Sunday, 28 December 2008

A Bunch of Amateurs

I read the other day that after watching A Bunch of Amateurs at the annual Royal Film Performance in November, the Queen enjoyed it so much that she asked for a DVD of it to be screened at Sandringham over Christmas. I worked as an extra (a doctor) during the Burt Reynolds starring film's last day of shooting in Surrey, England. There was that end of term feeling on set, actors on their last scenes and crew looking forward to a break after a succession of long days filming in the English winter. Here is my diary entry for that day.

Wednesday 19th March 2008
Filmed A Bunch of Amateurs as a doctor. Call time was 9.15am at Chertsey- not a good time as I'll hit the rush hour traffic on the motorway. Thought I'd better leave early so left home at 6.00 and got to the unit base far too early-7.30pm. No one was there apart from a night watchman, so read and semi-dozed in my car. Not feeling 100%- maybe its a cold I'm going down with. People started arriving at 9.00 and had breakfast at 10.00. I was careful with what I ate as I didn't want to have bacon, tomato, baked beans etc staining my doctor's white coat, as happened when I was previously a doctor. (When filming the comedy Green Wing as a doctor, to the costume department's great displeasure, I managed to squeeze the contents of the inside of a doughnut all over my white coat!) I didn't really feel like a fried breakfast anyway so went for a more healthy option.
I was booked to do one scene. I was hoping it would be with Burt Reynolds- its not everyday one gets to work with (even if its only sort of working with) a Hollywood screen legend. However he wasn't in my scene, but I did get to see him being escorted to the make up trailer and it was difficult to pretend to be looking in his direction in a casual way, rather than staring at him like a stalker. After being an extra for several years I'm quite blase about seeing famous people, but this is BURT REYNOLDS we are talking about.
My scene was with Samantha Bond whom I told another extra was Miss Moneypenny in James Bond, then afterwards wondered if I was getting her confused with someone else as she shares the same surname as 007. Whilst Samantha Bond has a conversation with Richard James who is playing a doctor, I was asked to go up to another extra, who was a patient sitting in the waiting room, mime to her 'come with me' and lead her away (presumably to my consulting room). My bit in the background seemed to go OK, the assistant director didn't ask me to do anything different, which was a good sign. I wonder if the scene will be there on the final edit, it didn't seem to be a particularly important one, though because I was concentrating on my oh so important bit (ha ha!), I didn't take in what the two actors were conversing about.
I got wrapped at 3.15, had lunch (now I've changed out of my white doctor's coat, I was able to relax and not care how much of the meat and gravy lands on me) & got home at 5.10 missing the traffic. Still feeling iffy so crashed out in front of the TV and watched the football.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Prince Albert- A Trivial Biography

Young Victoria- a movie telling the story of the turbulent first years of Queen Victoria's rule, and her enduring romance with Prince Albert is due to be released March 2008. I was booked for a day's filming for the scene showing her coronation but a number of the extras, including me, got chopped for budgetary reasons. I'm not bitter however and I thought I'd take a trivial look at the life of Queen Vic's beloved Bertie.

NAME Prince Albert. Full name Francis Charles Augustus Albert Emmanuel

WHAT FAMOUS FOR The Prince Consort and Husband of Queen Victoria
"A is Prince Albert once buxom and keen
Who came from Germany and got spliced to the Queen."
(Alphabetical Song on the Corn Law Bill-anon)

BIRTH b1819 in the German duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield

FAMILY BACKGROUND Albert was the second son of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. His family were connected to many of Europe's ruling monarchs. When Albert was four, his mother ran off with a German Baron. Albert and his elder brother, Ernest, spent their youth in a close companionship scarred by their parents' turbulent marriage and eventual separation; their adored mother, exiled from court and barred from seeing her children again due to her affair, died young, at the age 31, of cancer.

EDUCATION Albert received a good education, before attending the University of Bonn. There he studied natural science, political economy, and philosophy. His teachers included the philosopher Fichte and the poet Schlegel. He also studied music and painting and excelled in sports, especially in fencing and riding.
After Prince Albert's death Framingham School in Suffolk was founded as a memorial to him. I know that as my father was educated there.

CAREER RECORD As Prince Consort Albert had no status in the constitution and he occupied a somewhat irregular position. A lacky filling in the census form for the royal family described his job as "husband." However, Albert was a hard worker throughout his time in England, writing endless memos to all and sundry. A more accurate job description would have been Advisor and Private Secretary to the Queen.
Among the entries on his CV would have been
1841 Appointed Head of Commission to encourage the fine arts in Britain.
1847 Elected Chancellor of Cambridge University.
1851 Planned the Great Exhibition which made a profit of £186,000. It had 13,500 exhibitions and constituted at its time the largest assembly of people collected together for one purpose.

APPEARANCE Moustache and receding hairline. Large blue eyes. Dark hair. Broad shouldered. Victoria described him aged 20 as "beautiful blue eyes, exquisite nose and such a pretty mouth with delicate moustachios and slight but very slight whiskers."

FASHION Albert originated a fashion for wearing a watch chain across a waistcoat from one pocket hole to the other.
The traditional black band on a Panama hat was added in mourning for Prince Albert after he died. Its been retained ever since.

CHARACTER Very sensible, hard working, efficient, erm typically German. Attentive, kind, trustworthy and a little bit priggish.
Victoria on Albert "He is an angel and his kindness and affection to me is really touching." Aah!

RELATIONSHIPS The idea of a marriage between Albert and his first cousin Victoria had always been cherished by their uncle, King Leopold I of Belgium, as well as Victoria's mother (Leopold's sister), Victoire, Duchess of Kent, and in May 1836 Albert, along with his father and brother paid a visit to Kensington Palace, where Princess Victoria of Kent, as she then was, lived, for the purpose of meeting her.
The visit did not by any means suit Victoria's uncle, King William IV, who disapproved of the match with his heir, and favoured Prince Alexander of Orange. But Princess Victoria knew of Leopold's plan, and William's objections went for naught.
In her diary Princess Victoria noted that she was attracted by his intellect and also by his “exquisite nose and delicate moustachios.” The parties undertook no formal engagement, but privately understood the situation as one which would naturally develop in time.
After Victoria came to the throne on June 20th 1837, her letters show her interest in Albert's being educated for the part he would have to play. In the winter of 1838 - 1839 the prince travelled in Italy, accompanied by the Queen's confidential adviser.
In October 1839 he and Ernest went again to England to visit the Queen, with the object of finally settling the marriage. She summoned Albert one afternoon and with characteristic directness proposed marriage herself as she was sure Albert would never have taken such a liberty as to propose to the Queen of England. They became definitely engaged on October 15th 1839 and the Queen made a formal declaration of her intention to marry to the Privy Council on November 23rd.
They were married in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace on 10th February 1840 and had a two day honeymoon at Windsor Castle. It proved to be a good match and the couple were devoted to each other.
Victoria and Albert had nine children together. Apparently every fifth child born in this world is Chinese. However none of Albert's were. How strange.

FINANCIAL MATTERS Albert was astute financially, making a lot of money for the royal family. Their fortune today originated from Albert's efforts. For instance, the estates of the Duchy of Cornwall, the hereditary property of his son, the Prince of Wales, improved so greatly under his father's management that the rent receipts rose from £11,000 pounds to £50,000 per year. If Albert was alive today, he'd be very old, but would his financial skills would have come in handy in this current turbulent economic climate.

FOOD AND DRINK Victoria and Albert's wedding cake was 9 feet around, weighed 300 pounds and was 14 inches high. It was served at the wedding breakfast.
A giant wheel of Cheddar cheese was given to the Queen for a wedding gift. It weighed 1,200 pound and two Somerset villages combined to make it.

MUSIC AND ARTS Albert had very good taste in art, far better than his missus. The 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica illustrates his sense of the artistic . "One day the prince had a conversation with a great manufacturer of crockery and sought to convert him to the idea of issuing something better than the eternal willow-pattern in white with gold, red, or blue, which formed the staple of middle and lower class domestic china. The manufacturer held out that new shapes and designs would not sell; but the Prince Consort induced him to try, and he did so with such a rapid success that it revolutionised the china cupboards of Britain."
Albert was also a talented composer of both sacred pieces such as Te Deum in C, which was sang at Victoria's 60th celebration anniversary celebration of her reign and various piano songs that were said to be reminiscent of Mendelssohn and Schubert.

CHRISTMAS Prince Albert, introduced the German habit of erecting a Christmas tree. Published pictures, that were featured in the Illustrated London News, of the Royal Family around a Christmas tree draped with candles, presents and sweets, proved influential in igniting the spark of modern Christmas celebration as a family event.
Christmas pudding became a proper tradition in the 19th century when Prince Albert, a fan, introduced it to the royal Christmas.

PETS Albert and Victoria had a dog called Eos.

HOBBIES AND SPORTS Albert had a special interest in education and science and was the inspiration behind the Science Museum in London. His interest in applying science and art to manufacturing industry bore fruit in the 1851 Great Exhibition. The surplus of £186,000 that the Great Exhibition raised, resulted in a number of educational and cultural institutions. These included what would later be named the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Albert Hall, which was originally conceived by him as a hall of art & sciences.

PHILOSOPHY & THEOLOGY Albert had a non denominational, relaxed attitude to religion. He stressed good works rather than professions of faith.
Many credit Prince Albert with introducing the principle that the British Royal Family should remain above politics. Before his marriage to Victoria the Royal Family supported the Whigs; early in her reign Victoria managed to thwart the formation of a Tory government by Sir Robert Peel by refusing to accept substitutions which Peel wanted to make among her ladies-in-waiting.

SCANDAL Originally British people were suspicious of Albert because of his German connections. A satirical verse at the time went:
"I am a German just arrived
With you to be mingling
My passage it was paid
From Germany to England
To wed your blooming Queen
For better or worse I take her
My father is a duke
And I'm a sausage maker."
Later on opinion was divided between those who regarded him as a meddling foreigner and those who valued his hard work.

MILITARY RECORD Albert showed his bravery by shielding the Queen when an assassin shot at her in an open carriage.
Though the English parliament refused to give the German Prince Consort a rank in the army, he did help reorganise the army training plan during the Crimean War and played a principal part in averting war with the USA in 1861.

HOMES Albert grew up Ehrenburg Palace in Coburg, Germany. Once married to Victoria they lived in a fairly posh abode- Windsor Castle
Their winter home was Osbourne Castle on the Isle of Wight. Albert designed it, together with Thomas Cubitt, as an Italian villa.

TRAVEL Albert and Victoria loved the Highlands of Scotland and brought Balmoral Castle rebuilding it in Scottish baronial style. The British Royal Family still spend some time each year there.

HEALTH AND PHYSICAL FITNESS Albert drove himself too hard trying to win over the public and his health consequently suffered. He had a chronic inability to stay awake once it got to late evening, which lead to a number of embarrassing incidents at various public functions.

DEATH Prince Albert died in 1861 of typhoid fever at Windsor Castle. He had gone up to Cambridge to admonish the future Edward VIII against laziness and fell ill there. The Queen’s court physician, Sir James Clarke, originally diagnosed no more than a nasty cold. It was only after the death of the Prince Consort that Clarke admitted that in hindsight maybe there were typhoid symptoms. Every day for 40 years after his death, Victoria ordered that Albert's clothes be laid afresh on his bed in his suite at Windsor Castle. Queen Victoria never really recovered from his death and was in continual mourning. The Albert memorial is a shrine to his memory at Windsor Castle.
Later Victoria was buried alongside him at Frogmore, Berkshire.

APPEARANCES IN MEDIA Among the films in which Prince Albert has been portrayed are: Victoria the Great 1937 Played by Anton Walbrook
Sixty Glorious Years 1938 Played by Anton Walbrook (again)
The Lady with a Lamp 1951 Played by Peter Graves
Young Victoria 2009 Played by Rupert Friend

ACHIEVEMENTS 1. The title of Prince Consort of Great Britain was conferred in 1857 on Albert
2. Albert is the only British Consort to have had a memorial (Albert Memorial) and a public building (Royal Albert Hall) dedicated to his name.
3. Prince Albert in Central Saskatchewan, Canada, was named after him, as was Lake Albert in Africa .
4. The Albert is a short kind of watch, which was named after Queen Victoria's hubby.

Sources The Faber Book of English History in Verse by Kenneth Baker, People's Almanac Presents the Book of Lists #3 by Amy Wallace, David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace, The Daily Mail December 23, 2008, Food For Thought (Extraordinary Little Chronicles of the World) by, erm, me and a few bits were nicked from Wikipedia

Sunday, 14 December 2008

The First Christmas Cards

Christmas cards began with a lazy aristocrat and publisher Sir Henry Cole. In 1843 he sent some cards with a short message instead of the common practice of the time of writing seasonal messages on calling cards or in personal letters to relatives and friends. The recipients of his cards were insulted because it seemed they didn’t warrant the usual full and affectionate Christmas letter. Church authorities and temperance adherents also objected because some cards showed members of family groups drinking wine and jolly citizens brandishing brandy glasses . Soon Cole was selling them for a shilling each but they didn’t take off until later in the century when they cost up to five guineas a piece. By 1870 The Times was denouncing them as a “social evil”. But the Christmas card habit was now established.

A Short History of Christmas

For the first few centuries after Jesus' time on Earth, the Church paid little attention to the celebration of His birth. Nevertheless, as Christians increasingly commemorated the events of theie Saviour's life, the issue of the date of His birth became more prominent. However as Scripture at no point mentioned when He was actually born, early Christian teachers suggested various possible dates.
The Christian historian Sextus Julius Africanus, in 221, was possibly the first to nominate the 25th of December. He did this by identifying the spring equinox (March 25th) as the date of the creation of light on the 4th day of creation and by reasoning that Jesus’ conception was the same date, 5500 years later, and His birth being nine months after that, December 25th.
In 350 Pope Julius I designated December 25th as the day to celebrate Christ’s birth. He did so mainly as a political move to counteract the effect of Saturnalia, the popular feast held in honor of the Roman god Saturn, which occurred at the time of the winter solstice, climaxing on December 25th, a Roman holiday. December 25th also was a celebration of the birthday of the Persian sun god Mithra. It was hoped that by picking this date Christianity would be more appealing to pagans. 25th December was formally fixed by the church in AD440 and at first the festival was known as ‘The Feast of the Nativity’. Later it was called ‘Christ Mass’ which was eventually shortened to “Christmas.”
Christmas began to be widely celebrated with a specific liturgy in the 9th century butfor many centuries it did not attain the liturgical importance of either Good Friday or Easter Sunday, the other two major Christian holidays.
Throughout the Middle Ages, various laws were passed to encourage the celebration of Christ's birth. For instance in 1551 the English Protestant King Edward VI’s Holy Days and Fasting Days Act demanded that every citizen must attend a Christian church service on Christmas Day and must walk to church. Also the Unlawful Games Act of 1541prohibited all sport on Christmas Day, with the exception of archery practice. Another law passed around this time was forbidding the making of mince pies or eating Christmas pudding on Christmas Day. This law was decreed by Henry VIII, which seems a bit rich coming from a king historically famed for his gastronomic appetite.
In mid 17th century England, Christmas celebrations had become increasingly rowdy and the puritan Oliver Cromwell and his Parliament felt that Christmas, like the other religious holidays were unscriptural. They reasoned that such days took away from the Sabbath, which God had given to Christians as a special day to celebrate God's work in Christ, so they abolished Christmas and declared it to be an ordinary working day. Soldiers were ordered to go round the streets and confiscate food being cooked for a Christmas celebration and to arrest those taking part. However many churches ignored the edict and entire congregations were detained. After the death of Cromwell and the restoration of King Charles II, Christmas was restored.
Meanwhile, in America, Christmas was not celebrated by the early settlers, who were mainly Puritans. In 1659 in Boston, Christmas was banned, with any one found guilty of observing Christmas or any other religious holiday being made liable to pay a fine of five shillings. The ban lasted for over 20 years before being repealed.
Although Charles Dickens is always associated with Christmas, when he was born in 1812, it was a very minor festival. This was due to the Industrial Revolution, which started in the second half of the 18th century. Christmas had been the great festival of the traditional village community and as this community broke up, so its festivities began to lose their meaning. However, with stories such as The Christmas Carol, Dickens became a successful protagonist for the Victorian middle-class philanthropic view that Christmas should be reinvented as a season of goodwill. Around the same time Queen Victoria's German husband, Prince Albert, introduced the teutonic habit of erecting a Christmas tree. Published pictures, that were featured in the Illustrated London News of the Royal Family around a Christmas tree draped with candles, presents and sweets, proved influential in igniting the spark of modern Christmas celebration as a family event.
In America, by the mid 1850s, rigid puritanical attitudes opposing Christmas had softened and many Americans were adopting the recent English custom of celebrating Christmas in a big way with cards, a tree and other associated paraphernalia. In 1870 Christmas was declared a federal holiday by the United States Congress.
Christmas Day began to be marked in something like its present form in England after the First World War, but public services only started to close down entirely for Dec 25th in the late 1950s, the time when Christmas with all the trimmings became the family norm. It wasn’t until 1958 that Scotland began to celebrate Christmas Day as a national holiday.
Today many complain that Christmas is now an overly commercialised festival. The celebration of the birth of Christ has become a mega-bucks business. In Britain families spend an average of £125 on food and each person £240 on gifts. Sadly, many are caught up in the stream of partying, gift buying, eating and drinking, with barely a thought for the origins of this special day.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

The words to “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” were written by Charles Wesley, the brother of the founder of Methodism John Wesley. He was inspired by the sounds of London church bells whilst walking to church on Christmas Day. The poem first appeared in Hymns and Sacred Poems in 1739 with the opening line of “Hark, how the welkin (heaven) rings”. Wesley’s evangelist colleague, George Whitefield, altered it to the familiar opening line over the protests of the author in 1753. Then in 1760 the Reverend Martin Madan substituted lines seven and eight, to what we know today.
The tune was originally composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1840 for the second chorus "Gott ist Licht" ("God is Light"), of the cantata Festgesang ("Festival Song"). Festgesang was written by the German composer to commemorate Johann Gutenberg and the invention of printing. Mendelssohn died in 1847 and in 1855 Dr William Cummings, who was an enthusiast of the German composer, put the words and music together in spite of the fact that Mendelssohn had made it clear that his music was not be used for sacred purposes. Additionally Wesley had envisaged his words being sung to the same tune as his Easter hymn, "Christ the Lord is Risen Today." However it is Mendelssohn’s tune, which is the one generally used today.
Charles Wesley was a prolific hymn writer, penning over 6000 hymns, more than any other male writer. (Fanny Crosby wrote 8000). Wesley had the ability of expressing sublime truth in simple ways, his motivation in writing his hymns being to teach the poor and illiterate good doctrine. His brother, John Wesley claimed that Charles’ hymnal was the best theological book in existence. It is said Methodism was born in song and Charles was the chief songwriter. Amongst the hymns Charles Wesley wrote were, “O For A Thousand Tongues”, “Love Divine All Loves Excelling” and “Jesus, Lover of my Soul.”
Originally written for

O Come All Ye Faithful

This carol is generally attributed to John Wade, a British exile living in France after fleeing the Jacobean rebellion. He earned a living by teaching music and copying plain chant and hymn manuscripts for private use. Around 1741 Wade put the Latin text of “Adeste Fideles” to music and later included it in his 1751 publication of Cantus Diversi. There are conflicting theories that Wade wrote the original text of “Adeste Fideles” himself or took the words from an anonymous Latin Hymn, written by monks, possibly as early as the 13th century. The original four verses of the hymn were later extended to a total of eight, (the eighth verse is rarely sung), three of them probably by Abbé Etienne Jean François Borderies. It is thought that Abbé Borderies heard the hymn sung while exiled in England during the French Revolution and wrote the three additional stanzas after he returned to France in 1794. In 1853 the familiar English translation first appeared, attributed to the Reverend Frederick Oakeley.
Oakeley was ordained into the Church of England in 1828, switching to Roman Catholicism in 1845. He was appointed canon at Westminster Cathedral in 1852 and for many years he worked among the poor of Westminster. Small of stature, lame and short-sighted, he did not look like a charismatic person, but his writings, charm and personality meant he exercised a wide influence. He is best remembered for his translation of “Adeste Fideles.”
This was originally written for the Songfacts website.

Good King Wenceslas

Good King Wenceslas is a popular Christmas carol, in which King Wenceslas is blessed for giving money to a poor peasant on St. Stephen's Day (26th December.) Unusually for a Christmas carol, the words do not refer to the Nativity.
In the middle of the nineteenth century John Mason Neale (Warden of Sackville College, East Grinstead, Sussex), a prolific reader and author came across a long narrative German poem about Wenceslas. A section in which the king walked out into the snow to rescue a poor swineherd particularly struck him. He adapted the poem into English and borrowed the tune to go with it from "Tempus Adest Floridum" ("Spring has unwrapped her flowers"), a 13th century spring carol. “Good King Wenceslas” was included in an 1853 publication Carols for Christmas-tide, by Neale and the Rev. Thomas Helmore, (vice-Principal of St. Mark’s College, Chelsea).
The arrangement generally used for this carol today first appeared as in Christmas Carols New and Old (1871) by Sir John Stainer and the Reverend H.R. Bramley. Apart From "Good King Wenceslas," their compilation also included Stainer's arrangements of what were to become the standard versions of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "The First Nowell," "I Saw Three Ships" and "What Child Is This,” among others.
The tale of King Wenceslas is based on a real person, Wenceslaus, the Duke of Bohemia, who in 935 gained control of Bohemia. Renowned for his piety, he took a vow of celibacy, founded many churches in Prague and elsewhere in the principality and spent much of his time in prayer and carrying out acts of piety. So great was his devotion that it is said he helped sow the corn and gather the grapes from which the bread and wine used at Mass was made. However his brother, Boleslaw and his supporters, murdered the good Wenceslaus on his way to Mass by hacking him to death at the church door. His people were outraged and regarded the martyred Duke as a saint. Neale in his adaptation upgraded Wenceslas to a king.
The story inspired much more than a carol. Neale was so touched by the quality of mercy in the tale he read that he founded the Society of St Margaret, which still offers care to the poor in their homes.
Originally written by myself for Songfacts

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

The words for this American carol are based on a poem written by a young Unitarian minister in Massachusetts, Reverend Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876), reportedly at the request of his friend and fellow minister, W. P. Lunt. It was first presented at his 1849 Sunday School Christmas celebration and was originally published on December 29th 1849 in a church magazine, The Christian Register. The poem was not the first Christmas poetry by Sears. He had written other Nativity lyrics and several books on religious topics. In addition, he was the editor for the Boston-based Monthly Religious Magazine from 1859 to 1871.
The following year, inspired by the poem, a friend of Sears, Richard Storrs Willis (1819-1900) adapted the words to a melody called "Carol", which he had written for the organ. Willis, who was an eminent editor and critic for the New York Tribune, had studied music in Europe as a young man, with, among others, Felix Mendelssohn, the composer of the music for “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”
Mendelssohn so much admired Willis’s work that he rearranged some of it for orchestra.
It could be claimed that this was the first Christmas song to be composed in the United States, which is today considered to be a standard. In the mid 1850s the Americans were only beginning to celebrate the Christmas traditions of their English forebears. The influence of works such as A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens were beginning to enthuse the American nation. Within twenty years other classic carols celebrating Christmas such as, "We Three Kings of Orient Are", "Jingle Bells", "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem" had been written in the United States.
(I originally wrote this for Songfacts).

Once In Royal David's City

The Irish children’s poet, Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895), wrote "Once In Royal David’s City." Cecil knew that children loved poetry and could memorise the great truths of scripture quickly and many of her poems were written to help make the Bible more understandable to them. In 1848 she published a volume of these hymns for children that has probably never been equalled. Amongst the hymns included in her collection were “There Is A Green Hill Far Away” and “All Things Bright and Beautiful” along with “Once In Royal David’s City.” Two years after her volume of children’s hymns was published, Cecil married William Alexander, a parish minister who later became a Bishop and then Archbishop of Ireland. In the early days of their marriage, they served a church in an impoverished rural area. Cecil did not just sit back and write poetry and weep for the needs of her poor neighbours. It is said “From one poor house to another, from one bed of sickness to another, from one sorrow to another, she went. Christ was ever with her and in her, and all felt her influence.” Later she gave the profits from her hymnbook to support handicapped children in the north of Ireland.
Originally posted on the Songfacts website.

Silent Night

Halfway through December 1818, the organ in St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, 11 miles north of Salzburg broke down. The curate, 26-year-old Josef Mohr, realised it couldn’t be repaired in time to provide music on Christmas Eve. He told his troubles to his friend Franz Gruber, who was an amateur composer. After unburdening himself, he gave Gruber a present, which was a poem that he had written two years previously. Gruber was so taken by the rhythm of the poem that he set it to music and, on Christmas Eve, there was music after all. Mohr played his guitar while the pair sang the song. It was the first public performance of "Stille Nacht" or as we know it "Silent Night". It is believed that the carol has been translated into over 300 languages around the world, and it is one of the most popular carols of all time.
Originally posted on the Songfacts website.