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Paul Hillier


Paul Hillier

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 Part. 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 Part 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.

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