Friday 18 December 2015

Katherine Kennicott Davis' "Little Drummer Boy"

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A newborn king to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the king, pa rum pum pum pum
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum.

Katherine Kennicott Davis wrote her first composition at the age of 15.  She studied at the New England Conservatory of Music as well as a Paris school.  Although she has written over 600 compositions, perhaps her most famous is "Little Drummer Boy," performed by dozens of recording artists over the years.  The carol, originally titled "Carol of the Drum" in 1941, is based on the Biblical verse Isaiah 1:3.  It talks about a little boy who is invited by the Three Magi to visit the baby Jesus.  While the Magi have fine gifts like gold, frankincense and myrhh, the poor drummer boy has nothing fit for a king.  But he does have talent:  he plays a song on his drum for the baby Jesus.  

Some say the story is similar to that of a 12th Century legend told by Anatole France called Le Jongelur de Notre Dame (Our Lady's Juggler).  Legend goes that a juggler juggled the a statue of Mary.  Mary was so pleased that she smiled at him and threw him a rose.

The Trapp Family Singers of The Sound of Music fame, first recorded the song for Decca Records in 1955.  But it wasn't until 1958, when the Harry Simeone Chorale recorded the carol, that it first came to prominence, topping the charts for four successive years.  The album, originally titled "Carol of the Drum" was reissued as "The Little Drummer Boy:  A christmas Festival" a few years later. 

In 1977, Bing Crosby and David Bowie did a duet of "Peace on Earth" and "Little Drummer Boy" on Crosby's last television Christmas special.  

No comments:

Post a Comment