Thou­sands sang for him in long ca­reer

The Washington Post Sunday - - OBITUARIES - BY BART BARNES new­so­bits@wash­

Ben­jamin Hutto, a mu­si­cian, com­poser, men­tor and teacher of mu­sic who di­rected choirs at St. Albans and Na­tional Cathe­dral schools in Washington and led his singers on lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional con­cert tours, died Sept. 29 at a hos­pice cen­ter in Washington. He was 67.

The cause was gall blad­der can­cer, said a sis­ter and his only im­me­di­ate sur­vivor, Cather­ine B. Hutto of Sil­ver Spring, Md.

For 16 years, Mr. Hutto had been on the St. Albans and Na­tional Cathe­dral staffs as chief of per­form­ing arts. Since 2006, he had also been or­gan­ist at St. John’s Epis­co­pal Church, Lafayette Square, where he later be­came di­rec­tor of mu­sic min­istries. As a com­poser, he wrote Angli­can chants for the 1982 Hym­nal of the Epis­co­pal Church of the United States.

But he left what may have been his most en­dur­ing mark as a voice and choir teacher and per­sonal coun­selor to thou­sands of young­sters who sang for him over a 45-year ca­reer. One of them was Stephen Col­bert, host of CBS’s “Late Show.”

More than 30 years ago, Col­bert was a ju­nior at the Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, S.C., where Mr. Hutto was his choir teacher. At the time, Col­bert was a self-de­scribed “trou­bled kid.”

On Sept. 11 — less than three weeks be­fore Mr. Hutto died — Col­bert re­mem­bered his for­mer teacher on his nightly tele­vi­sion show.

“You ac­tu­ally took me aside and asked me: ‘ Why don’t you ever study? . . . And you won’t re­spond to any teach­ers who try to help you,’ ” Col­bert told a na­tional au­di­ence. “And I said, ‘Your job is to teach me to sing, and that is it!’ ”

Then Col­bert stalked out of Mr. Hutto’s of­fice.

“I apol­o­gize, and I love you and thank you for try­ing to help me,” Col­bert de­clared on tele­vi­sion.

Wil­liam Ben­jamin Hutto III was born in Charleston on Oct. 4, 1947. He was 5 when his fa­ther, who man­aged a ra­dio sta­tion, died. His mother later held sec­re­tar­ial jobs.

He grad­u­ated in 1968 from Emory Univer­sity in At­lanta. The next year, he be­came an English teacher and di­rec­tor of choral mu­sic at Porter-Gaud, his high school alma mater. He would re­main there un­til 1985, when he moved to Char­lotte as or­gan­ist and choir­mas­ter at Christ Epis­co­pal Church. In 1999, he came to St. Albans and Na­tional Cathe­dral schools.

At the schools on the grounds of Washington Na­tional Cathe­dral, Mr. Hutto in­creased par­tic­i­pa­tion in the choral pro­gram from 18 voices when he ar­rived to nearly 200. He led his singers on tours to Aus­tralia, South Africa, sev­eral coun­tries in South Amer­ica and to cities across the United States. His choirs sang at White House Christ­mas tree light­ings.

“Ben was a true re­nais­sance man and game for ab­so­lutely any­thing,” wrote Washington ac­tress Cather­ine Flye, who worked with him in pro­duc­tions of the Cathe­dral Choral So­ci­ety.

In an e-mail, she re­called that “I asked him once if he would sing and dance in an en­ter­tain­ment for the Supreme Court. There was no hes­i­ta­tion, and I shall never for­get him, with a bowler hat and rolled um­brella, trip­ping the light fan­tas­tic with gay aban­don as a peer in Iolan­the.”

Mr. Hutto lived in an apart­ment in the Kalo­rama area of North­west Washington. Dur­ing the “snow­maged­don” win­ter of 2010, he en­joyed slid­ing on cafe­te­ria trays down the nearby snow-cov­ered slopes of Rock Creek Park. His av­o­ca­tions in­cluded cook­ing, es­pe­cially such Low Coun­try South Carolina dishes as okra gumbo.

“Mu­sic is, I be­lieve, one of the church’s great mis­sion­ary op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Mr. Hutto once wrote in a let­ter to his for­mer church in Char­lotte. “In its trans­mis­sion, it has mean­ing for the faith­ful, for the faith­less, and for those who have lost their faith.

“It is a mis­sion,” he con­tin­ued, “whose spirit can be ex­pressed in the home, by the fam­ily singing Christ­mas car­ols, or in the most mag­nif­i­cent ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal struc­ture, by a highly trained choir. It knows no so­cial, in­tel­lec­tual, or sec­tar­ian bar­ri­ers. It ex­presses our lofti­est ideals, our deep­est emo­tions. It is one of the gifts of God which re­minds us that we are above the other crea­tures of earth, but lower than an­gels.”


For 16 years, Ben­jamin Hutto had been on the staffs at St. Albans and Na­tional Cathe­dral schools as the chief of per­form­ing arts.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.