin on their Christmas dervice, which is performed each year and usually consists of a choir performance.

“At Elmira Mennonite Church, we always have a Christmas Eve service,” said Davis. “This year, Fred Lichti wrote this play, and the committee decided – I came up with this idea of extending it a bit. So they said ‘okay, let’s base the whole service around Silent Night.'”

The service will take place on Christmas Eve (December 24) at the Elmira Mennonite Church. Everyone is welcome to attend.

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