Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Music # 7 - Alfred Burt (1920-1954)

A favorite carol from the Christmas community choir performance I participated in last year has been running through my head for a day or so: "This Is Christmas," by Alfred Burt. In the 1940's and '50's, Burt wrote fifteen carols, one each year to send as Christmas cards to his family. Today Burt's music has both been recorded by many artists like Julie Andrews (and Andy Williams, be still my heart) and arranged for choral singing. Much information, including audio clips of the carols (and samples of the original art work of the holiday cards) exist at The Alfred Burt Carols website, which is definitely worth a visit. Here is a list of Burt's carols in chronological order, and then snippets of two of my favorites.

Christmas Cometh Caroling (1942)
Jesu Parvule (1943)
What Are the Signs (1944)
Ah, Bleak and Chill the Wintry Wind (1945)
All on A Christmas Morning (1946)
Nigh Bethlehem (1947)
Christ in the Stranger's Guise (1948)
Sleep Baby Mine (1949)
This Is Christmas (1950)
Some Children See Him (1951)
Come, Dear Children (1952)
O, Hearken Ye (1953)
Caroling. Caroling (1954)
We'll Dress the House (1954)
The Star Carol (1954)

1. This is Christmas (also called "Bright, Bright the Holly Berries" sometimes, after the first line of the song). If you go to the Alfred Burt Carol website, you'll hear most of Julie Andrews' recording of the carol, but here is a brisk version by the Camilli String Quartet:

2. Caroling, Caroling. This song was made popular by Nat King Cole, but I think the slow speed at which he sang it makes the song sound lugubrious instead of merry. Here is a version by The Singers Unlimited. Andy Williams also sings this carol (slightly faster than NKC), but that version wasn't available at Amazon.

Happy Solstice Eve!

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