O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees; oh, hear the angel voices
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
O night divine
O night divine
When I was a child, I had a Christmas CD, and one of the songs was Mahalia Jackson’s version of “O Holy Night.” I immediately fell in love with it, and it has been one of my favorite Christmas songs ever since.
“O Holy Night” (also known as “Cantique de Noël”) is a well-known Christmas carol. Originally based on a French-language poem by poet Placide Cappeau, written in 1843, with the first line “Minuit, chrétiens! c’est l’heure solennelle” (Midnight, Christians, is the solemn hour) that composer Adolphe Adam set to music in 1847. The English version is by John Sullivan Dwight. The carol reflects on the birth of Jesus as humanity’s redemption.
In Roquemaure at the end of 1843, the church organ had recently been renovated. To celebrate the event, the parish priest persuaded poet Placide Cappeau, a native of the town, to write a Christmas poem. Soon afterwards that same year, Adolphe Adam composed the music. The song was premiered in Roquemaure in 1847 by the opera singer Emily Laurey. Unitarian minister John Sullivan Dwight, editor of Dwight’s Journal of Music, wrote the English version in 1855.