Carol of the Bells
Long before the Trans-Siberian Orchestra came roaring onto the scene, there was Mannheim Steamroller. For better or worse, both entities have put their mark on Christmas music. While I really enjoy this piece when done by a choir I like the melody more than the actual words. This is not usually the case as ideally a song on this list would have ample parts of both. This is one song for which I’ll make an exception. The forward-driving rhythm of this piece is what I’ve always loved and still do to this day.
I love, and miss, the bells. Bells that were tolled in the small town churches of my youth. When very young I used to get to pull the giant rope that led to the bell tower of our tiny church in Fedora, South Dakota, and hear it peal out across the plains. I often wonder if we lost more than we know when we eliminated the church bells from our nation’s landscape.
A brief sidenote: I was privileged to receive a personal tour of Chip Davis’s home studio in the wooded area of north Omaha back in 1992. I wish I could say more of it but the two hours I spent there went much too fast and was almost twenty years ago.
Composed by Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych (1877-1921) in 1916. Originally titled Shchedryk, this Ukranian folk song is about a sparrow and the bountiful year that awaits a family. It was first performed in the Ukraine on the night of January 13, 1916, on the Julian calendar this is considered New Year’s Eve. In the United States the song was first performed on October 5, 1921 at Carnegie Hall.
Carol of the Bells, also known as the Ukrainian Carol, was adapted from Shchedryk by Mykola Leontovych (1877-1921), which was first performed in December 1916 by students at Kiev University. The original Ukrainian song is based on an old Slavic legend that every bell in the world rang in honor of Jesus on the night of his birth.
My soul yearns for you in the night,
yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you; (Isaiah 26:9)