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Music, Songs and Lyrics
Carol Of The Bells
by Leontovych, Mykola Dmytrovich

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by Wilhousky, Peter J.


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Hits: 55690
Genre: Folk/Traditional
Language: English



Song Lyrics

Hark how the bells,
sweet silver bells,
all seem to say,
throw cares away

Christmas is here,
bringing good cheer,
to young and old,
meek and the bold,

Ding dong ding dong
that is their song
with joyful ring
all caroling

One seems to hear
words of good cheer
from everywhere
filling the air

Oh how they pound,
raising the sound,
o'er hill and dale,
telling their tale,

Gaily they ring
while people sing
songs of good cheer,
Christmas is here,

Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
On on they send,
on without end,
their joyful tone
to every home
Dong Ding dong ding... dong! Bong!.



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Song Lyrics

Lyrics & Music: Adapted by Peter J. Wilhousky, copyright 1936, from original by Mykola Dmytrovich Leontovych, 1916

Recorded/Performed by: Harry Simeone Chorale - 1959
The Four Seasons - 1966
Johnny Mathis - 1972
Kenny Rogers - 1981

William Studwell, The Christmas Carol Reader

The Ukraine region of the former Soviet Union has been frequently misunderstood. Although for centuries it was more than large enough to be an independent medium-sized nation, which it now is, and had a language, alphabet, and culture distinct from the dominant Russians, the Ukrainians were often mistakenly labeled "Russians." This miscomprehension affected all sectors of their civilization, including the one famous contribution to the literature of carols to emanate from the Ukraine.

The music for the very popular holiday song, "Carol of the Bells," was created by the Ukraine's most popular composer, Mykola Dmytrovich Leontovych (1877-1921). Despite being born in Ukraine, living in Ukraine, and largely working with Ukrainian music, Leontovych and his works are most than occasionally called "Russian." The composition from which "Carol of the Bells" was derived, the choral work Shchedryk, which was first performed by students at Kiev University in December 1916, has not been exempted from the mislabeling. But the Ukrainians, from one perspective, have had the last laugh in this cultural comedy of errors, for by far the best-known carol music to originate in any portion of the former Soviet Union was Leontovych's brilliant musical portrayal of the sounds of Christmas bells.

Only 20 years after its composition, the music from Shchedryk was converted into a carol halfway around the world. Peter J. Wilhousky (1902-1978), a composer, lyricist, and conductor who worked with Arturo Toscanini on NBC radio, adapted Leontovych's music and added some lyrics. The title chosen by New Jerseyite Wilhousky was ideal, for "Carol of the Bells" is not only extremely suitable as a characterization of the melody, but also is completely harmonious with the old Slavic legend on which Shchedryk is based. At midnight on the night Jesus was born, the legend claims, every bell in the world rang out in his honor.

Since the synthesis of "Carol of the Bells" in 1936, the song, also known as "Ukrainian Carol," has increasingly become a part of the celebration of Christmas in the United States. Its public acceptance was surely boosted by the employment of the melody in a series of television advertisements for champagne. The idea, apparently, was that the champagne was as tasteful and sparkling as the music. In addition, the melody has been utilized in three other American carols. In 1947, M. L. Holman wrote "Ring, Christmas Bells." In 1957, the anonymous lyrics "Come, Dance and Sing" were published, and by 1972 another "Carol of the Bells" (this time anonymous) was published. Wilhousky's original "Carol of the Bells" can be easily distinguished from the later one by his first line, "Hark! How the bells, sweet silver bells." The second "Carol of the Bells" starts with "Hark to the bells, Hark to the bells." This multiple usage of Leontovich's music for four carols as well as for a variety of other purposes is sound testimony to its quality and popular appeal.

William L. Simon, ed., Readerís Digest Merry Christmas Songbook (1981)

There is a legend that at the stroke of midnight on the evening when Jesus was born all the bells on earth suddenly began pealing joyously together of their own accord--and there was never a sound like it for majesty and grandeur. "Carol of the Bells," based on an old Ukrainian motif, probably springs from that legend, as it tells of the "sweet silver bells" that pealed joyously in unison. Traditionally, the "Carol o/the Bells" is sung quietly in the beginning, grows louder and ever louder as each voice adds to the tintinnabulation, and finally dies away to a pianissimo as the pealing gradually ceases.

Earthly Delights: Xmas Carols

The tune for this carol was written by Mykola Dmytrovich Leontovich (1877-1921) and was based on an old Ukrainian melody. The original Leontovich piece (as Judith Otten of New York has discovered) was entitled 'Shtchedrik, shtchedrik, shtchevatchka', described what swallows sitting on the eaves of an inn could see, and did not have a final bass 'dong'. The words commonly used today were written by the American composer, arranger and choral director Peter J.Wilhousky (1902-1978). Of Czech background, Wilhousky grew up singing in Russian-American choirs and made many translations and arrangements of Slavic music. The lyric of this carol was suggested by the legend that at midnight the evening Jesus was born all the bells on earth started to sound of their own accord.

Credit for the above information is given to: Hymns and Carols of Christmas



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