Bells of Bethlehem

October 29, 2017
Bells of Bethlehem

Bells of Bethlehem (Campanas de Belén
(A little fantasy for organ on a Spanish Carol)
By Norberto Guinaldo

It is a well-known fact that the Spanish people are considered a "singing people." Its citizenry has always had a song on their lips for every occasion. Its folklore is well known world-wide, and it's been from the simple "folk," from the villages, that the country has inherited a wealth of celebratory Christmas music known as Villancicos (carols). From thirteen areas of Spain there have been collected and published 127 melodies, each with a flavor all its own, as are the different regions with their unique customs and dialects.

The melody of "Bells of Bethlehem" originates in Andalucia the southernmost region of Spain whose capital is Seville. This piece is number five of Volume II of my Ten Fantasy Pieces on Spanish Carols. (

This simple melody, which consists of two verses connected with the one refrain, has been given here almost "symphonic" proportions in a short span of time, by the fact the melodies are not just stated and surrounded by luscious harmonies, but are developed in a very artistic and uncommon fashion providing for them a multitude of registrational changes, and colorful and varied treatment of solo sections, for both hands, and ensemble sections of different dynamic levels moving through a variety of felicitous key changes, that make playing the piece a pleasurable experience for the organist as well as for the listener. Bell effects are not lacking, and given their own sections, as to grace the piece and reinforce its title.

All in all, color and variety of organ sound, whether it be for a solo line or for the rich texture of its ensemble as well as its majestic ending, is what makes this piece a great choice to enhance either or both, a church service of a Christmas concert.

Watch and listen to the video below or on DIAPASON TV.

The texts of the Villancico is usually simple: This one is about Bethlehem, Bells, Shepherds, a Baby in a crib and gifts (usually food!).

Translation of the first verse:

Bell upon bell, 
And after that one, another, 
Stick your head out the window 
And you'll see a child in a crib. 
Belén, campanas de Belén, 
That the angels are playing, 
What news do you bring?



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