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I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

About the Song

For this selection I have combined an original melody with a single line from the familiar tune by John Baptiste Calkin.

The lyrics are the work of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem, titled “Christmas Bells,” is somewhat longer, and the selected stanzas were rearranged when Calkin set them to music.The lyrics are presented here as they appear on the sheet music for this arrangement.

The flute obbligato goes with the solo version.  It could possibly work with the SATB, but the measures don’t line up, so you’d have to fuss with it.  There is no score for the “violins” you hear in the recording. 

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Recording featuring vocals by James Loynes:

Accompaniment track:

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I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth
Peace on earth

I thought how as the day had come
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth
Peace on earth
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
Peace on earth

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


  1. Peggy Sorensen

    I would love to use the violin and flute for our ward choir, but there is no violin obligato and the flute isn’t in the same key.

    • Sally

      The violins you hear are digital… played on a keyboard… so no, there is no score for them. The flute was written for the solo version, and you’re correct, that is in a different key than the SATB. The Personal Composer file is available, so you can transpose it to the correct key, but you’ll have to fuss with it. Since it wasn’t written to go with the SATB, the measures and key changes don’t match up.


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