Monday, July 6, 2009

1849 Silent Night - the first English translation

We are so fortunate to have this wonderful piece: it is a hymnal which presents the very first printed English translation of Silent Night!

I was just doing the research on an interesting but not terribly fancy hymnal collected by one Mr. Charles Dingley, and where should I end up but at the special Christmas pages of Doug Anderson - I wrote to him and thanked him for this information - he very sweetly responded, saying that sometimes it feels like you're just working along and no one is watching...

Here's the link to my listing:

We are starting it around $500 - I chose the price of $440 (A440 is concert pitch - a bit of inside musical humor!)

The origins of "Silent Night" are no longer a mystery. We think that one of the best places to find the astoundingly well-researched history of "Stille Nacht" is with Doug Anderson, "The Hymns and Carols of Christmas" whose Web pages were our first contact with this subject.

The first United States performance of "Stille Nacht" was in 1839; the version most English-speakers sing today was penned by Bishop John Freeman Young. It appears to have been written between 1855 and 1859 while he was an assistant at Trinity Church in New York City.

However, what we learned through Mr. Anderson's pages is that the oldest translation of "Stille Nacht" in the English language was written by J.F. Warner, and first printed as Hymn 373 in the book we offer here, Charles Dingley's Devotional Harmonist. The translation was done for Methodist Episcopal churches in New York and New Jersey, copyright 1849, and appears here in four part SATB harmony.

Charles Dingley was very active in the musical and spiritual life of his communities. As an editor and teacher, his musicianship appears to be careful, his editorship wide-ranging. This volume is held in university libraries in the non-circulating reserve sections, in 1849, 1850 and 1851 versions. Some of these library copies appear to be the "Patent Note System", or Shape Note music. Please also note here some wonderful tunes, identified primarily by their tune name, including a lovely early rendition of the "Doxology".

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