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Christmas Bells

Many of you are familiar with the music of the hymn “Be Still, My Soul,” originally composed by Jean Sibelius, otherwise known as “Finlandia.” When the plans were being made for building a large Lutheran church in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, in 1887, Sibelius was commissioned to write a melody for the church bells that would be played from the top of that new church two times a day, at 12 noon, and again at 6 pm. The church was completed in 1912 and the song of its bells has become the most played of all his compositions. Sibelius later wrote two other arrangements of that tune, one for a capella choir, and another for piano.  It wasn’t until 1949 that John Klein, a composer, author, conductor, pianist, organist, and carillonneur, came up with an arrangement of “The Bells of Berghall Church” for organ. It was a popular piece in our local region, played by Alexander Schreiner many times on the Tabernacle Organ on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. 


Kallio is a district in Helsinki, Finland, and there is a video on Youtube.come, published on 9-2-2012, that celebrates the 100-year-old Kallio Church and its Carillon (bell tower). Kallio literally means “The Rock.” The video provides a wonderful view of the inner workings of the seven big bells in the bell tower that pull this tune off, as well as of the church itself. 


When I was courting my wife, Leslie, back in the early 1970s, there was a tradition in her church congregation of having an Organ Recital every year on Christmas Eve. It would always start at 11:30 pm and end after midnight on Christmas. There were several different organists through the years that played for that program. By tradition, the last piece played was always “The Bells of Berghall Church” by Sibelius. Her church had a very nice pipe organ with real chimes, with eight different volume settings. When I was invited to play in the Christmas program one year, Mel Peterson gave me some detailed instructions as to how this particular piece should be played, with notations throughout the piece where the volume setting for the chimes needed to be changed. At the very end of the piece, he wrote: “Hold for Eternity.”

written by Sherm - The Man With The Numbers


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