Paul Hillier

Born 1949

Paul Hillier

Conductor • Baritone


The English baritone and conductor Paul Hillier trained at the Guildhall School of Music, and served as vicar-scholar at St. Paul’s Cathedral (1973-1974). He began his career as a singer in the Choir of St. Paul's Cathedral in London and later became a member of the Queen's Chapel Royal at Windsor Castle.

In 1974 Paul Hillier made his formal concert debut at London’s Purcell Room. For many years he devoted his principal energies to the early-music group the Hilliard Ensemble, of which he was co-founder (also in 1974) and musical director until 1990. During his tenure the group rose to international prominence, making tours throughout the world, with numerous television and radio appearances. Hillier also established the ensemble's summer festival and planned and directed over thirty recordings, many of which earned distinguished prizes.

Throughout the 1980's Paul Hillier increasingly divided his time between England and America: during 1980-1981 he taught at the University of California, Santa Cruz and in 1984 he was a Copeland Colloquium Fellow at Amherst College in Massachusetts. In 1990 he moved to the USA, where he was Professor of Music at the University of California at Davis until 1996. It was while he was in California that he formed Theatre of Voices, of which he is artistic director. Theatre of Voices now tours throughout North America and Europe and has an exclusive recording contract with Harmonia Mundi USA. In 1996 Paul Hillier was named Director of the Early Music Institute at Indiana University in Bloomington. He also continues to give master classes in early music performances.

Paul Hillier's interest in the music of Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt has led to several collaborations with both composers. In addition to his book on Pärt published in 1997 by Oxford University Press, Hillier is currently editing the writings of Reich, and has published several anthologies of choral music (include300 Years of English Partsongs, Romantic English Partsongs and The Catch Book). He is the General Editor of Fazer Editions of Early Music (Helsinki) and a member of the Advisory Council of Early Music America.

Paul Hillier's close connection with Denmark also began in 1996 when he was first invited to work with the vocal group Ars Nova, a collaboration which continues to this day. He was named chief conductor of Ars Nova in 2002. In September 2001, he took up the position as principal conductor and artistic director of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, where his plans include a three-CD survey of contemporary Baltic choral music (not just of the Baltic States but all the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea), new works by Arvo Part and Helena Tulve, a Kaaija Saariaho retrospective, a multiple-concertIgor Stravinsky project and a production of Benjamin Britten's three Church Parables.

A Grammy Award nominee and the recipient of two Edison Prizes, Paul Hillier is also active as a solo singer specializing in medieval lyrics, and as a frequent guest conductor with choirs around the world. His wide musical interests range from medieval to contemporary music and encompass singing and conducting, composing and writing.

Paul Hillier has won many prizes for recordings, which appear on the Harmonia Mundi, ECM, EMI, Finlandia, and Hyperion labels. Theatre of Voices has recorded several CD’s for Harmonia Mundi USA, featuring composers such asJosquin des Prez , Thomas Tallis, Perotin and Arvo Pärt. Their recent Cage release Litany for the Whale was called "beautiful and amazing" by the Los Angeles Times. Paul Hillier has also collaborated with renowned harpist Andrew Lawrence-King on two recital recordings. In a review of their first release Chansons de Trouveres Stereophile hailed the pair as "the ideal musicians to interpret the 13th century."

Images courtesy of Hoertnagel