On, on they send
On without end
Their joyful tone
To ev'ry home
(repeat from the beginning)
About This Song
"Carol of the Bells," popular among Christmas revelers in the U.S.A., has its roots in old Ukrainian folk songs. Building on this, Ukrainian composer and music teacher, Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych, wrote Shchedryk in 1916. The English lyrics were written by American composer, Peter J. Wilhousky, thus truly making it a Christmas song of the Western world. The lyrics are copyrighted today, but the original Ukrainian piece is not.
The spellbinding melody was originally a folk song intended to be a winter melody of good wishes. Leontovych named it Shchedryk in his initial Ukrainian form. The tale is of a swallow flying into a home, to predict a wonderful year ahead for the family staying there. The promises include healthy livestock and a beautiful wife.
The song is well-known as a Christmas tune however, it was initially meant as a New Year’s celebration. The first performance took place on January 13, 1916. Even though this is well past the Gregorian New Year’s Day, it is so because, at that time, orthodoxy in churches resulted in the use of the Julian Calendar. Koshyts, who commissioned Leontovych, then came to create the Ukrainian National Chorus. This was a mandate by the government, stipulated in 1919 for the promotion of Ukrainian music around the world. The chorus performed over a thousand concerts across Europe, North and South America.