Alfred Burt’s daughter Diane takes up his tradition

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Burt’s a cappella group The Caroling Company first appeared at the Idyllwild Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in 1991. They are seen in this photo at this year’s celebration. Burt is third from the right. Photos courtesy Diane Burt

For Pine Cove resident Diane Burt, music is and has always been a family business. Daughter of Alfred Shaddick Burt, whose Christmas carols are famous worldwide, Diane’s entry into show business would have come as no surprise to her parents.

Her mother, Anne Shortt Burt, was a singer and her father was a composer. Her grandfather, the Rev. Bates G. Burt, of Marquette, Wisconsin, and Pontiac, Michigan, began composing annual Christmas carols as greeting cards to his parishioners. Nineteen of those carols are published as “The Family Carols of Bates Burt” (Fred Bock Music Co.)

Rev. Bates passed on the job of composing music for the annual Christmas carol to his son Alfred in 1942. At that time, Alfred had just graduated from the University of Michigan and was primarily a jazz trumpeter. But with Alfred’s music, the annual carols gained an international following, with original recordings by the Voices of Jimmy Joyce, and later recordings by Natalie and Nat Cole, Kenny Loggins and Andy Williams. The Alfred Burt carols have been covered by many other celebrated singers and performers.

Diane formed The Caroling Company, an a cappella vocal octet, to continue to promote her father carols. Husband Nick D’Amico, a noted singer, producer and arranger, continued the family partnership by arranging for The Caroling Company. The Caroling Company should be familiar to many Idyllwild residents as Diane’s group began performing at the annual Idyllwild Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in 1991. They performed at this year’s tree lighting.

Diane Burt, singer, actor and theatrical producer.

But Diane’s career was not only a continuation of her father’s legacy. She built a highly successful career as an actress, singer and producer in her own right. Her professional life began at age 7 when Jimmy Joyce, who had recorded her father’s carols, needed children to sing in commercials, films and commercials. He taught the children of friends and professional associates to sight read and sing both in groups and as soloists. She dubbed for the children in the film version of “The Sound of Music,” with Julie Andrews and sang with Lionel Ritchie on his hit “All Night Long.” She has performed on albums with The Chipmunks and Doris Day, and on hit singles with Frank Gorshin and comic José Jiménez. In 1984, as part of the L.A. Jazz Choir, she received a Grammy Award nomination.

At Cal State Northridge, she majored in theater and minored in music. She won the title of Miss Northridge that opened modeling opportunities. She later studied at the (Lee) Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in Los Angeles and worked in television commercials, and on “The Days of Our Lives” and “General Hospital.”

She was also the music director for the Megaw Theatre in Northridge, directing music there for 14 years, as well as serving as company manager for the theater. With Sydney May Morrison and Elaine Moe, Diane produced a summer theater festival in Prescott, Arizona. She continued stage work in Los Angeles, noting favorite roles as those in “The Roar of the Greasepaint and Smell of the Crowd,” “Company,” “Little Mary Sunshine,” “Kiss Me Kate” and “The Fantastiks.”

For seven years, she toured with the vocal group Chapter Five, in concert and on tour with Hollywood Squares host Peter Marshall. On tour, Chapter Five opened for luminaries Jerry Lewis, Dionne Warwick, Buddy Hackett, Sammy Davis Jr., The Mills Brothers, Tex Beneke and Johnny Carson.

After moving to Idyllwild with husband Nick in 1991, Diane joined the theater faculty of the Idyllwild Arts Academy in 1993, teaching classes in voice, music fundamentals, acting and musical theater, and serving as musical director of main-stage productions. She served in that capacity until 2004. She has long been involved with Idyllwild’s Isis Theatre Company (now the Idyllwild Actors Theatre) as a board member and actor.

In 2018, with several new studio singer members of The Caroling Company, Diane will be recording under the aegis of husband Nick, at his Pine Cove studio.

“This season [2017] represents the 70th anniversary of ‘Nigh Bethlehem’ with words by my grandfather, Rev. Bates G. Burt,” said Diane. “It doesn’t seem possible that the timeless harmonies were written so long ago. The carol will be recorded for 2018 using my father’s original harmonies in an arrangement by my talented husband and sung a cappella by The Caroling Company.”

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