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“Jingle Bells Organ” at home in a Tallahassee church

Published: Dec. 18, 2020 at 6:34 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - One of the world’s most famous Christmas carols was written more than 150 years ago on an organ that’s now tucked away in the chapel of a Tallahassee church.

It’s a quintessential Christmas carol. Jingle Bells was written way back in the 1850′s and is still a holiday staple.

“I think it sort of appeals to nostalgia about Christmases past about when there were actually horse drawn sleighs carrying people through the snow and the tune itself is very catchy, easy to sing and easy to remember,” said FSU Professor Emeritus Michael Corzine.

“I think it’s the carol that we all learn when we are little kids,” said St. John’s Episcopal Church Music Director Betsy Calhoun, “and we have a lot of fun when we do it.”

Just off the sanctuary at St. John’s Episcopal Church downtown, sits the pipe organ on which James Pierpont composed that Christmas classic.

It’s called the “Jingle Bells Organ” and it’s on permanent loan from the FSU College of Music.

“It’s exciting,” Corzine said. “Not many really know the true history behind it.”

Michael Corzine taught organ at FSU for 40 years and says it was one of his doctoral students back in the 1970′s, Steve Sennholtz, who found this famous organ - in pieces - in the basement of the Keursteiner Building.

“He noticed this kind of pile of organ parts, he could see a few pipes sticking out and other parts and Steve was an organist himself and so he was curious about it and he asked permission to peel back the chicken wire that was surrounding it back there,” Corzine said. “There was a complete instrument totally in parts in this kind of pile of what looked like rubble.”

The student discovered the organ had been donated to FSU in the 1940′s. He researched it, rebuilt it, and restored it, Corzine said. Now it’s here in the chapel at St. John’s and still pumping out Pierpont’s famous Christmas carol.

The carol was originally called “A One Horse Open Sleigh,” but the refrain was so catchy that’s it’s universally known now as “Jingle bells.”

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