Sunday, December 23, 2012

25 Days of Holiday Music: Day 23

Today's tune is "Carol of the Bells." The music was written by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych in the late 1800s. It is based on the folk chant, "Shchedryk," which is a New Year's carol. Leontovych created his piece as an assignment for a harmony course to illustrate the use of a four-note ostinato motif (hear it):
File:Shchedryk 4-note motif.jpg
Leontovych's tune was introduced to Western audiences during a concert tour of the Ukrainian National Chorus. They performed it in the United States at Carnegie Hall on October 5, 1921. The now well-known English lyrics were created by Peter J. Wilhousky in 1936. An American composer who had emigrated from the Ukraine, Wilhousky is also known for his arrangement of the Battle Hymn of the Republic for Chorus, Band, and Orchestra. In true American fashion, Wilhousky's lyrics and the English name of "Carol of the Bells" are both copyrighted, but the original musical composition is not.

For the Sunday before Christmas, I have a few different versions of "Carol of the Bells" for your listening enjoyment.

Because I mentioned the carol's lyrics in the introduction to today's post, I figured I should include an a capella performance of "Carol of the Bells" first. This version is by Choir-In-A-Box -- but it's not a real choir. Look closely at the video: All nine singers are the same woman! Choir-In-A-Box is a project of singer, composer and video technician Jul3ia Richard. She is also the Emmy Award Winning Program Director of Cape Cod Media Center.

Next we have jazz pianist David Benoit (last name pronounced "ben-wah"). In this instrumental version, David's piano really shines. This version appears on A GRP Christmas Collection (1988), which contributed a tune to the Day 22 post as well.

One of my favorite performances of "Carol of the Bells" comes from Cast In Bronze and it features one of the only traveling carillons in existence. A carillon is typically housed in church tower or other permanent structure. I first heard Cast In Bronze performing at MusikFest in Bethlehem, PA. I instantly became a fan. "Carol of the Bells" is, quite naturally, his signature piece. He performs in costume as the spirit of music. Completely clothed and unidentifiable, he lets the audience focus on the carillon and the music.

The Capital Kings released an interesting and lively dubstep version of the carol just this year. Earlier this month, it was a free download on Amazon. Check it out!

The Piano Guys, who are known for far more than just playing piano, released their own version of the carol for 12 cellos (which is impressive simply because there are only five guys in the band!):

If you like my music posts, I would appreciate you giving me some +K in Music on @klout. And, please, do check out the other entries in my 25 Days of Holiday Music series!

No comments: