Meaning of Carol of the Bells & The Story Behind

The popular Christmas song Carol of the Bells has been covered by many famous artists from different genres, making it a favorite among classical music fans, pop music fans and heavy metal fans all over the world. But not all music lovers know about the Ukrainian origin of the famous composition.

Let’s try to correct this unfortunate omission, at least on the scale of the audience of the site Blimey.

The story behind of Shchedryk (Carol of the Bells)

Throughout its centuries-old the story, the Ukrainian people have been composing the so-called schedrovkas (Ukrainian “shedrivki”), which were traditionally performed at Christmas and New Year. Nowadays, it is customary to sing them on the Generous Evening, on the eve of the Old New Year.

They reflected pagan beliefs, mentioned biblical stories, and also described the conditions of life and common traditions. The guests, coming to the house for the holidays, sang generosity to the owner and members of his family, wishing wealth, harvest, health, happiness and good luck.

One of these Christmas songs is Shchedryk. It sings about a swallow promising its owners prosperity in the coming year. The mention of a bird that flies to warmer climes for the winter suggests that the shed appeared in pagan times, when the New Year was celebrated on the spring equinox.

This folk song fascinated the Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovich, who devoted decades to work on the work. He presented the first edition of the choral adaptation of Shchedryk in 1901, and the fifth was completed almost twenty years later. In 1916, it was brilliantly performed by the Kyiv University Choir.

It was the adaptation of “Shchedryk” that made Leontovich a famous composer and opened his work to a wide audience.

Lyrics of Shchedryk

Shchedryk, Shchedryk, Shchedryvochka,
The swallow came,
I began to twitter,
Viklikati Lord:
“See, see, Lord,
Look at the koshara –
There the sheep were crouching
And the lambs were born.
In you the goods are all good,
You will be a mother to the world of pennies,
Want not a penny, then half,
You have a black-browed woman in you.
Shchedryk, Shchedryk, Shchedryvochka,
The swallow has arrived.

The story of Carol of the Bells song

Carol of the Bells

In October 1921, the Ukrainian National Choir, directed by Oleksandr Koshyts, presented Shchedryk at Carnegie Hall, winning the hearts of the local audience.

Next, an American composer of Ukrainian origin, Peter Wilhousky, composed a new text in English, turning the traditional schedrovka into a Christmas song. The melody reminded him of the ringing of bells, which prompted the main idea and determined the choice of the title.

Thus was born the now well-known Carol of the Bells. It was first heard on the radio during the Great Depression, but Vilkhovsky registered the copyright only in 1936.

Since the forties, the song has often been recorded by different musicians. It is not possible to list them all within the framework of the article, because only Wikipedia has more than one hundred and fifty versions of the composition. Therefore, we will choose at our discretion.

Let’s start with a virtuoso performance of Carol of the Bells by The Piano Guys.

Currently, Carol of the Bells from Pentatonix is ​​very popular.

But fans of heavy music are closer, of course, to Metallica’s version of Carol of the Bells.

Interesting Facts

  • Variants of the song Carol of the Bells with alternative lyrics are known: Ring, Christmas Bells by Minna Louise Hohman, as well as Come Dance and Sing and Hark to the Bells by unknown authors.
  • The composition is featured in several feature films. For many, the most memorable film use of the song remains the scene from the comedy Home Alone (although Harry Potter fans will disagree).

Carol of the Bells lyrics

Hark how the bells,
sweet silver bells,
All seem to say
Throw care away

Christmas is here
bringing good cheer,
To young and old
Meek and 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 they send,
On without end
Their joyful tone
To every home

Ding dong ding dong
Ding dong ding dong

Carol of the Bells lyrics alternate

Listen to the bells
Melodious silver bells
They seem to want to say:
Leave your worries

Christmas has come
Cheerful mood brought
Young and old
Meek and brave

Ding dong, ding dong
This is their call
Gathering in a cheerful circle
All songs sing

Seems to be heard
Word of encouragement
From everywhere
They are in the air

Oh how they ring
Louder and louder
Over the mountains, over the valleys
They tell their tale

Nice they ring
While the people are singing
funny songs
Christmas has come

Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas

They blow everything
Your joyful melody
To every house

Ding dong, ding dong
Ding dong, ding dong

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