Christmas 2013 stamp to commemorate Franz Xaver Gruber and the Silent Night carol

December 3rd, 2013

This new coil stamp by Austrian post has been created to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of the composer Franz Xaver Gruber, who wrote the world's most widely known Christmas carol: "Silent Night". On 24 December 1818, this carol was first performed publicly, at the Saint Nicholas church in Oberndorf.

Franz Xaver Gruber (25 November 1787 – 7 June 1863), was an Austrian primary school teacher and church organist in the village of Arnsdorf. At the same time he was organist and choirmaster at St Nicholas Church in the neighboring village of Oberndorf bei Salzburg and then in later years moved on to Hallein, Salzburg.

Together with Joseph Mohr, a Catholic priest who wrote the original German lyrics, Gruber composed the music for the Christmas carol Silent Night. On Christmas Eve of 1818, Mohr, an assistant pastor at St Nicholas, showed Gruber a six-stanza poem he had written in 1816. He asked Gruber to set the poem to music. The church organ had broken down so Gruber produced a melody with guitar arrangement for the poem. The two men sang "Stille Nacht" for the first time at Christmas Mass in St Nicholas Church while Mohr played guitar and the choir repeated the last two lines of each verse.

In later years, Gruber composed additional arrangements of the carol for organ and for organ with orchestra, as well as scores of other carols and masses, many of which are still in print and sung today in Austrian churches.

The stamp depicts a portrait of Gruber and the illuminated "Silent Night" Chapel in the pretty snowy Salzburgian Oberndorf.