Georgia. Massachusetts. Thanksgiving. Who Wrote Jingle Bells?
It was the first song sung in outer space, by astronauts Wally Shirra and Tom Stafford, on December 16, 1965.
It is often the first Christmas song children learn.
Where Was It Written?
What is not agreed on is where Pierpont was when he wrote it, and why.
Among his many business endeavors, he became the music director and organist in 1853 for the Unitarian Church in Savannah, Georgia, where his brother was minister.
“Jingle Bells,” first released under the title, “One Horse Open Sleigh,” was published in 1857.
However, citizens of Medford, Massachusetts, where Pierpont lived between 1840 and 1853, and where his father was a Unitarian minister, claim Pierpont wrote the song there, and played it on a piano belonging to a local music teacher.
Signs claiming local authorship of Jingle Bells are outside the Unitarian Church in Savannah, Georgia and on a building near a former boardinghouse in Medford, Massachusetts where the proprietor first heard it.
The building subsequently became a tavern, and eventually was torn down. Thus, many say it was written in a tavern.
Why Did He Write It?
Speculation by a Savannah musical researcher is that Pierpont wrote the song there, homesick for winters in Massachusetts.
Others believe he wrote it as a Thanksgiving song for a Unitarian Church service in Savannah. It was later performed at a Christmas service there. That is the holiday most associated with the song now.
Medford historians claim that he wrote the song there, about sleigh races that were common in the town.
Has It Changed?
The tune comes from common French and German winter songs.
Click here to hear the original music, played as an instrumental on a player piano.
More recently, Michael Bublé performed with the Puppini Sisters, in a version reminiscent of Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters.
Click here for a studio clip of Michael Bublé, a young new singer making his reputation singing the old classics.
Whether it is nostalgia for the home of your childhood or simply the spirit of the season, enjoy singing Christmas songs with your grandchildren this year.
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To you and the songs of joy that tie generations together.
Carol Covin, “Granny-Guru”