Sunday, December 5, 2010

Alfred Burt Carols

Every Christmas season I'm amazed at how few people have ever heard of the Alfred Burt carols. Some of my favorite carols were written by him, and I've got to share some of them with you lovely people.

Alfred Burt (pictured above) had the perfect background for a Christmas carol composer: son of a pastor, and a trained jazz musician. Having a deep love of the Savior and a knowledge of when to use a C711 chord, he composed 15 beautiful carols as Christmas cards for family and friends every year from 1942 to 1954.

Sadly, he died at age 33 from cancer after finishing his Magnum opus (and my favorite Alfred Burt carol) "The Star Carol" just 24 hours before his death. Listen to this version by Simon and Garfunkel and remember that it is literally the last words of a talented and faithful young man...

Cynthia and I perform this version in church every couple of years. It's just too beautiful for words. Chokes me up often.


John Williams (please tell me you've heard of him) did two medleys of Alfred Burt carols during his tenure with the Boston Pops. Below is one of them. At the six minute mark is another one of my favorites, "Caroling, Caroling", which sounds as much fun as caroling should be.


The last one I'd like to share is "Some Children See Him".  James Taylor sang a well-known version of it a couple years ago which I think is bloated, self-indulgent, and loses the simplistic beauty of the original. I prefer a simpler arrangement, like the one below by Perry Como. (It's also in the medley above at 7:30)

1 comment:

  1. Confessions: I have that version of the Star Carol by Simon & Garfunkel but had no idea who wrote it; I don't know who John Williams is (I think I've heard the name, but it's kind of a common sounding name so really I could be wrong.) I do know who James Taylor is, but, since he's on your bad list, I guess that doesn't earn me any points. Oh, wait! I've heard of Perry Como, too! Score.
    Someday, you and Tyce will have to teach me the art of being confident. I'm always very convinced by your blog posts/opinions, but is that because you're right or because you state things so confidently? (or both?)