Tuesday, November 16, 2010

West Indies Carol, via Pittsburgh

When you come to our upcoming concert, you'll hear Hart Morris' fun arrangement of "West Indies Carol." Its upbeat rhythm with staccato sounds will make you ready to start celebrating the holiday immediately.

However, the tune was brought into wide distribution by an American composer who grew up in Pittsburgh, the imcomparable Jester Hairston.

Amongst many other musical and artistic accomplishments, Jester Hairston arranged negro spirituals and gave them new exposure. One such song was probably the inspiration for "Mary's Boy Child" in 1956. Recorded by Harry Belafonte, it reached #1 on the UK charts in 1957.

To demonstrate the diversity of style that the song has enjoyed through the years, it's worth watching the 1978 version by disco artists Boney M., which brought the song to the #1 spot a second time in the UK.

The song appeared in 1983 on a sheet of postage stamps issued by the Carribean island of St. Kits, recognizing the origin of, or at least the inspiration for, this truly North American Christmas carol.

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