On the eve of Christmas and the New Year's holidays: Christmas carols

Carols and related traditions are a small door to a fairy tale, a reason to open your heart and, at least once a year, to believe in a miracle. How can it happen, otherwise?

The genre of caroling is "festive and greeting songs that are performed while crawling through courtyards". Originally, this custom is, of course, pre-Christian. The etymology of the word goes deep into Slavic pagan mythology. Koliada was the name of the goddess that patronised crop harvesting; and the ritual of carolling came to us from antiquity. Its meaning, first of all, consisted in worshipping the sun on the day of the winter solstice – Slavs believed that caroling would provide the farmers with generous harvests, livestock and prosperity in the house. So, those who were caroling, tried to come into every house in the village. Today, these and other pagan rituals exist alongside Christian holidays. For example, the celebration of Christmas is still accompanied by the singing of carols. Most carols are a legacy of folk art, but all of them are interesting and beautiful in their semantic structure and sincerely kind and joyful mood. Today a carol all over the world is a small Christmas story about a great event and glorification of the main persons of that night, which brought the most joyful news - the Nativity of Christ!

One of these holy songs is Shchedryk (Christmas song), which we digitized on the eve of Christmas from a gramophone record that is stored in the museum Collection sound library. It is about a swallow that is singing and promising the farmers prosperity in the new year. This folk song once fascinated the 20th-century Ukrainian composer Nikolai Leontovich, who devoted decades of work to this song. He presented the first edition of the Shchedryk choral orchestration in 1901, and the fifth was realized almost twenty years later. In 1916, the choir of Kiev University brilliantly performed it. It was the orchestration of Shchedrik that made Nikolai Leontovich a famous composer and introduced his work to an international audience. Already in October 1921, the Ukrainian National Choir performed Shchedryk at the Carnegie Hall, winning the hearts of the audience.

Later, an American composer of the Ukrainian origin, Peter Wilhousky, wrote new lyrics in English, turning the traditional Shchedryk into a Christmas song. The melody reminded him of the ringing bells, which served as the main idea for the title. Thus the world-famous version of Shchedryk appeared – Carol of the Bells.

Since the 40-es, many musicians have often recorded the song; almost all concert choral groups perform it on the Christmas Eve. Today, no celebration of Christmas in the world is complete without this song. It sounded as the musical score such as Home Alone, Harry Potter and many others as well.

A musical selection of Christmas carols digitized from Duo-Art paper music rolls on Pianola Steinway Duo-Art Grand, USA (1926) and a Columbia record on the Audio-Technica player are in our Phonotheque.