I luvs me some Muppets. Especially this trio, which just so happen to be my three favorite of the lot. And this Christmas song happens to be one of my favorites as well. Two great tastes and all that…
Yeah, it’s starting to feel like an SEB Christmas now!
As an interesting aside, did you know that this song originally had nothing to do with Christmas? From its Wikipedia entry:
“Carol of the Bells” (also known as the “Ukrainian Bell Carol”) is a choral miniature work originally composed by the Ukrainian composer Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych. Throughout the composition, Leontovych used a four note motif as an ostinato which was taken from an ancient pagan Ukrainian New Year’s chant known in Ukrainian as “Shchedryk”. The original work was intended to be sung a cappella. Three variants of the composition were created by the composer.
“The Carol of The Bells” was premiered on December 1916 by a choral group made up of students at Kiev University. It was introduced to Western audiences by the Ukrainian National Chorus during its concert tour of Europe and the Americas, where it premiered in the United States on October 5, 1921 at Carnegie Hall. It was later adapted into English language version by Peter Wilhousky in the 1930s. An alternate English version (“Ring, Christmas Bells”) with more explicitly Nativity-based lyrics, written by Minna Louise Hohman in 1947, is also widely performed.
The song is based on a traditional folk chant whose language was thought to have magical properties, because of the manner in which it manipulated the number 3. The original traditional Ukrainian text used a device, known as hemiola, in the rhythm (alternating the accents within each measure from 3/4 to 6/8 and back again). This device is lost in the English translations and rarely is used in non-Ukrainian performances. The ostinato motif, a repeated four-note pattern within the range of a minor third is thought to be of prehistoric origins. It was associated with the coming New Year which, in pre-Christian Ukraine, was originally celebrated in April.
With the introduction of Christianity to Ukraine, the celebration of the New Year was moved from April to January, and the holiday the chant originally was associated with became the Feast of Epiphany (also known in Ukrainian as Shchedry vechir). The songs sung for this celebration are known as Schedrivky.
The original Ukrainian text tells the tale of a swallow flying into a household to proclaim the plentiful and bountiful year that the family will have. The title is derived from the Ukrainian word for “bountiful.” The period for the birth of animals and the return of swallows to Ukraine however does not correspond to the current calendar season of winter.
In Ukraine, the carol is currently sung on the eve of the Julian New Year (January 13).
The four-note theme over a minor 3rd of the chant was used by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych as an ostinato throughout the piece. Three different arrangements done by the composer exist of the piece, one with piano accompaniment, a version for children’s choir. The most used version is the variant for mixed chorus. The arrangement for mixed voice choir a cappella was popularized by the Ukrainian Republic Capella, directed by Oleksander Koshetz, when it toured the West after 1920.
Yes, it’s those wily pagans yet again!