by Carol Poole
This article was originally published in PCJH’s Winter 2022 Pinnacle, “Bursting Into Songs of Joy”
The Little Drummer Boy (originally known as The Carol of the Drum) was written by Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941. Ms. Davis was an American composer who graduated from Wellesley College and taught music at Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts. She also studied at the New England Conservatory of Music. When she died in 1980 she left all the royalties and proceeds from her compositions to Wellesley College’s music department, which were used to support students studying performance. The carol was first recorded by The Trapp Family in 1951.
Yes, the same family that escaped from Austria depicted in the movie “The Sound of Music”.
A cherished childhood memory of mine is listening to Christmas music played all day on my parent’s stereo, starting right after Thanksgiving up until and through Christmas Day. My mom would stack eight or more albums to be dropped one by one onto the turntable as each previous one finished. “The Little Drummer Boy”, sung by Bing Crosby, was one of my favorites because it is the Nativity story told through the eyes of a child. I have come to love it even more for its imagery, symbolism and beat. The image of this little boy and his drum in the manger playing his best for Jesus is just so heartwarming. And the little bit of humor interspersed as “the ox and lamb kept time” was and is one of my favorite lines. I look at his questioning of his gift being “fit for a king” as symbolic of our questioning our own giving of time, talents and treasures as good enough. “I played my best for Him”, the drummer boy says. “Then He smiled at me, “ showing that God is pleased when we are generous with our hearts. And finally, the beat catches my attention because it is steady, like a heartbeat. And it reminds me of God beckoning me to “Come”.