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Composer Highlight: Peter Wilhousky

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

Peter Wilhousky (1902-1978) was an American composer, educator, and choral conductor. He was featured on several broadcasts of classical music with the NBC Orchestra, and in 1936, wrote the popular Christmas carol, Carol of the Bells, which has more recently been made popular again by Pentatonix.

His arrangement of Battle Hymn of the Republic for chorus, band, and orchestra, is probably the most famous arrangement of the hymn before the 1940’s in the United States.

The Battle Hymn of the Republic (also known as “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory”) is an arrangement taken from the lyrics of abolitionist writer, Julia Ward Howe, using the music from the song “John Brown’s Body.” Howe’s more famous lyrics were written in November 1861 and first published in The Atlantic Monthly in February of 1862. The song links the judgement of the wicked at the end of the age (old Testament, Isaiah 63, New Testament, Revelation 19) with the American Civil War.

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