Theatre of Voices was founded in London in 1990 by Paul Hillier. The group’s first concert in Berlin featured new works by Arvo Pärt, including the Berlin Mass. For their second concert they presented music by John Cage at London’s Almeida Festival. But Hillier then moved to California and the group flourished with its base in the Bay Area, performing right across North America and making various European tours. In 2003 Hillier moved back to Europe and the group has been based in Copenhagen ever since.
Theatre of Voices is counted among the world’s finest vocal ensembles. Its main focus nowadays is on new music, though very often interwoven with various kinds of early music, reflecting Hillier’s lifelong devotion to these two ends of the musical spectrum. Together Hillier and Theatre of Voices have enjoyed close collaborations with numerous composers and instrumental ensembles: Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, John Cage, the Kronos Quartet, Ingram Marshall, John Adams, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, London Sinfonietta, Michala Petri, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Fretwork, Phantasm, Concerto Copenhagen, Kaija Saariaho, Peter Sellars, David Lang, Michael Gordon, Pablo Ortiz, Heiner Goebbels, the Smith Quartet, Meta4 String Quartet; and in the near future, Helena Tulve, Sunleif Rasmussen, John Luther Adams, and many more.
The ensemble performs at prominent international festivals and major venues, but it also enjoys special projects that take it to unusual places and parts of the world. In 2019 the group will make a North Atlantic tour, giving concerts in the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland, presenting new musical works from each of these places.
In 2010—the group’s 20th anniversary year—Theatre of Voices received a Grammy Award for David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion. Theatre of Voices has also moved into the film world. Tracks from more than thirty CD recordings are used on movie soundtracks such as La Grande Bellezza and Arrival, and the ensemble has worked on film projects with Danish documentarist Phie Amboe and Oscar-nominated Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. During 2018 the ensemble featured in Kaija Saariaho's opera Only the Sound Remains with performances at Palais Garnier in Paris, Teatro Real in Madrid and Lincoln Center. There were also orchestra productions with BBC Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestra. In January 2019 Theatre of Voices gave a sold-out concert in the new Elbphilharmonie great hall in Hamburg, which included the world premiere of Michael Gordon’s new work A Western, based on the film High Noon.
Theatre of Voices is grateful to be sponsored by the Danish Arts Foundation and Augustinus Foundation.
Season 2018/19Read more
Theatre of Voices performs under the direction of Paul Hillier at Grand Hall of Elbphilharmonie Hamburg on 13 January music by John Cage, Heiner Goebbels, Johann Johannsson, Bernd Franke, Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich and the first performance of A Western by Michael Gordon. NDR Kultur broadcasts the recording on 26 February, 21:00 (CET).
Four singers of Theatre of Voices perform the vocal parts of Kaija Saariaho's opera Only the sound remains at Teatro Real Madrid from 23 October to 9 November: https://www.teatro-real.com/en/season-18-19/opera/only-the-sound-remains
Theatre of Voices performs at RheinVokal Festival in Andernach on 5 August music by David Lang and medieval songs. SWR2 broadcasts the concert on 28 October 2018 from 21:30-23:00.
Theatre of Voices sings Karlheinz Stockhausen's Stimmung in London, Kings Place on 9 February at the 50th anniversary of this revolutionary vocal work.
Theatre of Voices performs Karlheinz Stockhausen's Stimmung with six singers in Bogota in two concerts on 14 and 15 February.
Theatre of Voices and Paul Hillier present a comprehensive portrait concert of Arvo Pärt in Hamburg on 9 June. The programme features church music
, chamber music and A Cappella music of the Estonian composer in various settings joined by organ, piano and string quartet.Read more
Theatre of Voices performs the programme "The Great Beauty", consisting of soundtracksy by Arvo Pärt, David Lang and Johan Johansson in Le Mans (F) on 27 April. The five singers will be joined by violinist Niklas Walentin and pianist Christina Bjørkøe.
Theatre of Voices and Paul Hillier perform in Toulouse/Blagnac vocal music by Arvo Pärt A Retrospective with music of five decades on 23 May.
The Danish vocal ensemble Theatre of Voices and Paul Hillier perform in Fürth on 19 March the exciting programme Hamlet’s Tears. Works by John Dowland are
juxtaposed by compositions by Arvo Pärt and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen. The concert will be broadcasted on 7 April, 20:03 at BR Klassik.Read more
Theatre of Voices and Paul Hillier perform at the Festival Europäische Kirchenmusik in Schwäbisch Gmünd on 1 August the programme Arvo Pärt A Retrospective: vocal music of five decades.
Danish vocal ensemble Theatre of Voices and Paul Hillier perform Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Stimmung at the Bergen International Festival on 3 June.
The Danish vocal ensemble Theatre of Voices gives its debut in Hong Kong performing two concerts on 25 and 26 March featuring Arvo Pärt An Retrospective and works
by Giacomo Carissimi, Girolamo Frescobaldi and David Lang's The Little Match Girl Passion (Family Values II: Old and New programme).Read more
The Danish vocal ensemble Theatre of Voices returns to the Carnegie Hall New York on 21 February performing Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Stimmung at the Zankel Hall.
The outstanding Danish vocal ensemble Theatre of Voices perfoms at the Lausitzer Musiksommer in Kamenz on 19 July and at the festival RheinVokal in Maria Laach on 20 July. Together with violin, viola and cello, the ensemble
performs early music by de Machaut, Hildegard von Bingen as well as contemporary music by Arvo Pärt and Gavin Bryars. The concert in Maria Laach will be recorded and broadcasted on 27 October between 20 and 23h on SWR2.Read more
Paul Hillier had devised a truly unique evening programme for the Elbphilharmonie debut of the Theatre of Voices. He confronted liturgical chants from the 13th to the 15th century directly with choral works of the 20th and 21st century, and exposed the strange novelty and intriguing audacity of epochs that separated many centuries. [...]Hillier's angelic vocalists unexpectedly turned the hall into a cathedral. [...]The final hit of the exciting evening was provided by the American Michael Gordon, co-founder of the New York composer group "Bang on a can", with his first commissioned work "A Western. […] Well done!
Lutz Lesle, Die Welt Hamburg, 15.01.2019
Saariaho lets the four marvelous voices hiss, vocalize, mutter, whisper, emit precise metric sounds of evasive pitch and, of course, sing. [...] The contribution of Theatre of Voices and Meta4 Quartet, is transcendental and any praises fall short in accounting for the degree of sensitivity, technical perfection and affinity with the fleeting and reverberating sound world of Saariaho which they demonstrate each and everyone.
El Pais, Luis Gago, 24.10.2018
The fascinating vocal quartet Theatre of Voices complements what you see and hear on stage. An exquisite amplification of the sound achieves in the voices, together or alone, nuances that reach the soul.
Shangay, Cultura, 25.10.2018
...Pure intonation and infinite vocal flexibility...
Beckmesser.com, Arturo Reverter, 24.10.2018
The superb vocal quartet Theatre of Voices brings together soprano Else Torp, alto Iris Oja, tenor Paul Bentley-Angell and bass-baritone Jakob Bloch. Together, under Ernest Martinez Izquierdo, they do more than accompany the two protagonists - the man, the priest, the specter, the angel – who lead the boats of the two works, they double them in instruments and voice.
Theatre of Voices embellishes this haunting composition with humanity, as much in its gestique as in its vocal engagement. It forms the cornerstone of this ode to echoes, relaying the pit and the stage with great strength, despite astonishingly evasive transitions.
Theatre of Voices proved here that the potency of 1968, however distant or absent from personal memory, can still communicate, even intoxicate, five decades on.
bachtrack.com, Matthew Rye, 10.02.2018
As classy as Christmas albums come delivered with razor-sharp clarity.
The Guardian, Kate Molleson, 09.11.2017
Like nature, the music on the CD "Green Ground" sometimes shows a rough side. But the blossoming of beauty is always only a few bars away. Just this contrast makes the new CD of the Kronos Quartet together with the vocal ensemble Theatre of Voices under Paul Hillier so exciting: the tipping back and forth from the dull into the glimmering and back again. (…) Varied yet still as if from a single cast - a journey through the music of Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, which is worthwhile and which will do justice to the oblique humor for which the composer was known. Playfully and musically through and through superbly presented.
BR Klassik, Kristin Amme, 07.12.2016
The Kronos Quartet and the vocal quartet Theatre of Voices were among Gudmundsen-Holmgreen’s favorite ensembles, and their new joint CD ranks among the best recordings of his music. Kronos’s playing is both clear and insistent, but not forced, and the singers are extremely precise and crystal clear, even as they, simultaneously, have to play various clattering percussion.
Politiken, Henrik Friis, 04.07.2016
Buxtehude's own chorale-based trio setting of Jesu, meine Freude is sung and played beautifully. [..] and Hillier's lovely performance is on a par with the very finest that the Buxtehude discography has to offer.
Gramophone, David Vickers, 01.07.2016
There are few artists as well equipped to perform this repertoire than Paul Hillier and his Theatre of Voices ensemble, here consisting of seven vocalists and eight instrumentalists. [..] The singing and playing are superb in every way: technically secure and polished, bold, confident, colorful and expressive.
Fanfare, James A. Altena, 29.07.2016
The protestant church music of the 17th century became a very special mixture of strength, phantasy, expression and inwardness in the Northern Germany. Paul Hillier and his Theatre of Voices make this clear in a thoughtfully designed program, which connects the predecessors of Buxtehude, like Tunder, and his younger contemporaries as Geist and Bruhns. The phonetical homogeneity and fullness of vocal and instrumental ensembles is technically impressive. Interpreted, not only the severity of the tone is touching, but also and especially the meditation into the spirit of this era. (for the jury: Matthias Hengelbrock)
„List of the Best“, Deutsche Schallplattenkritik 3/2016
For Theatre of Voices works of John Dowland, Arvo Pärt and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreeen are no real contrast as present and past brighten each other. It is the great merit of the ensemble that the tricky passage between Renaissance music and contemporary got indeed audible. Full tender and intimately the high voices start the Russian psalm No. 133 by Arvo Pärt with a floating and weightless melody (...). Paul Hillier amended Dowland's instrumental music by texts, which add another dimension: the songs get even more emotional power .
Nürnberger Nachrichten, Sigrun Arenz, 21.03.2016
Paul Hillier is an acknowledged expert of Arvo Pärt on the podium. (…) Arvo Pärt’s sound creations are spiritually motivated, the texts which he creates are deeply religious. The prayer “Salve nos” raises from gentle pleading to urgent calls - with choral sounds beautifully unfold. (…) The eight singers, vocally well equipped, articulate consistently comprehensible, whether they sing Spanish, English, Latin, German or Church Slavic. Their interpretations of music sound clear and pure – dissolving in pleasing harmonies from striking dissonances.
Gmünder Tagespost, Beate Krannich, 03.08.2015
The ensemble interpreted all works in an outstanding form of A cappella singing. (...) They performed the interesting composition “Solfeggio” with a striking free use of true harmonic, picturesque syllables of solmisation (do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do). The choir thereby proved its ability to form vivid sound tapes with herewith created sonic micro-intervals (…).In the polyphonic “Seven Magnificat Antiphons" the singers were always in balance and displayed clear distinctive voices and an intense charisma of sound.
Rems Zeitung, Christine Lackner, 04.08.2015
One of the most innovative vocal ensembles of the 21st century defining a new standard of vocal mastery, Theatre of Voices effectively executed the eclectic omnium-gatherum of extended techniques demanded by Stockhausen.
bachtrack, Jacob Slattery, 24.02.2015
It’s performance was confident and luminous, controlled yet free, both playful and solemn.
The New York Times, Zachary Woolfe, 22.02.2015
Highlight of the concert was Pärt's Stabat Mater. From the beginning to the end there was only floating, a deeply focussed and condensed contemplation of pure pleasant sound.
Rhein-Zeitung, Liselotte Sauer-Kaulbach, 30.07.2014
One could admire the adoration of Virgin Mary "Most Holy Mother of God", the prayer for peace "Da Pacem" and the twenty-minutes piece Stabat Mater by Arvo Pärt. Theatre of Voices attested the chants with flawless intonation merging strikingly intenseness, deepness and ascetisism.
Sächsische Zeitung, Karsten Blüthgen, 21.07.2014
With tonal variety, flexibility and energetic power Theatre of Voices made Buxtehude's music gleaming lucentlyand brightly.
Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten, Babette Kaiserkern, 24.06.2013
Theatre of Voices' cast is outstanding, above all the two gentlemen. The most touching parts were the rather simple choral parts, for instance Buxtehude's Danish compositions.
rbb Kulturradio, Clemens Goldberg, 22.06.2013
Seven works by Arvo Pärt are included on this impressively packaged disc featuring the Theatre of Voices, Ars Nova Copenhagen and the NYDD Quartet, directed by Paul Hillier. Both vocal and instrumental forces are brought together in the bone-chilling, claustrophobic »Ein Wallfahrtslied« and the more expansive Stabat Mater, which rounds off the recording. Pärt's setting of Robert Burns »My heart's in the highlands« is something of a understated highlight, with Else Torp's motionless lines wonderfully complemented and supported by Christopher Bowers-Broadbent on organ.
Gramophone, 05/2012 (CD Pärt Creator Spiritus)
Choral master Paul Hillier knows the music of Arvo Pärt as well as anyone, having been for the composer's early ECM recordings, written one of the few books on him and, lately, led a series of excellent Pärt surveys for Harmonia Mundi. Here, Hillier offers an intimate collection of vocal and instrumental chamber pieces that range across the Estonian's career, anchored by the Stabat Mater of 1985 – a contemporary classic that stands with the greatest works devoted to the "grieving mother", from Josquin to Poulenc, beautifully sung and recorded.
LISTEN, 05/2012 (CD Pärt Creator Spiritus)
This recording leaves the listener speechless with admiration. Hillier achieves great work with his two ensembles Theatre of Voices and Ars Nova Copenhagen: This music sounds so transparent in its polyphony, in its intonation so immediate and in its often little deviations so delicate. Hillier conveys a suggestive way of letting music sound simple and natural. His choir's voices hold a core that even in a most gentle way does never sound smugly at all. In the end the music fades like sounds of a bell. This recording offers new and familiar facets as well as festive and devout elements. An a-capella choir seldom appears with such a successful combination of dedication and tonal beauty, of meditative power and unintrusive inner refulgence.
wdr3.de, TonArt, 12/2011 (CD The Christmas Story)
Paul Hillier's selection is described as a chamber music collection, featuring several instrumental works alongside chamber scale as choral works. The artists' glorious singing will elicit shivers of delight. Of the string quartet works, Solfeggio, a recent transcription of a 1963 choral work, fascinates as as example of Pärt's earlier style. Light relief of sorts is provided by soprano Else Torp's gorgeous delivery of a Robbie Burns poem. As an introduction to Pärt's world, this could be hardly be bettered.
The Arts Desk, 05/2012 (CD Pärt Creator Spiritus)
Paul Hillier fills his ensemble Theatre of Voices with not more than six vocalists and entrusts all vocal technically more precarious tasks rather to the ensemble than to the chamber choir Ars Nova Copenhagen. Especially the Italian dialogues are created with a reliable sense of style and taste and at the same time benefit from a differentiated articulation. The vocalist's tonal level is technically and stylistic unexceptionable. This is a very atmospheric Advent and Christmas disc, which presents a harmonically arranged chamber choir as well as a thereto contrastive and skillful soloist's ensemble.
www.klassik.com, 10/2011 (CD The Christmas Story)
Music for the Christmas season by Buxtehude and friends
Theatre of Voices
Dacapo records (2017)
Works by Buxtehude, Bruhns, Tunder, etc.
Theatre of Voices
Dacapo records (2016)
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Theatre of Voices, YXUS Quartet
Paul Hillier (conductor)
Works by Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen
Live recording London
Dacapo records (2014)
|Berio, Luciano||With orchestra:
Sinfonia for eight voices and orchestra
|Pärt, Arvo||With Choir and Orchestra:
Litany for soloists, mixed choir and orchestra
Miserere for soloists, mixed choir, ensemble and organ With choir:
Passio for soloists, mixed choir, quartet and organ