For the past 10 years or so, I've wanted to re-imagine a holiday tune, and I wasn't going to let another year slip by without doing it. When sorting through the catalog of holiday jingles, I found some interesting info about one song in particular, and it just happened to be one of my favorites.
Most people know this song as "Carol of the Bells", a popular holiday carol with lyrics and song title copyrighted in 1936 by Peter J. Wilhousky (1902-1978). So, Wilhousky owns the lyrics and song name to the popular version we all know, but what about the music? Who wrote this beautiful piece?
After doing some research, I discovered that the original music and lyrics (which had nothing to do with Christmas) was actually composed in 1904 by Ukrainian composer and teacher, Mykola Leontovych (1877-1921). The song is based on a traditional Ukrainian folk chant, whose language was thought to have magical properties. The original Ukrainian lyrics tell the tale of a swallow flying into a household to proclaim the plentiful and bountiful year that the family will have. The song's original title, "Shchedryk" (sh-ched-rick), is derived from the Ukrainian word "shchedryi" which means "bountiful".
The song didn't premier until 1916, and was later performed by Alexander Koshetz's Ukrainian National Chorus at Carnegie Hall in New York on October 5th, 1921. After seeing this performance, Peter Wilhousky essentially adapted the music, wrote new lyrics, and called it "Carol of the Bells".
More info here:
released December 22, 2014
Produced by Brandon Bolmer
Original music composition written by Mykola Leontovych