But it’s Williams who helped further cement “Carol of the Bells” into the holiday music vernacular when he included it in his 1992 score for “Home Alone,” which was set during Christmas.
“I don’t particularly recall who suggested its inclusion in the film, but it was used to great effect in the church scene where the young protagonist first decides to protect his home from the villains of the story,” Williams said. “I also interpolated the theme in the music I composed for the subsequent scene where Kevin sets his many ingenious booby traps throughout the house. I suppose for this reason, the music has become somewhat associated with the success of the film.”
As the original “Shchedryk” gained prominence in the late 1910s as a popular a cappella, it wound up providing a soundtrack to tumult. The country was embroiled in the Bolshevik Revolution, which would later pave the way for the Russian Civil War and the subsequent creation of the Soviet Union. Simultaneously, Leontovych’s reputation as a star of Ukrainian culture was on the rise. After fleeing Kyiv upon its capture by the White Army, he founded a music school in the western Ukrainian town of Tul’chyn. But on Jan. 23, 1921, he was targeted during a visit to his parents’ home, and an undercover Russian agent killed Leontovych in his sleep, part of a concerted effort to wipe away Ukrainian culture.
“Unfortunately history is repeating itself today in the worst manner,” Filevska said, referring to the October murder of the conductor Yuriy Kerpatenko in his home after he refused to perform in a concert in the Russian-occupied city of Kherson.
Dora Chomiak, the chief executive of Razom for Ukraine, a presenter of the 100th-anniversary concert, said, “When ‘Shchedryk’ premiered at Carnegie, it was part of the same effort to defend an independent Ukraine.” In advance of the performance, the organization posted a video of members of the children’s choir rehearsing in the dark as the country grappled with rolling blackouts.
“I know this is said an awful lot, but while history doesn’t repeat itself, it does rhyme,” Batstone said. “It’s tragic that in 2022 we are still having the same conversations and exerting the same efforts on behalf of the same cause that was happening in 1922.” When “Shchedryk” premiered at Carnegie Hall that October, performed by the Ukrainian National Chorus and conducted by Alexander Koshetz, Leontovych’s murder was still top of mind.