‘Carol of the Bells’ is now a popular Christmas carol. The original song, with music by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych, however, was written in 1916 and is based on a Ukrainian folk chant called ‘Shchedryk’, which means ‘bountiful’ in English. This New Year song tells the story of a swallow flying into a home to sing of wealth that will come with the following spring. Later, the English lyrics on the theme of Christmas were added by Peter J. Wilhousky.
With two new Ukrainian pupils, Sofia and Nastya, recently joining the Prep School, ‘Carol of the Bells’ was a fitting choice for our entry into Barnardo’s 2023 National Choral Competition. The choir has made it through to the National final at Birmingham Symphony Hall with thirteen other choirs in February 2023. Sofia and Nastya helped music teacher Nicola Hickey compose a special version of the carol, which starts in Ukrainian and then blends into the American version.
Nicola Hickey explains how this unique composition came about:
“Sofia and Nastya have been doing immensely well, singing songs in English, since joining us in June. I thought it would be special and comforting for them if we sang a song that they know and love. They were excited by this idea and came to me with this song, which they know as ‘Shchedryk,’ but we know as ‘Carol of the Bells.’ The girls helped me and the choir with the translation and pronunciation of the Ukrainian lyrics as well as teaching us all how to combine the harmonies and build the song as it progresses.”
Nastya and Sofia were thrilled to be involved in such a unique composition.
“Singing this song makes me think of home. I am proud of Ukraine and all my people at home trying to keep the country safe. I am very happy that we sing this song in celebration of them.”
“We are very pleased to share the song with our new friends and to hear them singing it so well.”
Watch and listen to the choir singing this unique version of ‘Carol of the Bells’ below.
If you enjoyed the performance, Nastya, Sofia and Burgess Hill Girls encourage you to show your support by donating to UNICEF’s campaign to protect the children of Ukraine.