Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jingle Bells on a Player Piano


James Pierpont - 1857: Jingle Bells is a song that we evidently were born knowing. Who hasn't heard a three-year old, or even a two-year old child attempt this simplistic tune at Christmas. In all truth, it is neither inherently a Christmas song, nor is the current popularized version quite like the original composition. James Pierpont was one of six children of the well known poet John Pierpont, and uncle of the well known fortune builder J. P. (James Pierpont) Morgan. During the Civil War he defied his abolitionist father's wishes and promoted the Confederate cause with anti-Yankee tunes. But that was later. Jingle Bells was allegedly composed as early as 1850. It was first published by Boston publisher Oliver Ditson in 1857 as The One Horse Open Sleigh. In the following two years it gained such popularity that it was reprinted with identical plates and a new cover sporting the title that the public had chosen for it, Jingle Bells. Not only did American music consumers and performers quickly adopt this song, but they collectively made editorial changes to the melody in the chorus, leaving the verse more or less intact. By 1900, the familiar melody we know today was well established. Bill Edwards has a recording of a cylinder made in 1902 featuring the Hayden Quartet singing the altered melody that reinforces this fact. In the performance here, Bill Edwards plays the original melody through the verse and chorus, then repeat the chorus with the original printed accompaniment. The second verse would be closer to what the public performed through the 1870's. By the third verse he's abandoned the original chorus for the popularized one, and the fourth time through he incorporates some ragtime into the mix. You may also want to take a look at the lyrics, some of which are slightly different than what we know today. For a simple tune, you've got to admit it has endured very well for a century and a half.



Jingle Bells, or the One Horse Open Sleigh
Words and Music by James Pierpont
Verse 1: Dashing thro' the snow, In a one horse open sleigh,
O'er the hills we go, Laughing all the way;
Bells on bobtail ring, Making spirits bright,
Oh what sport to ride and sing a sleighing song tonight.

Chorus: Jingle bells, Jingle bells, Jingle all the way;
Oh! What joy it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.
Jingle bells, Jingle bells, Jingle all the way;
Oh! What joy it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.

Piano Chorus

Verse 2: A day or two ago, I though I'd take a ride,
And soon Miss Fannie Bright was seated by my side,
The horse was lean and lank; Misfortune seemed his lot,
He got into a drifted bank, And we, we got upsot.

Chorus: Jingle bells, Jingle bells, Jingle all the way;
Oh! What joy it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.
Jingle bells, Jingle bells, Jingle all the way;
Oh! What joy it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.

Verse 3: A day or two ago, The story I must tell,
I went out on the snow, And on my back I fell;
A gent was riding by, In a one horse open sleigh,
He laughed as there I sprawling lie [sic], But quickly drove away.

Chorus: Jingle bells, Jingle bells, Jingle all the way;
Oh! What fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.
Jingle bells, Jingle bells, Jingle all the way;
Oh! What fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.

Verse 4: Now the ground is white, Go it while you're young,
Take the girls tonight, And sing this sleighing song;
Just get a bob-tailed bay, Two forty as his speed.
Hitch him to an open sleigh, And crack, you'll take the lead.

Chorus: Jingle bells, Jingle bells, Jingle all the way;
Oh! What fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.
Jingle bells, Jingle bells, Jingle all the way;
Oh! What fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.

Performed by Bill Edwards

Information obtained from http://www.perfessorbill.com/pbmidixmas.shtml

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