O My America

Pepper Canister Church, Dublin

3 February 2024

St Mary's Cathedral, Limerick

4 February 2024


John Cage (USA, 1912-1992)ear for EAR
William Billings (1746-1800)O praise the Lord of heaven: An Anthem for Thanksgiving
Abraham Wood (1752-1804)Brevity
John CageHymn A (after W. Billings' 'Old North') from Hymns and Variations
William Billings Old North
Justin Morgan (1747-1798)Montgomery
Jeremiah Ingalls (1764-1828)Evening Shade
Paul Hillier (England, b.1949)To see a world (Songs & Proverbs of William Blake, 1757-1827)
Christian Wolff (USA, b. 1934)Evening Shade, Wake up
Steve Reich (USA, b. 1936)Clapping Music arr. Paul Hillier
Michael Gordon (USA, b. 1956)He saw a skull
Julia Wolfe (USA, b. 1958)Guard my tongue


Chamber Choir Ireland
Paul HillierArtistic Director

Chamber Choir Ireland presents a tapestry of American choral music, from the American Revolution, to mid-century New York, and now.

From the lively 18th-century anthems of a newly-formed nation, to mid-century minimalism, and the pioneering composers of the New York School and Bang on a Can.

Chamber Choir Ireland and conductor Paul Hillier explore the early choral heritage of the United States of America, with the psalms and anthems that flourished in New England during the American Revolution.

These include 'Old North' by William Billings, 'Montgomery' by Justin Morgan, and 'Brevity' by Abraham Wood—a former drummer boy in the Revolutionary War.

In 1976, avant-garde composer John Cage was commissioned to compose a work for the American Bicentennial. This new work took inspiration from Billings' 'Old North', using a technique of “harmonic subtraction” to produce a sublimely beautiful series of long overlapping tones and empty spaces. Both appear side by side in this concert.

The programme also features Paul Hillier's own setting of To see a World in a Grain of Sand, written by William Blake in the very same time as those New England psalmodists, and composed by the conductor himself during his time in California in the 1990s.

The final group of pieces focuses on three generations of New York composers: Cage's fellow member of the 'New York School', Christian Wolff; the minimalist Steve Reich; and Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe of the contemporary music collective Bang on a Can.

The concert concludes with another psalm—a contemporary one—in Julia Wolfe's Guard my tongue.