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The Songs of Victor Hely-Hutchinson

As part of our Heritage Records projects we are currently working on a recording of the songs of South African born composer Victor Hely-Hutchinson (1901-1947).

Christian Victor Noel Hope Hely-Hutchinson was born in Cape Town, South Africa. The son of Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson (the Governor of Cape Colony from 1901 to 1910). Victor was a musical child prodigy, who began composing before the age of ten, with his first published works being A Child's Thoughts (1909) - a collection of sketches for violin and piano.


In 1910 his family moved to England and he was initially educated at Heatherdown School in Berkshire before moving to Eton College and then read history at Balliol College, Oxford. After a year at Oxford he went on to study a Mus. Bac. at the Royal College of Music where he studied conducting under Adrian Boult. After graduation he went on to teach at the South African College of Music.


In 1926, he once again returned to England where he took up a position at the BBC at Savoy Hill as a conductor, pianist, and accompanist. In 1933 he moved to Birminghan to become Midland Regional Director of Music for the BBC, where he formed and conducted the Midland Studio Orchestra. In 1934, he left the BBC to become Professor of Music at the University of Birmingham. He became a D.Mus from Oxford University in 1941.


In 1944, he returned to the BBC to become overall Director of Music, succeeding Arthur Bliss.  

He died on 11 March 1947 from pneumonia at the premature age of 45.

His best known compositions are the Carol Symphony and the humorous song-setting The Owl and the Pussycat.  

Victor Hely-Hutchinson

Composer biography adapted from his Wikipedia entry

Our Recording Project

Whilst working upon our recording of The Complete Songs of A. A. Milne (and Lewis Carroll) by Harold Fraser-Simson we were discussing what might be a suitable follow up. Hely-Hutchinson came up because of the link between the well known children's song The Owl and the Pussycat so we did a bit of investigating and research on the other works by him and how many of them were recorded.

Our efforts brought to light approximately one-hundred songs, settings of a wide variety of poets, ranging from the sublime Dream Song (a setting of Walter de la Mare) to the sublimely ridiculous Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes (settings of the comedy poetry of Harry Graham).  The more songs we found the sheet music for the more enamoured we became with Hely-Hutchinson's music - it also became very apparent that only about a third of the works had been recorded and were still available.

The combination of our enjoyment of his music and the lack of recordings made the decision for us - this was a perfect choice for a project for us. Our research has continued and we now have the sheet music for all of Hely-Hutchinson's published songs that we know exist (details below). 

At this point we don't know if this will be a series of releases or in one album - we're currently investigating the lengths of all of the songs to see what arrangement would suit better.

The Songs

Five Folly Songs (words Anon.)

I. A Dirge

II. The Lion and the Unicorn

III. Alexander's Song

IV. Aristotles' Story

V. Robin and Richard

Songs from "The Bad Child's Book of Beasts" (words by Hillaire Belloc)

I. The Yak

II.  The Lion

III. The Tiger

IV. The Whale

V. The Hippopotamus

VI. The Dodo

VII. The Big Baboon

VIII. The Frog

The Echoing Green and Other Songs (words by William Blake)

I. The Echoing Green

II. The Shepherd

III. Laughing Song

IV. Holy Thursday

V. The Blossom

VI. Cradle Song

Five Songs of Innocence (words by William Blake)

I. Piping Down the Valleys

II. The Lamb

III. Infant Joy

IV. Spring

V. The Little Boy Lost

Alice Songs (words by Lewis Carroll)

I. Jabberwocky

II. Father William

III. Tweedledum and Tweedledee

IV. Humpty Dumpty

V. To The Looking-Glass World

VI. Beautiful Soup

Settings of G. K. Chesterton


The Rolling English Road

Who Gomes Home?

Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes (words by Harry Graham)

I. The Stern Parent

II. Nurse's Mistake

III. Jim; or, The Deferred Luncheon Party

IV. The Englishman's Home

V. Scorching John

VI. Unselfishness

VII. Equanimity

VII. Necessity

VIII. Tenderheartedness

X. Obstruction

XI. Aunt

XII. Mr. Jones

XIII. Misfortunes Never Come Singly

XIV. La Course Interrompue

XV. Philip

XVI. Aunt Eliza

XVII. Inconsiderate Hannah

XVIII. The Perils of Obesity

XIX. Inconvenience

XX. Uncle Joe

XXI. The Children's Don't


More Ruthless Rhymes (words by Harry Graham)

I. Indifference

II. Lord Gorbals

III. Compensation

IV. Providence

V. Winter Sports

VI. Consolation

VII. Opportunity

VIII. Obstinacy

IX. The Last Straw

X. Carelessness

XI. Uplift

XII. Tragedy

XIII. L'enfant Glace

XIV. London Calling

XV. Grandpapa

XVI. Quiet Fun

XVII. Bishop Prout

XVIII. Discipline (formerly Black and Tan)*

XIX. Canon Gloy

XX. Patience

*Whilst all of the Ruthless Rhymes  very much represent a sense of humour from a different era, the one originally entitled Black and Tan these days is extremely offensive.  We didn't want to record everything and skip just one song.  Luckily Hely-Hutchinson did not set all of the poetry in Harry Graham's More Ruthless Rhymes and upon investigation we found that another one of the poems fitted very well, with no alteration to the music, and therefore have chosen to replace the words with these so that we can record the entire cycle of songs. 

Settings of Rudyard Kipling

Cities and Thrones and Powers

Cuckoo Song

The Queen's Men

Three Nonsense Songs (words by Edward Lear)

I. The Owl and the Pussycat

II. The Table and the Chair

III. The Duck and the Kangaroo

Three Songs from "Peacock Pie" (words by Walter de la Mare)

I. The Little Old Cupid

II. The Cupboard

III. The Window

Other settings of Walter de la Mare

The Bees' Song

Dream Song

The Huntsmen

The Old Soldier


The Song of Soldiers


A Song Cycle from "The Follies" (part of A Child's Thoughts)


Dan Everard

Our Scene-Painting Brother


Morton and Bert

Other Songs

Adam Lay i-Bounden (traditional)

Bravo (Frederick E. Weatherley)

Christmas Everywhere: A Christmas Carol for those at Sea (Natalie Hely-Hutchinson)

Dreamland (Christina Rossetti)

Old Mother Hubbard (traditional)

The Twa Corbies (anon)

The Jolly Beggar (traditional)

The Hidden Things (W. Beaumont)

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