A Minnesota Connection
Christmas Day is Leo Gruber's birthday. By my calculations he will be 97 this year. There have been a few stories written about Mr. Gruber, a retired dairy farmer from Willmar Minnesota, because he has a connection to a very famous Christmas song.
When Leo was around 9 years old, he found an old discarded accordion on a trash heap at a neighbor's farm. The neighbor let him take it home and with help from his mother, Leo taped up a few holes in the accordion and found out he was musically inclined. He soon taught himself to play be ear. Leo played the accordion at school, at family parties and dances for years. Every Christmas he played "Silent Night".
Not until Leo was around 30 years old did his family finally trace their roots back to an Austrian composer named Franz Gruber. If you have figured out that Franz Gruber wrote the music for "Silent Night" you would be correct. And the connection of course is that Leo's great, great, great, grandfather was Franz Gruber.
The story goes that in Germany on Christmas eve, 1818, Joseph Mohr asked Franz Gruber to write some music to accompany a poem Mohr had written. The church organ had been badly damaged by mice, so Gruber opted to play the piece on his guitar. The song "Silent Night" has been with us ever since and has been translated into almost every language on earth.
As far as I can tell from my research, Leo Gruber is still with us and as of 2012 was still playing "Silent Night" on his accordion for the family Christmas celebration. I hope Leo is still here this year and able to play this classic Christmas song for his family. But even if he is not able to play, Leo Gruber has passed his talent on to his children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren who also love to play this beautiful song.
I think music will continue for a very long time in the Gruber family.