A Ukrainian chorus first performed Shchedryk in the U.S. in 1922. A century later, during another fight for freedom, Ukranian singers performed the folk song at the site of its North American debut. (Image credit: Fadi Kheir)
Published: 2022-12-06 05:02 am
Ukrainians sing 'Carol of the Bells' at Carnegie Hall, 100 years after its U.S. debut

Oleh Mahlay, the artistic director of the Bandurist Choir, conducts members of the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus of North America and Ukrainian Children's Choir at New York City's Carnegie Hall on Sunday.

Fadi Kheir

Did you know that Carol of the Bells comes from Ukraine?

Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych wrote Shchedryk in 1916, originally as a winter folk song.

The Ukrainian National Chorus brought the carol to the U.S. a few years later, when they performed it during a concert at Carnegie Hall in October 1922. It was the first stop on their tour of North America, as part of a cultural diplomacy mission. At that time, Ukraine was working to assert its independence and define its own identity (it would end up becoming part of the Soviet Union in December 1922).

American composer Peter Wilhousky gave the song its English lyrics and title in 1936, creating the contemporary Christmas staple. Its Ukrainian roots have been largely buried — until now.

Exactly a century after the song's North American debut, and during Ukraine's latest fight for freedom, Ukrainian musicians brought Shchedryk back to Carnegie Hall this weekend.


A playbill from the Ukrainian National Chorus' concert tour of U.S. universities and cities from October to December of 1922, which kicked off at Carnegie Hall.

Carnegie Hall Rose Archives

Shchedryk Children's Choir, along with several choruses and soloists, took to the famed stage on Sunday to perform a slew of Ukrainian carols.

Just a few days earlier, the children's choir performed the carol at New York City's Grand Central station.

Bridget Brink, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, shared a video of the performance on Twitter, calling it "light amid darkness."

Sunday's concert was truly an international production, organized by entities including Ukraine's foreign ministry, the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations and the Embassy of Ukraine in the U.S.

It aimed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of that first performance, shine a spotlight on Ukraine's distinct culture and support its efforts to defend — and rebuild — itself from Russian attacks.

"A 1919 review of the Ukrainian Republic Choir in the Genevan journal La Patrie Suisse mused that the Ukrainian National Republic established its independence through the motto, 'I sing, therefore I am,' " concert organizers wrote. "Ukraine continues to sing and continues to be."


Members of the Shchedryk Children's Choir (Kyiv) were among the performers on Sunday.

Fadi Kheir

Proceeds from the event are going to United 24, the global non-governmental organization and crowdfunding platform that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy launched in May. Funds from the concert will be specifically allocated towards the reconstruction of public services, organizers say.

The concert also featured recorded messages from Zelenskyy and the first lady, and a speech from American film director Martin Scorsese — one of the concert's hosts — urging audiences to donate to the campaign, the Kyiv Independent reports.

Marichka Marczyk, one of Sunday's soloists, spoke to NPR's All Things Considered last week about performing in such an important concert — "it's responsibility, it's happiness, it's like everything," she said.

"My brother is on the front line, fighting for our freedom, independence for me to be free, live in a peaceful sky and sing [these] Ukrainian old traditional songs," she added. "So my performance I am dedicating to him and for all the Ukrainian people who [are] now fighting for freedom."

Read Full Story

The Burna Boy philosophy: 'Anybody not comfortable with my reality is not my fan'

www.npr.org - 1 month ago
Burna Boy opens up about his connection to his fans, his home, and the ways he makes sense of who he is as a person and who he is as a performer. (Image credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Roc Nation)
Read More

School kitchen manager reaches out to celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey for help

www.npr.org - 10 months ago
Tina Clark was stuck cooking by herself after one chef called out sick and another had COVID. She called into a radio program during an interview with Ramsey and asked for help. He dispatched a chef.
Read More

Poll: Most Fans Don't Want Sports Played Indoors While Pandemic Surges

www.npr.org - 2 years ago
The NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds most sports fans are against indoor sports during the pandemic. NPR's David Greene talks to Jane McManus, director of Marist's Center for Sports Communication.
Read More

NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is escorted off a plane in Miami

www.npr.org - 2 months ago
Police removed NFL player Odell Beckham Jr. from an aircraft before takeoff at Miami International Airport after officials said he failed to respond to requests to buckle his seatbelt. (Image credit: Alex Menendez/AP)
Read More