The “Carol of the Bells” is one of the best known pieces of music associated with Christmas. It is a distinctive composition that is often heard without the accompanying lyrics. This may be due to the fact that the English lyrics were not added to the song until the 1930′s, even though the song was composed much earlier. Let’s take a look at who composed this unique Christmas song.
Who composed the Carol of the Bells?
The “Carol of the Bells” was composed by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych. However, the composition was called “Shchedryk,” and it had nothing to do with Christmas. In fact it was a New Year’s carol that tells the story of a bird flying into a house to sing of upcoming good fortune. Some believe that Leontovych originally composed a version of the song in 1904, but most credit it as 1916 because it didn’t premiere until this date at Kiev University. It became a popular carol sung on Jan 13, which is New Year’s Eve on the Julian calendar. Children would sing the song from door to door and the owners of the house would reward them with a special treat. The first performance of the piece in the United Sates was at Carnegie Hall Oct. 5, 1921.
The song didn’t become a Christmas favorite until American composer Peter Wilhousky set the piece to English lyrics in 1936. It is believed that the song became so popular because Wilhousky worked as the musical arranger for the NBC radio’s symphony orchestra and was able to give it airtime. Today the song has been recorded thousands of times and has been translated into many other languages. There are also alternate English lyrics for the song including “Ring, Christmas Bells” by Minna Louise Hohman.