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WorksChoral MusicBurt Family Christmas Carol SeriesBehind the Clouds

Behind the Clouds

Voicing: SATB a cappella with high voice solo (or soli)
             TTBB chorus a cappella with high voice solo (or soli)
             High voice solo with organ (or piano)
Published by: Abbie Betinis Music Co.
Text: Abbie Betinis, after Bates G. Burt
Duration: 4 min.
Premiere: The MPR Carolers, Minnesota Public Radio - Dec. 23, 2008
Published by: Abbie Betinis Music Co.
Order: SATB (AB-059-C8) -- or -- preview this score (PDF)
           TTBB (AB-059-C8B)
           Solo Voice & organ (or piano) -- see: Three Carols -- high voice (AB-Coll-01C)


(SATB voicing: Featuring soprano Carrie Henneman Shaw with the MPR Carolers)

Hear Abbie's interview on Minnesota Public Radio.

Behind the Clouds Poem by Abbie Burt Betinis, after Bates G. Burt
Behind the clouds that darken human life,
Forever shines the Light of God;
      And whensoever those clouds may go,
      Dispelling the shadows in which we so
            blindly grope,
      Then is it, indeed,

With ears attuned to heaven's prophecies,
Our hearts await a Prince of Peace,
      And whensoever that Prince appear,
      And we in darkness, and we in fear
            find release,
      Then is it, indeed,

Awake! Awake! Lift up your hearts downcast,
For sorrow shall transform at last,
      And whensoever that Rose unfurl'd,
      Invites Hosannas for all the world
            to employ,
      Then is it, indeed,

O come, O come, come closer still tonight,
The pains of life remain, but Light...!
      And whensoever that Light breaks through,
      And we, in radiance, reflect a new
            world above,
      Then is it, indeed,

© 2008 by Abbie Burt Betinis, after Bates G. Burt. Reprinted by permission of the author.


In preparation for this year's carol, I asked choral conductors what kinds of carols are particularly useful as they prepare their musical programs for Christmas. The answer was unanimous: "Advent music!" I looked through the seven Christmas carols I've written so far and discovered an interesting thing... they're all about Christmas! As I began to research what advent is really about, I started jotting things down: darkness, waiting, preparing, staying awake, wondering, hoping, hearing that something good is coming... Coincidentally, these were exactly the things I was thinking would suit a carol written in November-December 2008.

After attempting to write my own lyrics, which yielded many false starts and hours of frustration, I resorted to the "Rev. Bates G. Burt" file in my office. Here I keep copies of my great-grandfather's hymns, carol texts, and various sermons and speeches. I'd scoured all of these sources in years past and was convinced there was no unpublished poetry left to set.

As I opened the folder, a little scrap of paper fell out. It was a prose text -- one I'd seen many times before, and had always disregarded for its unrhymed lines and irregular meter. Now I took another look. It was carefully handwritten:
"Behind the clouds that darken human life,
forever shines the Light of God; and
whensoever that Light breaks through, dispelling the
shadows in which we so blindly grope, then is it indeed
and Christ has come again to Bethlehem, making His abode
among the humble; and angel songs once more are heard by
ears attuned to Heaven’s harmonies; and God’s promise of
Peace and Goodwill rekindles hope in hearts downcast; and
sorrow is transformed to joy.

So let us find this year that rift in the clouds through
which still gleams the LIGHT OF THE WORLD,
and in its radiancy wish each other

Bates G. Burt sent this prose poem in his Christmas card in 1942 (printed alongside the first carol by his son, Alfred Burt). I think I was very lucky to come across it this year, particularly. With just a few modifications (may his spirit forgive me), I was able to match his meter and even lift some of his phrases to create three more verses having to do with Advent (see lyrics below).

My mother has stenciled a beautiful gold star for the front of the cards this year, and has spent countless hours "blinging" them (i.e. putting little dots of glitter all around the points). As always, I can hardly wait to see the finished product. (Of course, now that I've learned what Advent's all about, I'm heartened by the fact that my eager anticipation is wholly in the Advent spirit!)

Performed by :

MPR Carolers (Abbie Betinis), Minnesota
Palmdale High School (Michael McCullough), California
Nativity Episcopal Church Adult Choir (J. David Moore), Minnesota
Christ Church Warwick (Ron Campbell), Bermuda
The Ensemble (Patrick McDonough), Oregon
Joanne Swords-Wang, piano solo; Pennsylvania
Trinity United Methodist Church, South Carolina
St. Martin's Chamber Choir (Tim Krueger), Colorado
Texas Lutheran University, Texas
Michigan Technological University (Jared Anderson), Michigan
Indianapolis Men's Chorus (Greg Sanders), Indiana

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