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According to William Studwell in The Christmas Carol Reader, "Up on the House Top" was the second-oldest secular Christmas song, outdone only by "Jingle Bells", which was written in 1857 (although the latter was originally intended as a Thanksgiving song). It is also considered the first Yuletide song to focus primarily on Santa Claus. In fact, according to Readers Digest Merry Christmas Song Book, Hanby was the first to offer up the idea that Santa and his sleigh land on the roof of homes.
Benjamin Russell Hanby was born in 1833 near Rushville, Ohio, the son of a minister involved with the Underground Railroad. During his short life, he wrote some 80 songs before dying of tuberculosis in 1867. Other than "Up on the House Top" his best-known song is "Darling Nelly Gray".
Performance in December 2014 by the a cappella student group Ottertuned. Their version commemorates the 150th anniversary of Benjamin Hanby's composition. Members include Tim Andrews,Sammie Becker, Lane Conley, Benjamin Graber, Kristin Gramza, Michael Grimm, Allison Hunter, Katie Jump, Alyx Lynham, Austin Miller, Victoria Morin, Koryn Naylor, Kaitlin Steinour and Adam Sullivan.
History | Music
Hanby, Benjamin Russell, "Up on the Housetop" (1857). Score Collection. 1.