Yeah, it’s that time of year. The turkey has barely been cleared away, and the malls will be filled with Black Friday shoppers. The song EVERYONE will hear at some point is “Carol of the Bells.” In fact, most shoppers and just about any media consumer will have already heard it, since Christmas music is shoved down our throats starting at Halloween.
The song is on our repertoire for the upcoming Christmas Concert with the Greenville Chorale. So, obviously, we’ve been working on it since starting rehearsals in mid-November. Most of us have sung this so many times that we have it memorized.
Carol of the Bells is one of those earworms that people either love or hate. I tend to come down on the former side, but it can get old. The song was based on an ancient Ukrainian folk chant that was supposed to have mystical powers. It was typically sung for as a new year carol, which in the Ukraine was considered to be April. The chant consists of four notes repeated over and over with varying text.
In 1916 Mykola Leontovych took the four-note motif and arranged it into the song with which we are now familiar. Leontovych’s Ukrainian text kept the new year theme, and was entitled “Shchedryk,” which means “bountiful evening.” In 1936 Peter Wilhousky wrote the English “Carol of the Bells” text, and a hypnotic marketing tool was born.