“Bright, bright the happy faces with the thoughts of joys in store.”
I nominate Bright, Bright the Holly Berries to be the highlight of Fred Waring’s The Sounds of Christmas. The song is one of six Christmas carols by Alfred Burt to appear on the album.
The Burt family of ministers and musicians made a family tradition of including lyrics and music of original Christmas carols in their family Christmas cards. The tradition began with Alfred’s father, Episcopal minister Bates G. Burt, in 1922.
Alfred, a jazz trumpeter with The Alvino Rey Orchestra, took over the tradition at his father’s request in 1942, composted the music for fifteen carols for his family’s Christmas cards between that year and 1954 in collaboration with family friend and lyricist Wihla Hutson. These carols would have remained obscure family secrets had Alfred not requested the Rey Orchestra chorus to test out the harmonies of his 1952 carol, Come, Dear Children. The chorus liked the carol enough to perform it at some high-profile Christmas parties, where they gained local notoriety.
Amidst failing health, Alfred Burt was able to oversee the recording of twelve of his fifteen carols for Columbia Records’ 1954 collection, The Christmas Mood. The most famous of these carols to modern listeners is probably Caroling, Caroling (aka Christmas Bells are Ringing). Alfred unfortunately did not live to see the release of the 10″ record; he died of lung cancer at the age of 33 in February of 1954.
Since the original release of The Christmas Mood, Alfred Burt’s carols have been recorded by the likes of Tennessee Ernie Ford, Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians and Nat King Cole. Even after all these years, the Burt family tradition of writing carols in their Christmas cards continues into its fourth generation. The tradition’s current carrier is Bates G. Burt’s great-granddaughter, Abbie Burt Bentinis.