A House in Heaven
Catalogue Number -
PEL2026 SATB and treble choir
SATB and treble choirs and piano
with organ and flute
Level of Difficulty
Pages Music -
20 pages SATB/treble - 28 page booklet
SATB and trebles/piano choral octavo
Copyright Year - 2001
SATB and trebles perusal only
PEL2026 A House In Heaven derives its title from the words of eight-year old James Birrell, to whom the work is dedicated, who, nearing the end of his battle with the terminal illness neuroblastoma, declared with the innocent wisdom and faith of a child, "Jesus is building me a house in Heaven." This work combines SATB choir with children's choir and treble solo (singing James' words) with accompaniment provided by piano, organ and flute. Texts include Psalm 8, M. Babcock's 'This Is My Father's World', and poetry by English clergyman and author Henry Charles Beeching and Canadian poet Bliss Carman. The setting is broad, beautiful and poignant, a gorgeous piece to touch and inspire, evoking a profound joy in life and the wonders of creation. Elegantly combines the voices of adult choir and children's choir.
Dedication: "Commissioned by the Peterborough Singers for James Birrell, a boy who showed us we could sing when we thought we could only cry. February 24, 2001"
James Birrell was the son of Peterborough Singers Music Director Syd Birrell. Nine months after the premiere performance of this work, eight-year old James Birrell died of neuroblastoma.
Not Yet recorded
archival recording of the premiere 2001 by The Peterborough Singers.
A House in Heaven
O Lord our Governor, how exalted is your name in all the world!
From the lips of children you have ordained praise.
Psalm 8:1 and 2
This is my Fatherís world;
Maltbie D. Babcock
Then suddenly, all unaware,
And even as I marvelled how
Back to the world with quickening start
A WORD FROM
"This isnít the Singersí first commissioned work, but it will probably be their favourite, and, we hope, most far-reaching. The source for the title and a recurring lyric is James Birrell himself. In 1999, lying in great pain and unable to move, he whispered to his mother, "I know Jesus is building me a house in heaven." The touching faith of these words continued to resonate as James improved. Jamesí many high points of energy, playfulness and purpose since then have served to make his words sound even sweeter.
So, when it came time to decide what to ask of composer Paul Halley, there was no hesitation from the Birrells or the choir board: "Make us a picture of James Birrell in song."
To Jamesí words, Halley added the familiar childhood hymn "This Is My Fatherís World" and two nineteenth-century poems: one by Canadian Bliss Carman, the other by Englishman Henry Charles Beeching. The story these texts tell together is of faith in God; of Natureís vibrant testimony, and of a childís readiness to experience joy. Musically, the piece plays adult and childrenís choruses against each other and then weaves them together with flute, piano and organ into something both touching and triumphant. One of the most emotional points comes in the middle of the piece, when Jamesí words are sung by a lone boy soprano.
Practising the first few times was an exercise in self-controlled musicianship for both adults and children. But by dress rehearsal, it was polished enough to record. The premiere performance included Paul Halley on piano, Rhonda Larson on flute, Syd Birrell on organ and Maureen Harris-Lowe conducting the Peterborough Childrenís Chorus and the Peterborough Singers. It was recorded twice more, at the afternoon and evening performances, to capture the energy the audience brought to the piece. Though they had been asked, for recording purposes, to refrain from applause for a few moments after the piece was ended, audience members could not contain themselves. And the performers could not contain their smiles.
The Peterborough Singers could not have managed such a high-quality commission without the graciousness of composer Paul Halley and Pelagos, and the financial support of Discus Dental Canada and the Peterborough and District Dental Association. The latter underwrote the cost of the commission, and the former waived their recording royalty so that a special single-track CD can be sold to the public.
We are also
moved by the kindness of Actor Tom Hanks, who has supported our fight
against Neuroblastoma. As well as corresponding with the Birrell family,
and endorsing the House in Heaven CD, Mr. Hanks has personally
autographed a limited number of CD's which are currently for sale for
$100. All proceeds go to the James Birrell Fund for Neuroblastoma and
income tax receipts will be issued for each autographed CD purchased."