PAUL HILLIER – SHORT BIOGRAPHY
Paul Hillier is from Dorset in England and studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. His career has embraced singing, conducting, and writing about music. Earlier in his career he was founding director of the Hilliard Ensemble, and subsequently founded Theatre of Voices. He has taught in the USA at the University of California campuses at Santa Cruz and Davis, and from 1996-2003 was Director of the Early Music Institute at Indiana University. He was Principal Conductor of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir (2001-2007) and has been Chief Conductor of Ars Nova Copenhagen since 2003. His recordings, over a hundred CDs including seven solo recitals, have earned worldwide acclaim and won numerous prizes. His books about Arvo Pärt and Steve Reich, together with numerous anthologies of choral music, are published by Oxford University Press. In 2006 he was awarded an OBE for services to choral music. In 2007 he received the Order of the White Star of Estonia, and was awarded a Grammy for Best Choral Recording. In 2008 he took up the position of Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the National Chamber Choir of Ireland, and in 2009 was invited to form the new Coro Casa da Musica in Porto, Portugal. In 2010 he won a second Grammy (this time in the small ensemble category), for Theatre of Voices' recording of David Lang's 'The Little Match Girl Passion' (which also won a Pulitzer Prize), together with a selection of choral works by Lang, sung by Ars Nova Copenhagen.
Paul Hillier was born in Dorchester and sang in the local church choir. In his early teens he became a devotee of pop music, deeply immersing himself in the weekly pop charts and listening to Radio Luxembourg under the bedcovers. He discovered the early music of Elvis Presley, whose fan club he joined around the time of Return to Sender. He won a dance competition doing the twist. He discovered the local poet, Thomas Hardy. He joined a folksong trio, who performed here and there and included the Beach Boys in their repertoire, but at the same time he began to switch his main interests to classical music. He heard Tallis and Byrd, and read T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. He went up to London to study singing and acting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He discovered medieval music. Together with two fellow-students he formed a music-theatre ensemble called Travelling Music Theatre, performing both contemporary and early music. He formed the Hilliard Ensemble in 1973. He lived for a while in Windsor Castle before moving into a tiny flat in Islington. He discovered Steve Reich and minimalism. He taught at U.C. Santa Cruz for a year (1980-81), living by the ocean where he discovered John Cage and Zen Buddhism, but returned to Europe, where he discovered Arvo Pärt. He lived in Sussex, in Monks House, the former home of Leonard and Virginia Woolf. He moved to the USA in 1990, to teach at UC Davis and promote his new group, Theatre of Voices. In 1996 he became director of the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, Bloomington. His books on Arvo Pärt and Steve Reich were published by Oxford University Press. He returned to Europe at the turn of the century to earn his living as a conductor.