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Bells, Bells, Bells – A Ukranian Folk Song

Carol of the Bells - Quietworkings

I love songs about bells.  I love bells.  I love the old churches that still ring them, especially at Christmas.

Carol of the Bells is a song that I’ve always loved and my dream is to be a part of a group or choir some day that performs it.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this Ukranian Folk song was not actually a Christmas song.

The song was originally written by Mykola Leontovich for a Ukranian choir.  It was considered a “winter well-wishing song” and many considered it inappropriate to sing at Christmas.  Based on the lyrics of a song from an old Ukranian anthology of folk songs, the composer set it to four notes and called it, Shchedryk.  The song was written for a Ukranian choir that then performed it all over the world.  The song originally spoke of a bird that flew in the window of a house proclaiming blessings on the inhabitants inside.

The song caught on quickly in other countries.  American choir director, Peter Wilhousky, heard the song and was impressed with how it reminded him of bells, so he wrote new lyrics for his choir based on that imagery.  He copyrighted the new lyrics in 1936 and published the song with a new name, Carol of the Bells, disregarding the fact that it had already been published almost two decades earlier in the Soviet Union.   The song has become a Christmas icon and it is estimated that there are at least 52 versions being sung each year.

The newer version has long been a favorite of mine.  One of my absolute favorites is this one by Celtic Women.   Do you have a choir or group that you prefer for this song?

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.

Amanda Cunningham

Amanda worked as a full-time school teacher for two years before getting married and having two wonderful kids.She blogs about faith, family, food, and fun.While crafting takes up a lot of her extra time, Amanda also strives to help others through ministry in her church and in the community.Amanda, also known as Mae, works as the church music director and is hoping to start tutoring and teaching music again in the days to come.

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