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I Heard the Bells

VOICING: SATB Choir with Optional Piano


DIFFICULTY: medium advanced


TONE: warm, celebratory 




GENERAL: Commissioned by Northview High School (Indiana, 2023) Brenda Buchanan, Director


TEXT: ​Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1864)


I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day


I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace of earth, good will to men.


I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of 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, good will to men."

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, good will to men."

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

Note from the Composer

I heard the bells on July 2, 2023, in the Residenzplatz, the town square of the historic center of Salzburg, Austria. Wild and sweet, the bells echoed from the bell towers of the Salzburg Cathedral. The two oldest bells – “Marie” and “Virgil” – were cast in 1628 and have been ringing out on Christmas Day ever since.  Bells have historically been instruments of anticipation and celebration. I aim to capture such spirit in this arrangement. This hymn carol from 1872 is refreshed with jazz stylings, reharmonizations, and an incorporation of the upbeat traditional “I Saw Three Ships.” Significant rubato and vocal stylization will brighten this classic carol. 

Directors may find multiple effective instrumentation options. The piano is intentionally written to support and double the voices throughout and may be performed as notated. Directors may also consider omitting the piano in certain sections for cappella choral moments. The piece can also be performed entirely a cappella.   

Ordering Scores

This work is published as a digital score with a performance license. The cost is $3.00 per score, 10 copy minimum order. 


To Order:

  • Click the link to email Daniel Watson Music LLC. 

  • Specify the total number of performers (include all singers, directors, pianists) and the name of your choir.

  • An invoice will be sent to you via PayPal requesting payment.  

  • Once payment is received, you will emailed the licensed PDF for the above number of copies within three business days (excluding weekends and holidays).

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