Songs of Christmas…Auld Lang Syne

This is part 31 of an Advent/Christmas series titled “Songs of Christmas.” For other parts of the series see the index. The index also contains the introduction for the series.

Well, today we bring the year 2016 to a close. We also bring this series, “Songs of Christmas” to an end. And, we are closing out “Songs of Christmas” with a song that isn’t a Christmas song at all. But, it is a song of the season. We opened this series with an Advent song, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and we are closing it with a New Year’s Eve song, “Auld Lang Syne.”

Many people get confused about the song. Perhaps that is because our traditions that encircle the song are confusing. Because we sing this song after “the ball drops” and we begin a new year, that it is a song ushering out the old and welcoming in the new. Well, that is half right. It is a song where we are saying goodbye to the old. Truthfully, I am not even sure why we sing the song. It tends to make, at least some of us cry even though we don’t know what it means and if you are anything like me, you don’t know all the words either. Just so you know, the title roughly translates as, “for old time’s sake.” It also doesn’t help the confusion when the words of the song have evolved some over time.

In 1788, the Scottish poet Robert Burns sent the Scots Musical Museum “Auld Lang Syne” in the form of a poem. He claimed it was an ancient folk song but that he was the first one to commit it to paper. He claimed that the song had passed from generation to generation, from parent to child for many, many years.

Burns’ claim of an ancient folk song was true but it was not true that he was the first to write the song down. The first known writing of the song was by James Watson in 1711.

There is also a belief that the tune we sing the song to today, “Roud 1694,” is not the song originally used with “Auld Lang Syne.” That tune, at least for now, is lost to history.

So, how did a song that has a murky history and nothing at all to do with New Year’s Eve become the song of New Year’s Eve? Well it probably has something to do with Guy Lombardo. In 1929 Lombardo and his band played “Auld Lang Syne” as transitional music while performing at New York City’s Roosevelt Hotel during a New Year’s Eve broadcast. It was played just after midnight, and heard over radio and television airwaves, inadvertently spawning a global tradition.   Today, “Auld Lang Syne” is one of the most recognizable songs around the world.

There us one way I believe we can put “Auld Lang Syne” to good use as a New Year’s song. Perhaps it could be our first New Year’s resolution (a series we will start tomorrow), to reunite with those friends, family and acquaintances before they are forgotten. We just might find true blessing from God in the words and in the re-acquaintance.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auld_Lang_Syne

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/31/auld-lang-syne-lyrics-wor_n_408106.html

http://www.scotland.org/news

http://www.themorgan.org/collection/Auld-Lang-Syne

http://bluegrasstoday.com/the-story-behind-the-song-auld-lang-syne/

http://mentalfloss.com/article/73078/brief-history-auld-lang-syne

Songs of Christmas…The Twelve Days of Christmas

This is part 30 of an Advent/Christmas series titled “Songs of Christmas.” For other parts of the series see the index. The index also contains the introduction for the series.

A number of years ago I received an email. Now in the days of Facebook and other social media we don’t see these kinds of emails anymore. We still see these kinds of things, but these days we are more likely to see them on social media than get them through email (I do still have a friend or two who still send me these things for email).

The email was an interesting presentation of the story behind the Christmas song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” When I read the email I thought, “That is a really interesting take on  what is otherwise a silly Christmas carol.” Because I have been using Facebook for around ten years and haven’t forwarded emails during that time, I honestly don’t remember if I forwarded it to anyone or not. This is an approximation of what the email said:

Beginning in the sixteenth century, British Catholics were forbidden by law from practicing their faith. They were not allowed to share these ideas, to write them down or teach them to children. Both the giver and the recipient of the information were accountable and in extreme cases death was possible. As with early Christianity, this persecution forced Roman Catholic faith underground. To write information down required it to be written in code. One of the resulting documents used to teach children was “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Each of the seeming silly gifts sounds meaningless on the surface but according to the legend has deep spiritual significance.

The “True Love” one hears in the song is not a smitten boy or girlfriend but Jesus Christ, because truly Love was born on Christmas Day. The partridge in the pear tree also represents Him because that bird is willing to sacrifice its life if necessary to protect its young by feigning injury to draw away predators.

The two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments The three French hens stood for faith, hope, and love. The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The five golden rings rerepresented the first five books of the Old Testament, which describe man’s fall into sin and the great love of God in sending a Savior.

The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation. Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit—–Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy. The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit—–Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience [Forbearance], Goodness [Kindness], Mildness, Fidelity, Modesty, Continency [Chastity]. The ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments. The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful Apostles. The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in The Apostles’ Creed.

It wasn’t long after receiving the email when a link floated through my inbox to Snopes.com. It quoted the email I had received a few days before, verbatim. It went on to say the email I received was completely false. At the time, I accepted it at face value.

As I was preparing for this series, I purchased several books with stories behind the Christmas carols. Three of them had the story of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” None of them agree.

Over the course of this series I have given a great deal of importance to the two books below by Ace Collins. Imagine my shock after seeing Snopes blowing up the email several years ago, to read the same story in Ace Collins book.

What it really comes down to is, nobody really knows the story of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” For me, the story of persecuted Catholics may or may not be true. Your guess is as good as anyone else’s at this point. But what that story does give to us is this, even if it did not represent these things to Roman Catholics in 16th century England, it can be representative for us some 600 years later.

I also thought I would close with this. We may not know the story behind this carol but according to the CNBC we do know that the value (in 2014 dollars) the value of the gifts my true love gave to me is $34,131. I’m pretty sure my true love took a pass on all those gifts.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources

Collins, Ace, Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Collins, Andrew, Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Gant, Andrew, The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Osbeck, Kenneth W. Joy to the World: The Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Carols, Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1999.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twelve_Days_of_Christmas_(song)

http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/music/12days.asp

http://www.cnbc.com/2015/11/30/12-days-of-christmas-items-cost.html

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/advent/customs-and-traditions/the-history-of-the-twelve-days-of-christmas/

Songs of Christmas…We Three Kings

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This is part 29 of an Advent/Christmas series titled “Songs of Christmas.” For other parts of the series see the index. The index also contains the introduction for the series.

One of the most beloved carols of Christmas is based as much (maybe even more) on legend as it is from the Bible.

Matthew’s Gospel is where we find the story of the Magi coming to visit the Baby Jesus, “The King of the Jews.” There, Matthew simply says there were “wise men from the East” who brought the baby gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  The magi fell down and worshiped the new born king.

It isn’t a long story at all. Matthew tells us all that and more in twelve verses. There is also a great deal Matthew does not tell us. Matthew never calls the magi kings. If they were magi, as Matthew says, they were dream interpreters FOR the royal family and could not be royalty themselves.

Matthew never says how many magi came to visit Jesus. Because they were called “wise men” we can assume there was more than one. It could have been two, it could have been thirty-two or any point in between or even beyond.

The fact that Matthew tells us little has left plenty of room for speculation over the centuries. Even though Matthew calls the men magi and magi were royal dream interpreters, some have speculated that they were astronomers or astrologers because of their emphasis on the star and the way they were watching the sky.

Another assumption made is about the number of wise men. As we have already said, we can assume more than one. Assumptions have been made and legends grown because of the gifts brought by the magi. There were three gifts, therefore there were three wise men.

Over time, and with research done by some, in the Middle Ages, names were even assigned to the three. Most anyone in the time period could give you the names Caspar, Melchoir and Balthasar.

Though it is often used as such, “We Three Kings” is not actually a Christmas carol. It is an Epiphany song. First, I realize it is not Epiphany yet. Epiphany is January 6th, the twelfth day after Christmas. We will have completed the series by then and I thought the carol should receive some attention. Second, I understand that some people may think I am splitting hairs between Christmas and Epiphany.

For much of Christian history, Epiphany was a date that rivaled Christmas in importance among people of Christian faith. Limited knowledge of Epiphany and its meaning is a rather contemporary phenomenon.

Epiphany celebrates the coming of the magi. The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas has its roots in the story of Matthew 2, in that the wise men brought gifts to the Christ child.

The song, “We Three Kings,” uses the Matthew 2 story but also depends heavily on the legends surrounding the coming of the magi.

The hymn’s lyricist and composer was John Henry Hopkins, a priest of the Episcopal faith, who though never married or had children of his own loved children, in particular his nieces and nephews.

As Epiphany approached in 1857, Hopkins wanted to give a special gift to his nieces and nephews. He decided to write them a song that would help them to learn the story and traditions of the magi and at the same time bring them entertainment. Though an uncommon occurrence at the time, Hopkins wrote both the lyrics and music for the song.

The song Hopkins wrote, of course was “We Three Kings.” It is apparent in just the title that Hopkins bought into the idea of three wise men. He also, again by the title, showed Hopkins was accepting of the idea of the magi being royalty.

There is speculation that while Hopkins was teaching music at General Theological Seminary in New York. Some believe Hopkins wrote the song for a Christmas pageant at the seminary.

Regardless of the full background, Hopkins song proved so popular among Hopkins’ friends and family, he decided to publish the hymn in his book, Carols, Hymns and Songs. It has since been published many times over by virtually every Christian denomination.

Over its history, “We Three Kings” has received a great deal of recognition as well as a few honors along the way. It was the first exclusively American carol to receive widespread recognition. That isn’t bad for a carol that got its start as a children’s gift.

What is the most original gift you have received?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources

Collins, Ace, Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Collins, Andrew, Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Gant, Andrew, The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Osbeck, Kenneth W. Joy to the World: The Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Carols, Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1999.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Three_Kings

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Henry_Hopkins_Jr.

Songs of Christmas…Walking in a Winter Wonderland

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Sometimes in life’s most difficult moments great things can happen. Sometimes in those difficult moments some seemingly small thing can happen that brings us joy and possibly even a new lease on life.

Such was the case for Richard B. “Dick” Smith. When Smith was 30 years old, just a year after he and his wife married, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He was dying and he knew it. He was dying without having written a significant song. Three years later he found himself in a sanitarium in Scranton Pennsylvania. He was technically there for treatment, but he knew he had gone there to die.

The disease left him weak, in pain and at times overcome with coughing attacks that left him worn out. The idea of writing at all seemed impossible. Yet on a cold afternoon in 1934 Smith pulled himself out of bed and made his way to his room’s window which looked out over a city park. There he saw several children playing in the snow. It took him back to his own childhood and made him want to venture out to play in the snow himself. He saw them have a snowball fight and then watched them work together to build a snowman.

When the light of day faded away and the children left the park headed for home, Smith made his way to the table in his room’s table. Though it was extraordinarily difficult to do so, he forced himself to write down his thoughts. Within a few hours he had written a poem he thought was special by the title of, “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.”

The poem actually gave Smith new life. He recovered enough to leave the sanitarium and he made his way to visit a composer/pianist named Felix Bernard (a man of the Jewish faith). The two had been friends for a long time. When Bernard looked at Smith’s poem, he also recognized it as something special. Bernard knew if he could come up with the right kind of tune, it could be very special for his friend. Bernard began a mission to help his friend have a hit song.

Bernard’s tune was an upbeat number and when it was complete, Smith and Bernard started trying to shop it around. Not too many people paid attention but Joey Nash found a copy of the song. Nash was the lead singer for the Richard Himber Orchestra. He took the song to his boss and while the orchestra had an upcoming recording session, Himber thought they had enough music already. They ended up making a quick recording of “Winter Wonderland” in the summer of 1934. RCA released the song a few weeks later.

One person who heard to recording was Guy Lombardo, who recorded the song with his “Royal Canadians.” Because Lombardo was well known, it was his recording that shot up the charts. Smith had his hit record, with Lombard’s recording moving all the way up to number 2.

The song was a hit a second time in 1935 but Smith died in the fall, a few months before the winter songs started to gain airtime again. He would never know the great hit that was “Winter Wonderland.”

Since that time more than 200 different artists have recorded the song in a wide variety of styles. From Perry Como and the Andrew’s Sisters to Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley to the Eurythmics and Ozzy Osborne, the song has seen a huge variation in styles.

There are a couple of interesting things about the song. First of all, while we consider the song a Christmas song, Christmas is never actually mentioned in the lyrics. Like “Jingle Bells” and “Sleigh Ride,” we consider “Winter Wonderland” a Christmas song because it is a winter song. Christmas is not mentioned in any of the three songs.

Second, the lyrics mention the snowman being “Parson Brown.” At the time Smith wrote the lyrics the word “parson” was in common use and people knew its meaning. In the 1950s there was a fear that people would not understand the meaning so the whole marriage idea that plays an important role in the song was removed and a “circus clown” entered in its place. During the 1960s artists returned to “Parson Brown.” There have also been a few versions of the song that feature both “Parson Brown” and a “circus clown.”

There has also been a comedy parody of the song titled, “Walking in My Winter Underwear.” It was actually this song that had me looking at “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” I sing with a men’s chorus named “The Coastalaires.” One of our songs for our Christmas show was “Walking in My Winter Underwear,” written by Melinda Root and Fannie Zollicoffer. As I researched it I didn’t find anything about the story behind the song. What I did find was, the song was recorded by Stan Borenson. At the time there was a television show named, “Lunch with Casey,” staring Casey Jones. In one episode, Jones dresses in rather battered red long underwear with a huge mustache and lip synced to Borenson’s recording. Someone took offense to either the song or Jones’ attire (or possibly both) and called the station to complain. Jones made an on-air apology on the next episode. That caused the switchboards to light up and hundreds called talking about how funny it was and didn’t see anything offensive at all. The act became a regular performance for Jones each Christmas.

It was a beloved song that truly came close to never being written. I would like to think God had Dick Smith get out of his bed to see those children at play. Because he did and even through his pain, wrote it all down, we have a song so many of us love and enjoy each year.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources:

Collins, Ace, Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan2001.

Collins, Andrew, Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Gant, Andrew, The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Osbeck, Kenneth W. Joy to the World: The Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Carols, Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1999.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_Wonderland

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felix_Bernard

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_B._Smith

Songs of Christmas…Sleigh Ride

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This is part 27 of an Advent/Christmas series titled “Songs of Christmas.” For other parts of the series see the index. The index also contains the introduction for the series.

During my writing and researching the posts for this series, I have been quite surprised by two things. First, the number of Christmas songs written in the summer. It really makes sense, if you think about it. If the song’s performance is to be at Christmas and there is to be time for writing and arranging music as well as sometimes adding lyrics not to mention rehearsal time for performers and possibly recording the song, all before the arrival of the Christmas season, it is almost surprising the process doesn’t begin more often as soon as Christmas is over for the the current year meaning preparation should begin for the next year. Second, the number of “Christmas” or at least “Holiday” songs that at least had some serious assistance along the way by people of the Jewish faith.

“Sleigh Ride” fits both of these things. It is one of those tunes written in the summer, except it wasn’t ready for the next Christmas. It was two years after the writing of the music before the song’s debut performance or recording. Second, the lyrics were written by a man of the Jewish faith.

Like so many other things, during The Great Depression, The Boston Pops Orchestra was having financial difficulty. When Arthur Fiedler, a violinist, pianist and percussionist, took over the direction of The Boston Pops, he quickly saw the need to expand the audience. To that point the Pops played for Boston’s elite. The common working class saw the music and the concerts as stuffy events they could neither afford nor had desire to attend.

Fiedler changed all that. He changed the musical genre to combine what he saw as the best of contemporary music such as jazz with the sounds of classical music. The plan worked and changed the direction of the Pops forever.

Fiedler began relying on a Boston area composer named Leroy Anderson for music the orchestra would play. Anderson wrote several songs before World War II but at the beginning of the war, Anderson entered military service. He actually continued writing during the war years.

When the war ended Anderson returned to Boston and took up where he left off. During a July heat wave in 1946 he came up with the basic idea for “Sleigh Ride.” As Anderson sat down to write, he wanted to create a sound that was so distinct there would be no question as one listened that the song was about going on a sleigh ride in the cold of winter.

Anderson never got in a hurry to complete his work. He worked and edited until he knew it was right. In the case of “Sleigh Ride” it took almost two years to complete, finishing in 1948. Once complete, Fiedler and the Pops recorded the song in 1949. The release of the song was in early winter 1949, just before Christmas. It was a hit that became one of the signature songs of the Pops. The Pops also recorded the song two additional times under the direction of the two conductors who succeeded Fiedler.

When he heard first heard the song, lyricist Mitchell Parish (born to a Jewish family as Michael Hyman Pashelinsky) heard the song and wanted to put words to the tune, not to detract from Anderson’s work but to enhance it. Once completed, there was no shortage of performers desiring to record it, probably based on the original instrumental version and Parish’s reputation as a lyricist. “The Andrews Sisters” were the first to record the version that included lyrics. Since that time there has been a long list of those who recorded both the instrumental version as well as the lyrics version.

Since the song was written, it has only made a trip up the music charts once. Considering the number of recordings of “Sleigh Ride” that is kind of surprising. According to ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) the song maintains a position in the top ten of Christmas music each year.

When I think about this song, it seems to me, The Great Depression came close to putting The Boston Pops out of business as happened to many orchestras. But, at the same time, had it not been for The Great Depression Arthur Fiedler may never have become to conductor of the Pops, leading to its change in direction and eventually the recording of “Sleigh Ride.”

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources

Collins, Ace, Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Collins, Andrew, Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Gant, Andrew, The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Osbeck, Kenneth W. Joy to the World: The Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Carols, Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1999.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleigh_Ride

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leroy_Anderson

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Fiedler

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitchell_Parish

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Pops_Orchestra

New Year…Fresh Start

 

Well, Christmas is behind us, at least the official day. Many of us still have celebrations with family and friends throughout the week to come. But, for the purposes of this blog, I have been thinking ahead. So, to that end, I am thinking, “New Year…Fresh Start” for us to talk about beginning January 1, 2017.

I want to spend some time talking about common New Year’s resolutions. I have made a lot of New Year’s resolutions in my life. Some I have managed to keep. Others, probably most others, well not so much.

I have looked at some resources online and I have come up with ten of the most common. They are listed below. At the same time, however, I would love to hear from you! What are some of the New Year’s resolutions you would like to do for the coming year? I will do my best to address them in the days ahead. You can leave those in the comments below (or on Facebook).

I will tell you my best two suggestions for keeping resolutions right now. First, pray. Prayer should always be the first thing we do. Second, when I have been successful I didn’t necessarily plan to start the resolution on January 1. For example, when I quit smoking, my New Year’s resolution was, “This year I will quit smoking.” It didn’t happen on New Year’s Day, but a couple of weeks into January, I laid my cigarettes down and haven’t smoked again. I don’t know that this will work for you, I just know it worked for me.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions much these days. At the end of the series, I will share with you what has replaced (at least for the most part) the New Year’s resolution in my life.

Here are the New Year’s Resolutions I plan to cover in this series. The first ten came from the blog, “About Travel” and you can see them and read more about what they had to say at http://pittsburgh.about.com/od/holidays/tp/resolutions.htm. The last six are my ideas to add on. Like I said, I would love to hear from you and add to this list. Also, don’t take it that just because these ideas are in this order that we will necessarily look at them in this order. Well, here goes:

Get Organized
Help Others (Volunteer)
Learn Something New
Get Out of Debt
Quit Drinking
Enjoy Life More
Quit Smoking
Tame the Bulge
Get Fit
Spend More Time with Friends and Family
Get Back in Church
Read the Bible
Pray
Be Generous
Find My Mission
An Alternative to New Year’s Resolutions

Well, friends, those are my thoughts. Let me hear from you. What are some of the New Year’s resolutions you have made or that you plan to make for 2017? Help me add to this list. In the meantime, during the remainder of this week/month, we will finish our “Songs of Christmas” series.

I pray God’s blessings on you the rest of this day, this week and in the year to come.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Songs of Christmas…Carol of the Bells

carol-of-the-bells

This is part 26 of an Advent/Christmas series titled “Songs of Christmas.” For other parts of the series see the index. The index also contains the introduction for the series.

“Carol of the Bells” is the Christmas carol that was never intended to be a Christmas carol. In the song’s original writing, Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych, the carol’s composer, wrote about the awakening of God’s people to the beauty of the Creation. The song was intended to be performed by an a capella choir. There were two other original versions, one for an a cappella women’s choir and the third for a children’s choir that would be accompanied by a piano.

The song, titled Shchedryk” meaning “The Generous One” gained immediate popularity when it was first performed at Kiev University in Ukraine in 1916. Children loved the song because it was simple enough to be done as a round but could sound quite complex when performed by an adult choir. Then the Bolshevik Revolution occurred along with World War I and Ukraine all but disappeared from the world. During the Soviet period, “Shchedryk” lost popularity among the people.

Meanwhile, in the United States, “Shcedryk” didn’t prove to be very popular. The song was performed to sell-out crowds on two occasions but didn’t gain much headway.

In 1936, Peter Wilhousky, a graduate of what would become Juilliard, was an arranger for the NBC Orchestra. He was looking for new Christmas music for the orchestra to perform when he encounter “Shcedryk.” He said it reminded him of hand bells. Wilhousky wrote a new version of the song with a Christmas theme to be performed by an orchestra. The song was reborn. After the orchestra played the song, the NBC switchboard became a hotbed of activity as people called in wanting either to have the music or a recording of the song. And, this was during the height of the Great Depression!

It wasn’t long before Minna Louise Holman got her hands on the music and wrote new lyrics for the Wilhousky arrangement of the song. When the two were combined, it became a Christmas coral standard.

Like so many Christmas carols, there is a popular legend that goes with this carol too. During the Middle Ages, bells served as a common and important mode of communications. Bells did more than signal the beginning and ending of a school day or mark the time for a religious service. The also served as a warning system at the approach of an enemy, as a fire alarm for the community and more. In the Bible there is no mention of bells at Christ’s birth. There are shepherds, heavenly hosts and a star, but no bells. Yet it would seem that in the Middle Ages, the story began and gained a life of its own that when Jesus was born, every bell on earth began to chime signifying that somewhere in the world something special had happened. It was a tale that any Eastern European child could tell.

Since that time, “Carol of the Bells” has seen many people record it. From The Carpenters to Andy Williams and Julie Andrews to Mannheim Steamroller, the song has had many recorded versions but no performer can truly call the carol there own. It is a carol for the world.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources

Collins, Ace, Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Collins, Andrew, Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Gant, Andrew, The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Osbeck, Kenneth W. Joy to the World: The Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Carols, Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1999.

http://musiced.about.com/od/christmasnewyeararticles/qt/carolofthebells.htm

http://news.rice.edu/2004/12/13/carol-of-the-bells-wasnt-originally-a-christmas-song/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Wilhousky

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mykola_Leontovych

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carol_of_the_Bells