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Carol of the Bells

December 20, 2020 – ‘Shchedryk’ (the original ‘Carol of the Bells’) with lyrics translated from Ukrainian into English, as well as with original lyrics in Ukrainian.

“Shchedryk” was arranged by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych at the beginning of the 20th century. The song is based on the traditional Ukrainian folk chant welcoming the New Year (‘shchedrivka’).

In 1921, the Ukrainian National Chorus sang the song in the United States to a sold-out audience at Carnegie Hall.

Later, Peter J. Wilhousky rearranged the melody for orchestra and wrote the new lyrics in English, thus creating ‘Carol of the Bells.’

The original “Shchedryk” by Leontovych was intended to be sung a cappella by mixed four-voice choir.

December 14, 2022 – In a snowy forest in rural Latvia on the border with Russia, a group of 19 soldiers from countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) sing ‘Carol of the Bells’ as a Christmas blessing to all the world.

‘Carol of the Bells’ is a popular Christmas carol originating in Ukraine and Poland in 1916. The music was written by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych. The lyrics were written by Ukrainian-American composer Peter J. Wilhousky. The song is based on the Ukrainian folk chant ‘Shchedryk.’

‘Shchedryk’ (Ukrainian: Щедрик, from Щедрий вечiр, ‘Bountiful Evening’) is a Ukrainian shchedrivka, or New Year’s song, known in English as ‘The Little Swallow.’ It was arranged by composer and teacher Mykola Leontovych in 1916 and tells the story of a swallow flying into a household to sing of wealth that will come with the following spring.

‘Shchedryk’ was originally sung on the night of January 13, New Year’s Eve in the Julian Calendar (December 31 in the old Shchedry Vechir Calendar). Early performances of the piece were presented by students at Kyiv University.

‘Shchedryk’ was later adapted as an English Christmas carol, ‘Carol of the Bells.’ by Peter J. Wilhousky following a performance of the original song by Alexander Koshetz’s Ukrainian National Chorus at Carnegie Hall on October 5, 1922.

Wilhousky copyrighted and published his new lyrics (which were not based on the Ukrainian lyrics) in 1936, and the song became popular in the United States and Canada, where it became strongly associated with Christmas.

Conceptually, the Ukrainian lyrics of this song meet the definition of a shchedrivka, while the English content of ‘The Little Swallow’ identifies it as a kolyadka.

On the uniforms of these NATO soldiers, you can see the insignias of many NATO countries, including Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Latvia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Today, there are 30 NATO countries, 28 in Europe and two in North America.

All member countries have militaries, except for Iceland, which does not have a typical army but does have a coast guard and a small unit of civilian specialists for NATO operations.

Three of NATO’s members are nuclear weapons states: France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

NATO has 12 original founding member states: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom, and the USA.

Three more members joined between 1952 (Greece and Turkey) and 1955 (Germany). A fourth new member (Spain) joined in 1982.

After the end of the Cold War, NATO added 14 more members: 1999 (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland), 2004 (Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia), 2009 (Albania), 2017 (Montenegro), and 2020 (North Macedonia).

NATO currently recognizes Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Georgia, Sweden, and Ukraine as aspiring members of NATO.

Perhaps, one day, Russia may also become an aspiring member of the free countries of the world.