"But later in the afternoon..."

But later in the afternoon at a matinee of the musical comedy, Me and Juliet, the realization struck Al. He had long wished to write a musical. Now, revisiting the city where our young dreams had germinated, it seemed a cruel blow of fate that Al's life should end just as the brass ring was within reach. The look in Al's eyes told me we should leave. We walked, hand in hand, down the Great White Way with tears falling to wash away our frustration. No words were necessary. Fortunately, it was a city where we could be alone among the masses. But once back in the quiet of our hotel room overlooking Gramercy Park, we faced reality.

It was Al's decision to return to California, to work as long as he could in the field he loved so much. His other concern was for Diane. She must have her childhood unmarred by disease. This was his final gift to her. Back at home in the San Fernando Valley we filled each day in a loving, serene atmosphere. Al's humor, warmth, compassion, and noncomplaining disposition made each day a blessing. Ours was a happy, loving family despite the tribulations. Our needs were met at every turn. A ramp for Al's wheelchair was built by the men of the church; blood was donated as transfusions became necessary; the Men's Business Club Prayer Group met at our home on Wednesday mornings so that Al could be included. My sister, Jean, left her home and husband temporarily to care for Diane.

"Our friends..."


Al gave up the trumpet first, then the piano, but his creative mind was active to the end. He went from a wheelchair to a hospital bed in our bedroom. My nursing background afforded him free nursing care. Together we worked on the music; together he and Diane shared moments to last her a lifetime; and together he and I hurried to beat the final deadline--death.


Our friends in the music business, hearing of the outcome of our trip to New York, alerted James Conkling, brother-in-law of the King Sisters and president of Columbia Records, of the urgency of Al's condition. Jim wanted to record the carols. Now the wheels were put into motion. It gave Al a goal those last few months.


Wihla was asked to write four new verses for the recording. Wihla told me that all she needed was Al's request and the words flowed so fast she could hardly write them down. "We'll Dress the House", "O, Hearken Ye", "Caroling, Caroling", and "The Star Carol" awaited music.
A volunteer chorus of the finest singers in Hollywood met in the North Hollywood Mormon Church, organized by the King Sisters, Buddy Cole, and Jimmy Joyce. Al's wheelchair could easily enter from the parking lot into the auditorium where he lead the first demonstration taping. In our home, over a cup of hot chocolate, Al reviewed the session, thrilled at the turnout for him, the lovely voices on the tape, and the fact something he had written would be released. "This is the happiest day of my life," he remarked. There was no jealousy on my part; Al's first love would always be music.

Momentum continued. Christmas 1953, we chose the triumphant hymn "O, Hearken Ye" as our family card. It was chosen as much to bolster our spirits as those of our friends and family. Al was very tired; the cobalt treatment was taking its toll. But his spirit was high!

On February 5, 1954, Al completed his final carol. Asking Jimmy Joyce to check it for him on our Steinway, Al listened carefully to the notes. Jimmy and I were enthralled with the beauty and purity of "The Star Carol". But the "Professor", as the men in the band dubbed him, perfectionist to a note, changed the tenor line in the last few bars. Then he was satisfied. There was no denying the closeness of death. The carol was a prelude that Al knew; it was so simple in its musical character. Tired of the battle against the inevitable, Al and I shared our thoughts that last evening. He asked two things of me, to care for his music and his daughter. These promises have been kept.

His death came the next afternoon in an ambulance enroute to a hospital. Ironically, the signed contract from Columbia Records arrived by special messenger just an hour after his death. His mortal life had ended, but his musical life would begin.

On August 14, 1954, we gathered once more in Marquette. After a simple service in St. Paul's Chapel, John gave the final blessing, pouring a handful of sand taken from the beach in front of Furugaard into the grave. We had returned Al to the place where his life had begun. He was just 33 years of age. Today, three tall pine trees mark the resting place of those we placed there.

Christmas 1954, as I sat addressing the final Christmas card, "The Star Carol," I realized that I had lost not only a husband, a life-style, and a musical friend, but a Christmas card as well. The red, green, and white card was the loveliest card we had ever sent. It was signed simply, "Anne and Diane." Inside I tucked a note telling of the end of our tradition with Al's death and the release of the music for all to enjoy. Our legacy of love was our gift of music to the world that Christmas.


"The secret of joy out of sorrow and gain out of loss is all there in the message of Christmas."

--Bates G. Burt, in the 1945 Christmas card--


Since then the music of Alfred S. Burt has taken its place in the heritage of American music. It is impossible to relate the wonderful growth the carols have had. Their acceptance in concert halls, churches, schools, on radio and television, and in homes around the world truly delights our family. It was not easy those first years, hearing the familiar strains and realizing our loss; but as time has lessened our grief, we proudly face the Christmas season, knowing the carols will recall the memories of our life with the composer.

Diane Burt 
Diane Burt
(to enlarge click on the image)

Diane, an actress-singer and musical director, finds her father in his music. Her Caroling Company in turn-of-the-century costume, sings the Burt music along with the old familiar carols. How pleased her father would be to know his daughter is following in his footsteps.

Diane Burt
(to enlarge click on the image)

We are grateful to the many friends, known and unknown, who have kept Al's memory alive through his music. When you hear the Alfred S. Burt carols, Diane and I wish you and yours a very merry, musical Christmas and the blessing of peace and love in the New Year. For us, we will be remembering the past, keeping the words of Al's final carol in our hearts:

"And when the stars in the heavens I see,

Ever and always I'll think of thee."


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