But this song’s story has a very interesting history.
In 1847, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, a full time wine seller and a part time church attender and poet was asked by his parish priest to write a poem for the upcoming Christmas mass.
Using the gospel of Luke as his reference, he worked on it while traveling to Paris and by the time he arrived “Cantique de Noel” had been written. He liked it so much that he thought it should be a song, so he asked his friend Adolphe Charles Adams to help. Adams was well known world-wide for his orchestral compositions and his ballets, but reports say “the lyrics that his friend Cappeau gave him . . . challenged the composer in a fashion unlike anything he received from London, Berlin, or St. Petersburg.”
The irony is that Adams was a Jew, and while he didn’t believe in Jesus as the Messiah nor did he celebrate Christmas, he was so moved that he worked hard to “marry an original score to Cappeau’s beautiful words.”
The song was immediately accepted and its use spread throughout France until, eventually, it was discovered that Cappeau had left the church and joined the socialist movement. From then on the song was deemed “unfit for church services” and banned from the Catholic church in France. However, popular appeal kept it alive, and after a decade American writer John Sullivan Dwight introduced it to America, for two reasons: first, because of the beauty of the song itself, and second, because the third verse talks about loving one another and the chains of oppression ceasing. Dwight was a ardent abolitionist.
Some historical accounts say that on Christmas Eve 1871 during the Franco-Prussian War, one weaponless French soldier left the safety of the trenches and started singing the first verse of “Cantique De Noel” and was soon joined by a German soldier who sang a verse from Martin Luther’s "From Heaven Above to Earth I Come.” All fighting then stopped for the next 24 hours.
Finally, “O Holy Night” is believed to be the first song to be played over the radio, for on Christmas Eve in 1906, university professor Reginald Fessenden (who worked with Thomas Edison) was working on what would soon be known as radio waves. On this Christmas Eve, Fessenden, playing with his new “broadcast” equipment, decided to read Luke’s version of the nativity story to whoever might be able to hear him, and then he played “O Holy Night” on his violin.
Below is Josh Groban's versin of the song. I hope you enjoy it.
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“The Amazing Story of ‘O Holy Night.’” Beliefnet. Web.