Born in East Gary, Indiana, Wihla Hutson spent most of her life in Michigan. She studied at the Detroit Conservatory of Music and was a graduate of the College of the City of Detroit, now Wayne State University. In 1929 she became the organist at All Saints Church in Pontiac where Rev. Bates Burt was pastor. From 1922 to 1941, Rev. Burt produced both words and music to the Burt family Christmas cards. His son, Alfred Burt, began writing the music in 1942 and the collaboration continued until 1948 when his father died. In 1949, when Alfred Burt’s wife Anne was expecting their first child, she asked Wihla Hutson, who had become a family friend as well as church organist, to write a lyric for that year’s carol that could also be a lullaby. “Sleep, Baby Mine” became the first of six Hutson-Burt carols. “This Is Christmas” , sometimes also referred to as “Bright, Bright the Holly Berries” was the 1950 carol. In 1951 she wrote “Some Children See Him”, one of the most beloved of the Burt carols. The moving lyric affirmed that children of any nationality could imagine Jesus to be like them, with the underlying message that love is more important than any claim of race or nationality. In 1995 the western Pacific island country Palau issued a stamp commemorating “Some Children See Him” and its message of tolerance.
Wihla’s 1952 lyric was also about children, “Come, Dear Children”, the first carol to be widely known when the King Sisters heard it. In 1953 Alfred Burt was diagnosed with lung cancer and that year’s carol “O Hearken Ye” was one of four he raced to finish before he died in 1954. The others were “We’ll Dress the House”, the now widely popular “Caroling, Caroling” and “The Star Carol” with its poignant last verse.
“Dear baby Jesus, how tiny thou art,
I’ll make a place for thee in my heart.
And when the stars in the heavens I see,
Ever and always I’ll think of thee.”
A few years after Alfred Burt’s death, Wihla Hutson began to write her own Christmas carols for which she also composed the music. One of them is
When her mother chose to move to St. Anne’s Retreat in Southfield, Michigan, Wihla chose to accompany her. She served for many years as organist and choir director of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer there and was honored by the choirs of St. David’s and All Saints Church from Pontiac in a December 2001 performance of her work. She died the next year just a few days short of her 101st birthday.
|CAROL OF THE MOTHER||ALFRED BURT WIHLA HUTSON||HOLLIS MUSIC, INC.|
|CAROLING, CAROLING||ALFRED BURT WIHLA HUTSON||HOLLIS MUSIC, INC.|
|O HEARKEN YE||ALFRED BURT WIHLA HUTSON||HOLLIS MUSIC, INC.|
|SOME CHILDREN SEE HIM||ALFRED BURT WIHLA HUTSON||HOLLIS MUSIC, INC.|
|THIS IS CHRISTMAS (BRIGHT BRIGHT THE HOLLY BERRIES)||ALFRED BURT WIHLA HUTSON||HOLLIS MUSIC, INC.|
|WE'LL DRESS THE HOUSE||ALFRED BURT WIHLA HUTSON||HOLLIS MUSIC, INC.|
|THE STAR CAROL||ALFRED BURT WIHLA HUTSON||HOLLIS MUSIC, INC.|
|COME, DEAR CHILDREN||ALFRED BURT WIHLA HUTSON||HOLLIS MUSIC, INC.|
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