Mirthful Heart, The

Program Notes:

For her 2012 Christmas card carol, composer Abbie Betinis chose a 1914 poem by fellow Minnesotan Grace Fallow Norton. Says Abbie of this Christmastime reflection, “Her words inspire me to believe that, even in a dreary world, it’s possible … to hold this “strange carnival” of joy in our hearts.”

Conductor Notes:

SSA with frame drum. A delightful, energetic piece with a driving rhythm and Abbie’s trademark rhythmic interest. I used a soloist on the verses.

Composer / Arranger Notes:

Since 2001, I’ve been writing an annual carol to send in my family’s Christmas card — a family tradition begun by my great-grandfather Bates Burt in 1922, and passed through my great uncle Alfred Burt.

This year, I surely read over a hundred Christmas and winter poems looking for just the thing I wanted to say to friends and family in 2012 — a year which, for the United States, brought divisive politics, devastating natural disasters, and tragic shootings. On a personal note, I lost three influential women and role-models in my life: my grandmother, my great-aunt, and my godmother.

These hardships make me wonder how we — the living — make sense of life, despite this tragic world. What propels us, indeed, compels us to keep going, even when it’s so hard to make sense of loss?

I think Grace Fallow Norton, born in Northfield, Minnesota in 1876, provides an answer in this poem from 1914. Her words inspire me to believe that, even in a dreary world, it’s possible — if indeed also absurd — to hold this “strange carnival” of joy in our hearts.

And just now — as I write this — I realize I’ve composed this music for a trio of strong, lusty women. I love you Nonna, Aunt Harriet, and Aunt Anita. You each showed me, in your own way, how to keep a “mirthful heart,” and to take delight in each new day. I will never forget our wonderful times together.


This lists any discs, concerts or collections where this piece is included.