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Friday, December 20, 2013

Carol of the Bells origin

Since I’m a history geek fascinated by the origins of almost everything and not limited to facts I can use in writing Regency romance novels, I decided to delve into the origins one of my favorite Christmas carols, “Carol of the Bells.”

Imagine my surprise to learn that it wasn’t originally a Christmas song, nor is it as old as many other traditional carols. 

Originally, ‘Carol of the Bells’ was an ancient, pre-Christian Ukrainian folk song or chant sung by young girls who went from house to house singing about the upcoming spring and wishing for a plentiful year. However, in 1916, a Ukrainian composer name Mykold Leontovich wrote a new version as a choir arrangement. He entitled his new piece, “Shchedryk” based on the Ukrainian word for “bountiful" which is “shchedryj" and the students at Keiv University performed it for the first time in December of 1916.

Leontovich's “Shchedryk” arrived in America in 1921 when a chorus performed it in Carnegie Hall Oct. 5, 1921. Its growing popularity led to a sold out show.

An American choir director and arranger by the name of Peter Wilhousky heard the performance of "Shchedryk" which reminded him of bells. Inspired, Wilhousky wrote a new arrangement and new lyrics which he copyrighted in 1936. By the late 1930s, “Carol of the Bells,” also known as “The Ukrainian Bell Carol” became associated with the Christmas holiday season.

Hundreds of recordings of “Carol of the Bells” continue to add to its popularity. From the classical choral version sung by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, to a fairly rock and roll version performed by Trans Siberian Orchestra, there is a version for every taste. Two of my favorites are arranged and performed by Pentatonix, and David Foster

What is your favorite version of Carol of the Bells?



Beth Caudill said...

I love Carol of the Bells, my favorite arrangement is by the Disney Carol Singers. And one of my other much loved carols is Do You Hear What I Hear? This one has many versions but I dislike many of them. I really like this one sung in church by the congregation.

Allison said...

I've always loved the original Wilhowsky version and have sung it with several choirs. I find myself singing those lyrics along with whatever version comes on the car radio.