The Hilliard Ensemble is a British male vocal quartet devoted to the authentic performance of early music. Founded in 1974, the group is named after the Elizabethan miniaturist painter Nicholas Hilliard.
Although most of its work focuses on music of the Medieval and Renaissance periods, the Hilliard Ensemble also performs contemporary music, working frequently with the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt and including in its concerts works by John Cage, Gavin Bryars, Giya Kancheli, and Heinz Holliger.
The group was originally founded by Paul Hillier, Paul Elliott, and David James, although the membership was flexible until Hillier left in the late 1980s. Since 1990 the core members have been David James, Rogers Covey-Crump, John Potter, and Gordon Jones.
The Hilliard Ensemble has recorded extensively for the ECM label. In 1993, when popular interest in Gregorian chant was at its height, the ensemble released the CD Officium, an unprecedented collaboration with the Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek. The disc became one of ECM's biggest-selling releases of all time, reaching the pop charts in several European countries. (Officium's sequel, the 2-CD set Mnemosyne, followed in 1999.)
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