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Shchedryk - Carol of the Bells
The Little Swallow Song
Sharing a bit of music magic this December 25th. Until recently, I didn’t know the history of this song, which, given all that is happening in Ukraine makes it even more touching. May your day be filled with joy and the awareness that we are all part of a larger whole composed of stardust and fueled by love.
This beloved Christmas song originated in Ukraine as"Shchedryk" a four-note, New Year's song, that translates to “The Little Swallow” in English. It was arranged by composer and teacher Mykola Leontovych in 1916.
The tune belongs to a category of Ukrainian folk songs known as shchedrivka, which honored the sun god. They emphasized bounty and were usually performed during New Year’s Eve or feasts pegged to the holiday. This shchedrivka is about a little swallow, who chirps happily about a man’s fertile farm animals and beautiful wife.
A Bit of History
In 1918, Ukraine declared its independence, hoping the world would recognize its autonomy as borders were redrawn under the peace treaty ending World War I. Symon Petliura, the new president, believed a worldwide tour of Ukraine’s best singers performing the country’s music would help their cause. So a delegation led by conductor Oleksander Koshetz embarked on a tour that took them to Vienna, Prague, and Paris. One of their selections was “Shchedryk,” and it was very well-received—especially once the choir made its way to New York in 1922.
But Shchedryk was not reimagined as a Christmas Carol until 1936 when American conductor Peter Wilhousky, who was of Ukrainian descent, heard "Shchedryk." He rewrote the lyrics so a children’s choir he was conducting could sing it. “I needed a short number to fill out a program ... Since the youngsters could not sing in Ukrainian, I had to compose a text in English," Wilhousky said. "I discarded the Ukrainian text and instead concentrated on the merry tinkle of the bells which I heard in the music."
The Ukrainian Shedrick’s Children’s Choir recently performed the “Carol of the Bells” at Carnegie Hall, the place where the song debuted almost a century ago. Here is the story: https://www.msn.com/en-us/video/celebrity/the-ukrainian-choir-bringing-new-meaning-to-a-classic-holiday-song/vi-AA14TShi
Some additional music by the choir below.
Also a brief history of the Shedrik Children’s Choir.
Happy HAPPY holidays to all of you my friends, however you celebrate them. And let’s take a moment to send love and support to the people of Ukraine.