Silent Night for String Quartet – This carol features on the Manor House String Quartet‘s first album of Christmas carols for string quartet, called ‘I Saw Three Ships and other carols’. It originates from early 19th century Austria. Composed by Franz Gruber in 1818 to words written by Father Joseph Mohr two years earlier it is one of the best loved pieces of Christmas music still today. ‘Silent Night’ was first sung on Christmas Eve to the accompaniment of a guitar as legend has it that the organ was not working at this crucial time.
When arranging it for string quartet, violinist Vaughan Jones wanted to begin with a simple cello solo to allow this beautiful melody to sing out. Each verse is then joined by one more instrument until the full quartet takes over the piece. In a sung Christmas carol because each verse has words to add interest, it is not so crucial for the music to have it’s own variety but in an instrumental version, simply repeating the verse/chorus in an identical way would quickly become repetitive. When arranging carols for string quartet, Vaughan tried tried to ensure that each verse and chorus is different or has something unique to engage the listener.
You can also purchase the sheet music of Vaughan’s arrangement for the combinations of string quartet and string orchestra here: