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Stories behind our Christmas carols

Discussion in 'Music' started by pearl, Nov 27, 2022.

  1. pearl

    pearl Well-Known Member

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    We hear some of them ad nauseam, but have an interesting history.

    On Dec. 4, Carnegie Hall will host a holiday celebration to benefit Ukraine. Compositions by Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin, Eric Whitacre and others will be performed by choral groups from North America and Europe in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Christmas song “Carol of the Bells.” (If you can’t quite place it, “Carol of the Bells” is that earworm-y Christmas carol we hear in a million commercials around the holidays, usually featuring bells playing the same four notes over and over at high speed. Google it and you’ll know it right away.) Proceeds from the event, called Notes From Ukraine, will benefit the United24 campaign to rebuild that nation.

    How does a Christmas carol rate a party at Carnegie Hall? And how is a song used in 100 holiday ads somehow connected to Ukraine? It turns out every carol that we sing at Christmas has a story behind it, some inspiring, some strange. Each week in Advent on the America podcast “Hark!” we explore the fascinating stories behind our favorite Christmas songs.

    In the case of “Carol of the Bells,” that tale involves two music teachers, 76 choir singers, a political revolution and, believe it or not, a murder.

    The Music Teacher
    Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych was supposed to be a priest. Like his father, his grandfather and later his younger brother, Leontovych attended the Kamianets-Podilskyi Theological Seminary in what is today western Ukraine but was then part of the Russian Empire, to learn the family trade. He had also grown up around music; his father played a half-dozen instruments and directed Leontovych’s school choir, and his mother was a singer. Leontovych, too, played several instruments, sang and wrote choral arrangements for the seminary. When the choir director died, the seminary put him in charge.

    So when it came time to graduate in 1899 and start a career, Leontovych followed a different set of family footsteps and became a music teacher, arranger and composer. Although he walked away from a life in the priesthood, he did not leave his faith behind. In fact, he would go on to craft the first Eastern Orthodox Ukrainian liturgy written in the vernacular.

    The story of ‘Carol of the Bells,’ a Christmas classic born in Ukraine | America Magazine
     
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  2. Guitar's Cry

    Guitar's Cry The "I" in Reality

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  3. Mock Turtle

    Mock Turtle Choose an appropriate meaning.
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