The Story Behind the Recording

Image: Pete Bertasso at the organ, December 1964

My biological father, Pete Bertasso, was an organist who played in clubs and churches in New York State. I never met him -- he died in 2000, 15 years before I discovered who he was. Yet, thanks to technology, I was able to record this duet with him over 20 years later.

The idea for a collaboration came to me as I listened to a 32-year old cassette recording that a family member had sent me of my father playing Christmas  carols, and I thought it would be fun to record myself singing and playing along on one of them.

The song starts with an unaltered snippet of the original recording that establishes a classic Christmas feel. Unfortunately, the sound quality on the cassette wasn't good enough to use for the rest of the song.  However, I was able to use software to turn the rest of the notes he played into electronic signals (MIDI) and trigger new, quality organ sounds. Any chord tones that didn't make the transition, I filled in myself.

The cassette only had two verses of the song and I wanted to sing all six, so I wrote parts for guitar, brass, strings, and vocal harmonies for the first four verses and brought the organ in for the last two.

The First Noel was released to streaming services as a single in December of 2022. If you like it, consider adding it to a holiday playlist on your favorite platform. There are links to the song on some of the popular ones above.   -Jon