Mykola Leontovych (1877-1921) is recognized as a master of choral music and author of both original works and more than 150 choral arrangements of Ukrainian folk songs.
He worked over ‘Shchedryk’ almost all his life, rewriting it five times.
‘Shchedryk’ was first performed in 1916 by the choir of the Kyiv university. At that time, Mykola Leontovych worked with local choirs in Kyiv, taught at Music and Drama School and later led the newly formed Ukrainian national orchestra.
Ukrainian composer Kyrylo Stetsenko called Leontovych ‘a music carver creating the finest musical valuables. His technique is like a fine gold carving adorned with precious stones’.
After the Ukrainian choir toured Europe in 1919 and the United States in 1922, ‘Shchedryk’ became famous all over the world.
The song became a musical phenomenon in 1935 when it caught the ear of American composer Peter J. Wilhousky who retouched it and provided English language lyrics making it known as ‘Carol of the Bell’.
Spotify lists Mykola Leontovych as the most popular Ukrainian composer of the early twentieth century. His music has been listened to more than 120,000 times over the last month.
Leontovych has long been renowned in Ukaine, though few people knew horrid details circumstances of his death. The composer was shot to death in his sleep by Bolshevik security agent in his parents’ house in early 1921.