By Eric Dundon
Rudolph Ganz wasn’t a conductor by training, but brought his skills as a pianist, cellist, and composer to the podium for his six seasons as the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director from 1921-1927. Amiable and charismatic, he was known for shaking the hands of every audience member at a concert.
Although his music directorship lasted a relatively short time, Ganz made many friends in the community and developed deep relationships, connecting many people to orchestral music for the first time.
In 1921, the first year of his tenure, Ganz had already laid the foundation for the SLSO’s long-celebrated community work. That year, Ganz composed an original Christmas carol, dedicated to the Children’s Aid Society as part of a community project. The new tune, “Hark the Bells Are Ringing,” tells the story of joyful connection during the winter holiday.
The carol’s text:
Hark, the Christmas bells are ringing
Ringing through the frosty air
Happiness to each one bringing
And release from toil and care.
Ankle deep the snow is lying,
Ev’ry spray is cloth’d in white
Yet abroad the folk are hying
Brisk and busy and gay and light.
Neighbors shaking hands and greeting,
No one sorrowing, no one sad
Children loving parents meeting
Young and old alike are glad.
Then while Christmas bells are ringing,
Rich and poor your voices raise
And your simple carols singing
Waft to Heav’n your grateful praise.
St. Louis publisher, Kunkel Bros. Music Co., printed the music, which ran in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on December 18, 1921. According to the newspaper, the carol was to be sung by many of the Children’s Aid carol groups on Christmas Eve. Carolers would also visit many hotels and restaurants around the holiday to perform the song.
Ganz’s legacy prominently includes children, for whom he had a special affection. The SLSO began education concerts under his leadership—programs which turn 100 years old this season.
Eric Dundon is the SLSO’s Public Relations Manager.