How To Play Carol of the Bells

Over a million views of Carol of the Bells on YouTube... can you believe it?!

It is one of my favorite Christmas songs. Oh there are so many that it's difficult to choose. I thought I would share a bit of history of the song with you. It is endless as to how many artists have performed this particular song.

Piano Lessons: How to play Carol of the Bells on the Piano - Part 1


 Leontovich, Mykola

Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych (Ukrainian: Ìèêîëà Äìèòðîâè÷ Ëåîíòîâè÷) (December 1, 1877 - January 22 or January 23, 1921) was a Ukrainian composer, choral conductor, and teacher of international renown. Leontovych is most famous for composing Shchedryk in 1916, the song that Carol of the Bells was later adapted from.

Mykola Leontovych graduated in 1899 from the theological seminary in Kamianets-Podilskyi. After teaching at schools throughout present-day Ukraine, including the guberniyas of Kiev, Yekaterinoslav, and Podillia, he moved on to study music. He received private instruction in both St Petersburg and Kiev (at the latter with Boleslav Yavorsky), and soon came to be known as an adept choirmaster. In 1918, at a time of great Ukrainian nationalist revival, Leontovych began teaching at the Kiev Conservatory as well as the Mykola Lysenko Institute of Music and Drama.

Leontovych's is remembered today mostly because of the body of musical works he left behind, including over 150 choral compositions which range from artistic arrangements of folk songs, religious works (including his liturgy), cantatas, and choral compositions to the texts of various Ukrainian poems. Although he attempted to write a Ukrainian opera (Na rusalchyn velykden’ - On the Water Nymph's Easter) based on the writing of Borys Hrinchenko, he never had the chance to finish it. In 1921, he was shot down by a robber at the home of his parents.

 Download Free Sheet Music:

Carol of the Bells

Lyrics & Music: Adapted by Peter J. Wilhousky, copyright 1936,
from original by Mykola Dmytrovich Leontovych, 1916

William Studwell, The Christmas Carol Reader

The Ukraine region of the former Soviet Union has been frequently misunderstood. Although for centuries it was more than large enough to be an independent medium-sized nation, which it now is, and had a language, alphabet, and culture distinct from the dominant Russians, the Ukrainians were often mistakenly labeled "Russians." This miscomprehension affected all sectors of their civilization, including the one famous contribution to the literature of carols to emanate from the Ukraine.

" The music for the very popular holiday song, "Carol of the Bells," was created by the Ukraine's most popular composer, Mykola Dmytrovich Leontovych (1877-1921). Despite being born in Ukraine, living in Ukraine, and largely working with Ukrainian music, Leontovych and his works are most than occasionally called "Russian." The composition from which "Carol of the Bells" was derived, the choral work Shchedryk, which was first performed by students at Kiev University in December 1916, has not been exempted from the mislabeling. But the Ukrainians, from one perspective, have had the last laugh in this cultural comedy of errors, for by far the best-known carol music to originate in any portion of the former Soviet Union was Leontovych's brilliant musical portrayal of the sounds of Christmas bells.

Only 20 years after its composition, the music from Shchedryk was converted into a carol halfway around the world. Peter J. Wilhousky (1902-1978), a composer, lyricist, and conductor who worked with Arturo Toscanini on NBC radio, adapted Leontovych's music and added some lyrics. The title chosen by New Jerseyite Wilhousky was ideal, for "Carol of the Bells" is not only extremely suitable as a characterization of the melody, but also is completely harmonious with the old Slavic legend on which Shchedryk is based. At midnight on the night Jesus was born, the legend claims, every bell in the world rang out in his honor.

Since the synthesis of "Carol of the Bells" in 1936, the song, also known as "Ukrainian Carol," has increasingly become a part of the celebration of Christmas in the United States. Its public acceptance was surely boosted by the employment of the melody in a series of television advertisements for champagne. The idea, apparently, was that the champagne was as tasteful and sparkling as the music. In addition, the melody has been utilized in three other American carols. In 1947, M. L. Holman wrote "Ring, Christmas Bells." In 1957, the anonymous lyrics "Come, Dance and Sing" were published, and by 1972 another "Carol of the Bells" (this time anonymous) was published. Wilhousky's original "Carol of the Bells" can be easily distinguished from the later one by his first line, "Hark! How the bells, sweet silver bells." The second "Carol of the Bells" starts with "Hark to the bells, Hark to the bells." This multiple usage of Leontovich's music for four carols as well as for a variety of other purposes is sound testimony to its quality and popular appeal.

William L. Simon, ed., Reader

Celtic Woman-Carol Of The Bells

Chord Chart: Carol of the Bells

Chord Em     Em/D   Am/C   Em/B   Em7/B  Am
3/4 time (can be played in one)
Key of G 
Intro: (transcriber's suggestion)

Em Em/D Am/C Em/B 2x

Enter Choir:
Em                     Em/D                  Am/C              Em/B
Hark! how the bells, / Sweet silver bells, / All seem to say / "Throw cares away."

*Opening Repeat Dots* <----Look @ Me!!!
Em                   Em/D                  Am/C                Em/B
Christmas is here, / Bringing good cheer / To young and old, / Meek and the bold.

Am/C                      Em                   Am/C                Em
Ding, dong, ding, dong, / That is their song / With joyful ring, / All caroling.

Am/C                Em                    Am/C              Em
One seems to hear / Words of good cheer / From everywhere / Filling the air;

Am/C                 Em                  Am/C                  Em
Oh how they pound, / Raising the sound / O'er hill and dale, / Telling their tale.

Em                                     Am
Gailly they ring / While people sing / Song(s) of good cheer / Christmas is here

Merry, merry, merry, / merry Christmas! 2x

Em/D                Am/C              Em7/B               Am
On, on they send, / On without end, / Their joyful tone / To ev'ry home.

Em                                                             N.C.       *repeat dots*
Hark! how the bells, / Sweet silver bells, / All seem to say / "Throw cares away."

On, on they send, / On without end, / Their joyful tone / To ev'ry home.

N.C.                   Em->fret me conventionally and hit me good once
Ding, dong ding dong / Bohm!//

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

How are your Christmas preparations coming along? Enjoy your practice time and playing your favorite Christmas songs during this special time of year.
~ LadyD

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