Monday, December 28, 2015

Music Monday - Christmas Bells and a New York New Years Eve

Christmas and New Years, just a week apart. 
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is more than just a Bing Crosby classic.

This song was based on a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, written on Christmas Day in 1863.  

Longfellow had lost his wife in a tragic fire two years before.  His son then went off to fight in the Civil War, and was injured (he recovered).  This is the poem Longfellow wrote, in the midst of his grief.

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
In 1872 the poem was put to music.  Even today, its lyrics remain powerful and timely.
 "For hate is strong, and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men!"

Now, for a memory of my early childhood.

In just four days, we say goodbye to 2015.  When growing up, there was only one band to listen to on New Year's Eve-Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.  There was only one way to mark the end of the year - the dropping of the ball from the Times Tower in New York City, narrated by Ben Grauer. (I could devote an entire blog post to him.)

This is part of the New Year's Broadcast in New York City, New Year's Eve 1957.   The quality is terrible (it is a kinescope), but it gave me chills.  I may have been allowed to stay up late to see this very broadcast.  "May you have a happy and prosperous 1958"!

Do you remember Guy Lombardo? He's been dead for many years but a New Years custom he originated still lives on.

In the United States, we still ring in the New Year using a music show.  And, a ball comes down the same building once known as the Times Tower (now known as One Times Square), which opened New Years Eve 1904 with a fireworks display.

How will you celebrate the New Year?


  1. Usually on New Year's Eve when I was a child, we went to my mother's sister in Windsor, Ontario. And of course, we had Guy Lombardo on the TV. My sister and I vowed that whenever we were up at midnight, whenever it happened, we would sing Auld Lang Syne. And we did until we got too old to keep our eyes open that late, lol.

  2. It's one of my favorite carols of the season and particularly meaningful at this time in our history when hate sometimes seems close to prevailing in our national life.

  3. Yes, I my childhood it was Guy Lombardo. Then we all switched to Dick Clark. New Year's Rockin' Eve. And then, the new millennium. My new favorite:

  4. The New Year's eve customs and songs are so different this side of the world! I have not heard these songs before but enjoyed them... thanks for sharing :)

  5. I studied this poem with I did my English Literature degree and later taught it too.
    A few years ago, I would make sure I watched New Year's eve being brought in at Times Square.


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