With Christmas of the year 1818 approaching the mountain hamlet of Oberndorf, Austria, the parish priest had a problem. Mice had gnawed holes in the organ bellows. There was neither time nor money to make repairs before townsfolk congregated for midnight mass at St. Nicholas Church.
For weeks the schoolmaster had been arranging music for the season and practicing for a Christmas eve mass by Mozart. Nearly two centuries later, tourists from many nations will congregate at this small chapel near the bend of the Salzach River 10 miles north of Salzburg to marvel at the manner in which the priest and the schoolmaster solved their problem.
The priest had written several verses of a Christmas poem. Perhaps the schoolmaster could set the words to music. Accompaniment would have to be on the only instrument available -- the schoolmaster's guitar. Skeptical at first, the schoolmaster took the poem home and sat down at his spinet.
Finally he folded his hands in prayer to thank God for guiding him to a melody. The genius of Mozart was to be replaced by a hasty collaboration between a priest and a schoolmaster. When the choir voices rose in solemn majesty above the thin chords of a single guitar, the congregation sat in rapt silence, as if in the presence of a miracle.