Abbie Betinis premieres new Christmas carol for 2018, 'Little Fir Tree'

Composer Abbie BetinisCourtesy of the artist


Abbie Betinis: 2018 Christmas Carol

13:46


December 21, 2018

The winds have blown more bitter
Each darkening day of fall;
High over all the house-tops
The stars are far and small
I wonder, will my little fir tree
Be green in spite of all?

With those words, we welcome composer Abbie Betinis back to Classical MPR for the world premiere of her annual Christmas carol.

"Little Fir Tree" is a contemporary lament over a descending bass line — much like a passacaglia. Inspired by the resilient evergreen, the poet decides to weather the hard times, too, and to "keep the fragrant heart."

Betinis continues a family tradition begun in 1922 by her great-grandfather, the Rev. Bates G. Burt, then continued by Betinis' great-uncle, Alfred Burt. Many of Alfred Burt's carols, such as "Caroling, Caroling" and "The Star Carol" became part of the standard Christmas repertoire.

Abbie picked up the tradition by writing a new carol every year, and for the past 18 years, she has premiered them on Classical Minnesota Public Radio.

She also brought a carol by Alfred Burt, "We'll Dress the House," and a rare, unrecorded carol from 1939 by Bates G. Burt.

Thanks to the MPR Carolers for bringing the music to life: Carrie Henneman Shaw, soprano; Laura Betinis Healy, mezzo; Nicholas Chalmers, tenor; and Timothy C. Takach, bass.

Abbie Betinis, left, is shown with her singers.
Abbie Betinis, left, is shown with singers, from left, Carrie Henneman Shaw, soprano; Laura Betinis Healy, mezzo; Nicholas Chalmers, tenor; and Timothy C. Takach, bass.
MPR

Little Fir Tree

Music by Abbie Burt Betinis (2018), on a poem by Josephine Preston Peabody (1908).

The winds have blown more bitter
Each darkening day of fall;
High over all the house-tops
The stars are far and small.
I wonder, will my little fir tree
Be green in spite of all?
      I wonder, will my little fir tree
      Be green in spite of all?

O grief is colder — colder
Than wind from any hill;
And tears of want are bitter tears,
And doubt is sorer still!
But I promised to my little fir tree
To weather the wintry chill.
      I promised to my little fir tree
      To weather the wintry chill.

When long night's moon has risen,
And shadows dare depart,
I know, with snow still heavy,
That soon sweet Spring will start.
For I promised to my little fir tree
To keep the fragrant heart.
      I promised to my little fir tree
      To keep the fragrant heart.

Poem adapted from Josephine Preston Peabody's "Fir-Tree" (1903, public domain). Verse 1 & 2 adapted; Verse 3 ©2018 Abbie Betinis. Reprinted with permission.