Piers Hellawell’s work has been commissioned, broadcast and performed in many countries. He has for some years taught composition at the Queen’s University of Belfast, where he has the Chair of Composition; from 2000 to 2003 he was also Gresham Professor of Music, a visiting post in the City of London.
Recent commissions in the UK include those from the BBC Proms, the Hilliard Ensemble, Schubert Ensemble of London and Stockholm Chamber Brass, with performances at numerous British and overseas festivals. Other collaborators have included Michala Petri, Evelyn Glennie, Psappha, the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra in Finland, The RTÉ Vanbrugh String Quartet and Trio Medieval. In 1999 Inside Story was premiered at the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts; the CD of that and other recent major works appeared in 2002, on the Metronome label, when it was a BBC Music Magazine CD of the Month. The year 2002 saw the premiere of The Pear Tree of Nicostratus, by the Hilliard Ensemble and the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, at Finland’s Kaustinen Festival, where Hellawell was featured in a major retrospective. In 2004 Hellawell’s Cors de chasse received its world premiere at the Brighton Festival, given by Håkan Hardenberger, Jonas Bylund and the Philharmonia Orchestra, receiving its London premiere in the Southbank in 2006. Hellawell’s set for vocal ensemble, The Hilliard Songbook, which gave rise to the Hilliard Ensemble’s ECM album of that name in 1996, is, in the words of The Independent, ‘one of the most enduring of their many commissions’. It was in 2004 part of the Hilliard’s 30th Anniversary celebration events when the set, which has been performed across the world by the Hilliard, opened their Anniversary series in the Wigmore Hall.
More recent projects include Degrees of Separation, a major project for the opening of The Sage Gateshead in December 2004, Maquette for COMA’s Open Score project at London’s 2005 Spitalfields Festival and Dogs and Wolves, a new orchestral commission from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra given in spring 2006. Sound Carvings from the Bell Foundry was premiered by Stockholm Chamber Brass in Norway and Ireland in 2006, at events to mark Hellawell’s 50th birthday year.
Hellawell continues to explore radical designs such as that in chamber music media for leading ensembles: Landscape with Portraits was premiered by Chamber Domaine at the 2004 Cheltenham Festival, while his second string quartet, the experimental design Driftwood on Sand, was released in autumn 2007 on the CD ‘Dogs and Wolves’, Hellawell’s third disc on Metronome. Agricolas, a concerto for Robert Plane (clarinet) and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales was premiered at the 2008 Vale of Glamorgan Festival.